I made meditation a daily habit after years of trying & failing. It was easier than I thought once I figured out four key insights.
- Redefine success. The media & religious idea of meditation (like the one above) is of something hard to do that brings total bliss. Growing up in a Hindu household in the US, those ideas were ingrained into me. It helped to realize my goal is not nirvana but awareness of my own thoughts, less anxiety and more happiness.
- Choose a daily event for the trigger. I had previously tried squeezing meditation into my schedule, only to abandon it when pressed for time. Inspired by tiny habits, I built my meditation habit after brushing my teeth in the morning. Once I committed, it quickly became second nature. What’s right for you? Right after you dress for the day? Yes. When you get home in the evening? Yes. When you get a moment between meetings? No. You want to start your habit based on another daily habit, not based on an idea of “when I get to it.” How about right before you go to bed? No, because you want to chain your meditation habit onto an existing one. Instead of doing it before you go to bed, think of something you do even before going to bed, like reading or brushing your teeth.
- Take just ten breaths — or five. I decided to start small. So small it was a bit embarrassing. I wanted something so trivial I could keep it up for at least six weeks. Ten breaths takes only 30–60 seconds or so and anyone can spare 1 minute from their day. Just count your breaths and don’t fight thoughts that enter your mind and re-center on your next breath. Having thoughts invade your mind is part of meditation. It is not the Hollywood and religious image of total lack of thought. (Yes, you may have those moments and it may feel like the photo of a monk in a blissed out state, but don’t worry if you never feel that way.) The magic of meditation is in how it makes you feel, not the images on a web page. Even 30 seconds of meditation is enough to feel better.
- Congratulate yourself. My goal in the beginning was to just sit and breath daily for six weeks. Each time I did it, I celebrated by say, “Yes, I did it another day.” Yes, I felt a bit silly taking just ten breaths, but I reminded myself that my goal was to build the habit and worth celebrating every day I did it.
That’s it. Once I took these steps for about six to eight weeks, I got into the habit of meditating for just a minute or so. Since then, I’ve slowly expanded my practice from ten breaths to about 15–20 minutes every day. But when I’m super rushed or even in the middle of other meditation techniques, I find myself coming back to “Just take ten mindful breaths.”
I hope what I learned helps you build your own meditation habit.