Tips for Building a Daily Meditation Practice

Ever tried to pick up a new habit or teach yourself a new skill? You likely realized early on that daily practice was key to success. Well, that’s true for meditation, too.“It’s important to meditate daily because you’re cultivating a habit,” explains Sadie Bingham, a clinical social worker who specializes in anxiety in Gig Harbor, Washington. She’s also a long-time meditator herself.“Most people won’t notice the positive effects immediately, so you need a daily (ish) practice in order to begin seeing the fruits of your labor,” she adds.Starting a daily meditation practice can be hard, but most people find it’s easier once they start noticing some of its many benefits.Still doubtful whether you can make meditation part of your life? It’s absolutely possible, and these seven tips for success can help.

Start small

While daily meditation is a great goal, you don’t need to jump right in at 30 minutes (or longer) every day.In the beginning, you may not feel very mindful or calm. You might not feel relaxed at all. But that’s OK. Just make it a goal to take five minutes to sit with your thoughts. Be curious about them, but don’t force it.“Eventually,” explains Bingham, “you’ll feel the tug to sit and meditate.”If you never get up to 30 minutes a day, don’t sweat it— meditating for even 10 or 15 minutes every day offers benefits.

Find the right time

You’ll find that different sources recommend different “ideal” times to meditate. But in reality, your ideal time is whenever you can make meditation work.If you try to make yourself meditate at a time that doesn’t work well with your schedule and responsibilities, you’ll likely just end up feeling frustrated and unmotivated to continue.Instead, try meditating at different times to see what feels best for you. That might end up being first thing in the morning, right before bed, during a busy commute, or during your break at work.Whatever time you choose, try to keep with it. Consistency can help your new habit become just another part of your daily routine.

Get comfortable

You’ve probably seen photos of people meditating while seated in the classic lotus position. But that position isn’t comfortable for everyone, and it’s hard to mediate if you’re doing something that makes you physically uncomfortable.Fortunately, you don’t have to get into a certain position in order to successfully meditate. Instead, just get into a position you can hold, one that feels easy and natural. Sitting in a chair, lying down — both are totally OK.If you have trouble sitting still, try meditating while walking or standing. Some people find focusing on each step helps further the meditative process, just as focusing on breath does.Also consider creating a comfortable, soothing meditation space, or even build a ritual around the process. Incorporating candles, peaceful music, or photos and mementos of loved ones can all help enhance meditation.

Try a meditation app or podcast

Still feeling a little uncertain about just how you’re supposed to meditate?When in doubt, turn to your smartphone. There’s an app for most things these days, and meditation is no exception.
You can also use apps to access:

meditations for different situations
calming sounds
breathing exercises
tools and graphics to help you learn more about meditation

You can also personalize the app to follow your progress and change your meditation approach based on your present state of mind.

Keep at it

It takes time to form a new habit, so don’t worry if meditation doesn’t seem to click for you at first.Instead of looking for reasons why you can’t keep going with it, explore any difficulties you’re having with curiosity and an open mind. The challenges you face during meditation can guide you toward a more successful practice.Learning to practice acceptance and curiosity within meditation can help you translate these feelings more easily to your daily life, Bingham explains.This can help you have an easier time cultivating awareness on a regular basis.Think of it this way: If you start meditating when you feel anxious and upset, you might feel a little better. But if you keep up a regular meditation practice, you might find you have an easier time managing your stress before your emotions overwhelm you.

Know when it’s not working

You may not notice benefits of meditation immediately. That’s completely normal. And no matter how long you’ve been practicing, your mind might still wander from time to time. That’s normal, too.Neither of these things mean you can’t succeed with meditation. Recognizing when your mind has wandered away is actually a good thing —it means you’re developing awareness. When this happens, simply refocus yourself gently. With a steady meditation practice, you’ll typically begin to see benefits in time. It’s not super common, but some do people report increased feelings of depression, anxiety, or panic. If meditation consistently makes you feel worse, you might want to get guidance from a therapist before continuing.

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