Mindfulness meditation has many benefits, and meditating daily is one of the best things you can do for yourself. In the beginning, however, you may have difficulties making it a part of your life. The mind doesn’t want to meditate and puts it off. We prioritize other things over meditation and end up not doing it.
So, how do you build a meditation habit that sticks? The key is to make meditating as easy as possible. If you have a fixed time and place for meditation, you’re more likely to do it. There are various things you can do to make it easier for you to meditate at the same time of day. In this article, we’ll look at 10 simple ways you can make meditation a daily habit for life.
1. Be realistic
Upon hearing the word meditation, we usually conjecture images of yogis sitting in silence for hours. While there are monks who’ve devoted their lives to this practice, it’s better to be realistic with our expectations when starting out. Setting a goal too high will only lead to disappointment when you cannot achieve it.
You won’t be able to sit for more than 10-20 minutes if you’re meditating for the first time, and that’s normal. Even if you somehow sit for an hour, it’ll be very difficult to keep at it. You want meditation to be a pleasant experience for your body and mind. The goal is to leave the mind wanting more of that post-meditation tranquility.
Start small. Make it a goal to meditate for 10 minutes a day for the next week. Then, you can increase it by 5 minutes. It can be anything you want – 5, 10, 20, or 30 minutes. Don’t put pressure on yourself to do more than that though. It’s better to meditate 15 minutes a day for the next three months than meditating two hours a day for one week.
2. Do it in the morning
Meditating in the morning is one of the best things you can do for your emotional well-being. It’s the best time of the day to meditate because of its quiet nature. In the morning, the mind is relatively calmer, so you’ll have better concentration. Your meditation sessions will be deeper and more relaxing.
Anchors are very useful in building habits. Waking up can work as an anchor to build the habit of meditation. I wake up. I mediate. No Exceptions. In the beginning, establishing a regular practice of meditation is more important than the time you meditate. This kind of attitude will help you stick to your practice.
By meditating in the morning, we set the tone for the day. Whether you wake up at 5 am or 9 am, including wake-up meditation into your daily routine helps you start your day with silence and serenity. It allows you to be fully awake and aware before “doing” anything.
3. Remember why you started
You need to be clear about the reasons why you want to practice meditation. The stronger your “why” is, the more likely you are to make meditation a part of your life. The reasons must be personal and important.
For example, you may face difficulties being regular with meditation if you take it up just because a friend recommended it. On the other hand, if you know the various benefits of meditation and understand how it can change your life, you’ll be more motivated to stick to it. So, remember how meditation can change your life and help you function better. Be clear about what you want out of your practice.
This is true of not just meditation, but any habit or project you take up in life. Remembering why you started will help you stick to your pursuit when faced with difficulties.
4. Make it convenient
You can’t just say “I will start meditating from tomorrow” and expect to build a habit. You probably won’t be able to do it. If you want to make meditation a habit, schedule it. The best way to schedule a new habit is to tie it to something you’re already doing.
As discussed above, waking up can be such a trigger. Other triggers may be finishing your breakfast, taking a shower, workout, or anything that you do daily. Tying meditation to a trigger will help you remember it, and after a few weeks, meditation will also become a habit.
Another thing you can do to make it more convenient for yourself is to set out the yoga or meditation mat before going to bed. That way, you’ll walk past it as you’re about to take a shower or have breakfast. It’ll reinforce that you will meditate right after doing the current task.
For example, you can decide that you’ll meditate every day after finishing your breakfast. Now, you won’t have any excuses. You also won’t have to look for your mat once you’re done eating breakfast. It’ll be already laid out where it should be.
5. Reward yourself
So you’ve got a trigger for meditation, and you’ve made it easy to meditate. Now, to establish this habit, we will add a reward at the end. Every time you meditate, give yourself a small reward so that your brain links meditation with the reward and pushes you to do it.
For example, if you meditate in the morning, you can reward yourself with a nice cup of hot tea or coffee. Anything can be a reward: breakfast, taking a walk with your dog, or watching a video on YouTube. It doesn’t matter what the reward is as long as it’s consistent and affects your brain positively.
You know your routine better than anyone. So, work out your triggers and rewards. Keep the rewards simple and small and make them a part of your routine. Don’t add anything too elaborate, because then you’re just adding more things to do and remember.
6. Create a dedicated meditation space
Creating a meditation space in your home is an important step in planning your meditation habit. You can meditate anywhere, but you should preferably do it at the same place. That meditation space will remind you of your intention to practice stillness every day. Just as we have a kitchen where we prepare food and a bedroom where we sleep, we should have a space dedicated to practicing mindfulness.
Choose a relatively quiet, distraction-free area in your home. You want it to be serene and calm, rather than in the middle of a heavily trafficked area. You can have an idol of Buddha or a photo of your guru. If you want to have incense or a lamp, that’s fine too. Customize the space however you like and make it your own.
It doesn’t have to be a separate room, though that would be nice. Any corner or alcove where you can sit still without distractions will work.
7. Hold yourself accountable
One of the secrets of building long-lasting habits is being held accountable. Find a way to hold yourself accountable and create a negative consequence if you don’t follow through.
A common way to do this is to start a habit with someone else. If you don’t know anyone who wants to get into meditation, pick a friend, and ask them to be your accountability partner. If you fail to follow through, you’ll lose face with that person. This social pressure will make you more likely to commit to the practice.
Keeping a journal is another form of accountability. In your diary, write that you want to meditate daily for the next two months. You can also decide a punishment for yourself in case you break the streak. The punishment can be donating a certain amount to charity or refraining from entertainment for a set period.
8. Track your progress
There’s no greater joy than seeing yourself progress on your chosen path. Ticking every successful day on an app or calendar will trigger a rush of feel-good chemicals in your brain. You’re more likely to stick to your practice if you can see how you’re progressing day by day.
There are several ways to track your progress:
- Use a habit tracker app. Loop habit tracker (Android | IOS) is a small and simple app I’ve used in the past. You can use any app you like as long as it lets you track your everyday progress.
- Mark the calendar. You can write Om on your wall calendar every day after your session.
Jerry Seinfeld, one of the most successful comedians of all time, believed that his comedy kept improving only because he would practice writing every day. He would mark the calendar with a big X after writing every day.
After a few days, you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll enjoy seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.– Jerry Seinfeld
The only thing you have to do is to show up every day and not break the chain. Consistency is far more important than performance when you’re trying to establish a new habit.
9. Use a meditation app
Using a meditation app is an excellent way to learn the basics of meditation and build a habit. Apps such as Headspace or Calm have many guided meditations for practicing. You’ll find guided sessions tailored toward specific topics like promotion of creativity or alleviation of stress.
Headspace also has little badges to mark your progress: 1 day, 3 days, 10 days, and so on. So you can also use it to create a streak of meditation.
A 2018 study tested Headspace on 70 participants. They were divided into two groups: one completed ten introductory sessions on the app and the other half listened to audiobooks about mindfulness with no guided practice.
The meditation group practiced for 100 minutes on the app over a month. They fared much better in the tests and felt more positive emotions and less mentally burdened.
10. Meditate on the go
Don’t beat yourself up if you fail to stick to the plan for some reason. Meditating in a quiet space after waking up is wonderful, but it’s possible to meditate anywhere. So if you can’t meditate on a particular day, do a mini-meditation session. You can do it while standing in a crowded subway train or sitting on a park bench. Take a few deep breaths and then follow the rhythm of your breath for a few minutes.
If you use meditation apps, you can find a short 3 or 5-minute session to keep the streak going. Walking meditation is another way to practice mindfulness on the go.
Even if the entire day has been hectic and you feel exhausted, meditating for a few minutes is not a big deal. The idea is to make sure you do it daily and never break the chain.
Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself. Doing a mini-meditation session or not being able to meditate is okay as long as you pick it up the next day.
Bonus: Increase the number of sessions
Remember, you want meditation to be a pleasant experience for your mind. So don’t increase the length of your sessions right in the beginning. It’ll only make things difficult. Instead, find more anchors and tie meditation to them. It could be brushing your teeth at night or having snacks in the evening.
Four mindful sessions of 15 minutes each are more effective one 60-minute session where you keep fighting your body. So, once you’ve built the habit of meditating in the morning, try to meditate before going to bed. In this way, you’ll increase the amount of time you meditate without getting bored or tired.
If 15 minutes feels too short, you can increase the length by another 10-15 minutes. The key is to find a time length that feels achievable and keeps you motivated. To learn more about it, read this article: How Many Times a Day Should You Meditate?
Building a new habit is not that difficult if you remember why it’s important, tie it to a trigger, and reward yourself after doing it. We’ve discussed 10 practical tips you can use to make meditation a daily habit. By following these tips and showing up every day, you’ll create a meditation habit that’ll stick.
Good luck and happy meditating! 😊