If you follow us on social media, you may recall that the gym is taking part in a month-long meditation and breathwork challenge! The task? To meditate or do breathwork for five minutes per day, which sounds easy but can actually be very challenging! If you’ve never mediated before, you might be wondering how to start a meditation practice.
Meditation will feel like second nature before long, but it can be difficult to establish any new habit at first! Today, I want to give you some strategies for beginning a new meditation practice, with the hopes that it will help you stay consistent and reap all the amazing benefits meditation has to offer.
What do you picture when you imagine someone who meditates? Do you picture a person perched atop a cushion, chanting “om” for hours on end?
This is not the reality for most people who meditate. You can sit wherever you like and chant if you want to, but the point I really want to drive home is that you don’t have to do it for long periods of time.
In fact, I recommend starting small and building up gradually, so that you don’t get overwhelmed and give up your practice.
So I’ll ask you—what’s reasonable for you? How many minutes can you meditate per day, to start? Now, are you at least 90% confident that you can do that every day this week? If not, reduce that time goal.
Do you only have 1-2 minutes? THAT’S OKAY! Just taking a minute or two every day to unwind is so beneficial. You can always add more time as your practice becomes habit.
Try an App
Now that you’ve settled on a time goal to start your meditation practice, you might be wondering, “What do I do during that time?” Or, “What do I think about?”
I find it’s easiest for beginners to try out guided meditations. There are SO many great apps out there, many of which are either free or offer a free trial (I can vouch for Headspace and Insight Timer).
Keep in mind that you may need to try out a few before you land on one that resonates with you. While I like (some) apps that talk you through meditations, I find others to be distracting.
I actually do better with apps where I focus on an object on a screen and then breathe in rhythm with that object. State and HeartMath are my favorite of these. Both of these apps have circles on the screen that rhythmically expand and contract. I simply watch the circle, inhaling as it expands and exhaling as it contracts.
Give Yourself Grace
One of the biggest surprises I found when I first began meditating was how difficult stillness can be.
I felt distracted and restless and (even worse) angry at my own lack of focus and will power. This is actually very common for beginners!
Don’t get upset with yourself when your mind wanders during your practice. Simply do your best to pull it back to the present moment. One motto I like for when this happens is, “Oh, that’s interesting. I’ll think about that more later.”
You don’t have to be perfect at meditation to reap the benefits, and you’ll find it easier to tune out distractions as you put in the reps!
“Stack It” with Another Habit
So now that you know a bit about how to get started, I want to shift gears to how to build consistency in your practice.
According to James Clear, author of the bestselling book Atomic Habits, habit stacking is a highly effective way to get a new habit to stick.
A habit, by definition, is something we do regularly with very little thought or effort. Habit stacking, then, is the practice of pairing a practice you’d like to become a habit with something that’s already part of your routine.
Here’s how you can get started with that. Make a list of 10-12 actions you do every single day with very little thought. Some examples might include pouring yourself a cup of coffee, brushing your teeth, or eating lunch. I personally like to meditate just before lunch (if you have Instagram, I talk about why that’s the case in this recent post).
Now, pick one of those habits that occurs when you have a few quite minutes to practice meditation. In other words, stack it.
Habits form in a loop that includes a cue, a routine, and a reward. In stacking your meditation on top of your existing habit, you’re essentially making that established habit your cue and better setting yourself up for success.
Have you identified an existing habit that you can pair with your new meditation practice? Great! But sometimes, that still isn’t enough (especially when you’re getting started).
I recommend scheduling your meditation practice into your calendar, setting a reminder to go off on your phone, and PROTECTING THAT TIME.
I’m not yelling at you, I promise—it’s just really important that you not let life get in the way of your practice.
There will come a time when your practice really takes off, and when you won’t need to be reminded to meditate. Setting that daily reminder just helps you to keep your practice front of mind in the beginning.
Track Your Habit
So far, we’ve talked about how to start meditating and how to build consistency with your new habit. Now, I want to shift gears and talk about how to keep momentum.
One of my favorite ways to do this is a habit tracker.
A habit tracker doesn’t need to be fancy! You can put a gold star sticker on your wall calendar every day you meditate, or write the days of the month on a post-it and put an X through each one you complete your habit.
There are also lots of fancy apps out there that can help you track your progress AND help send you daily reminders to meditate (I like Streaks).
A tracker can motivate you to keep your streak going and can also serve as a reward in the habit loop. It is so gratifying to see those marks in your habit tracker, signaling that you meditated!
Reflect on Your Progress
Of course, the positive feelings that come from meditation extend far beyond putting a check in the box for every day you do it.
Take 30 seconds after you meditate to reflect on how you’re feeling. Do you feel more relaxed? More focused? Less angsty? Great! Remember that on days when you are tempted to skip your daily meditation.
Keep in mind that it may take a bit of time before you see any major changes. That’s okay—that habit tracker can help provide some immediate gratification to keep you focused until you see the major impacts.
How to Start a Meditation Practice
Now that I’ve provided a few strategies to get you started with a meditation practice, the most important thing is to just get started. Again, you might not feel like you’re doing it perfectly right off the bat, and that’s okay!
Keep putting in the reps, and the benefits will come.
Need a few more strategies to get started with meditation and breathwork? Give us a follow on Instagram! We’ll be sharing some tips all month, as the gym takes part in a March meditation challenge with our programming partners at TrainFTW.
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