Without a doubt meditation is a habit worth building.
I first got into meditation back in 2017.
A lot of people I looked up to and admired (shoutout to Tim Ferriss and Joe Rogan) were constantly talking about it.
I was experiencing a lot of anxiety and overthinking at the time so I thought “f*ck it what do I have to lose?”.
Fast forward three years - I’ve managed to meditate for 3,980 minutes.
That’s 66 hours.
That’s 3 days total.
So why did I spend roughly 3 whole days of my life focusing on my breath?
Here’s a small list of benefits I experienced:
▶️ Mental clarity.
▶️ Waking up more excited each day.
▶️ Focusing on tasks is easier.
▶️ I feel mentally "lighter" through the days when I meditate.
▶️ Less anxiety.
▶️ Improved mood.
▶️ Better memory.
▶️ Learning to “enjoy the moment”.
I've done my best to summarise the ideas, lessons as well as some practical tips that I’ve picked up along the way.
Do the bare minimum to help you get going
It can be so easy to fall into the trap of “I don’t feel like it today” or “I’ll just do it tomorrow”.
This applies to nearly every habit from meditating daily, going to the gym, eating healthier, etc.
I know it sounds cheesy but it’s true. It’s usually because we’re waiting for that moment we feel motivated.
The way to get around this is to just “show up”.
The beauty of this strategy is that you can apply it to pretty much any habit you’re trying to build.
For example, if you’re trying to start meditating regularly - sitting still for 10 minutes can feel like a lifetime.
Instead aim for just 1 minute. Sounds achievable right?
Worst case you’ve meditated today! Best case you’ll want to keep going.
You’ll find that it’s usually easier to keep going once you’ve started.
Same applies if you’re trying to exercise every day. If you’re not feeling motivated, rather than doing your usual workout aim to do just one exercise. For example, you can go home once you’ve done 20 squats.
Worst case you’ve done some squats! Best case you’ll want to keep going.
Lesson: Getting started can feel like the hardest part when trying to do anything difficult. Showing up means temporarily lowering your expectations or target to help you get the ball rolling.
Focus on the process not the outcome
It’s amazing how something as simple as focusing on your breathing for a few minutes can be so hard.
When starting out in meditation it can be frustrating when you realise after your first 10 or even 20 sessions you’re still constantly getting lost in your thoughts.
Don’t be discouraged.
Rather than being focused on the outcome (achieving a quiet and calm mind) focus on the actions you need to take to achieve the outcome.
In meditation this would be bringing your attention back to your breath.
In the gym it would be focusing on completing the next rep.
When writing a book it would be finishing the next sentence.
This small shift in perspective lets you zoom in to the next step you need to take. It can make even the biggest and most difficult goals feel achievable.
Lesson: “How do you climb Mount Everest? By putting one foot in front of the other”. The process is what gets results. Focus on the next step you need to take.
Practice mini moments throughout the day
One of the biggest eye opening moments I had during my meditation journey was realising that the power of meditation doesn’t come from finishing a 10 minute session. It comes from applying the techniques used in your meditation session during everyday life.
For a while I looked at the time I meditated as an isolated event. I got really good at getting into “zen mode” once I sat down to meditate, but once the timer was up my mind almost went straight back into thinking normally because I’d “finished” meditating.
Up until that point I thought getting 10 minutes of a semi-quiet mind was the reason so many entrepreneurs and athletes were raving on about meditation.
Don’t get me wrong that’s still great. But if you stop there you’re leaving 80% of the benefits off the table.
So what does meditation look like in everyday life?
Here are some exercises you can do to have mini mindful moments in your day:
- Pay attention whenever you change position e.g. go from standing to sitting or vice versa
- Stop whatever you’re doing and take six deep breaths
- Focus on your senses e.g. the sensation of your body sitting on the chair
- Eat mindfully - chew slowly, focus on the tastes and textures of your food
Some of these exercises might sound too simple or easy but they’re extremely powerful in bringing you back into the present moment. An easy way to remember to do them is setting a couple of recurring reminders on your phone that pop up throughout the day.
Lesson: Adding in mini mindfulness moments in your day will help you feel more calm and think clearer.
Always think like a beginner
“Beginner’s mind” is a concept from Zen Buddhism that refers to dropping our expectations and preconceived ideas about something, and constantly looking at things with an open mind, fresh eyes, just like a beginner.
Approaching every single meditation session with a beginner's mind is essential if you want to keep reaping the benefits over time. This means that regardless if you’ve meditated twice or a hundred times, every time you sit down to meditate - act as if this is the first time you’ve ever done it.
The danger of going into autopilot is that we begin to think “I already know how to do this” or “I already know what is going to happen”. This can lead us to getting bored and getting lost in our thoughts or even thinking we don’t need to meditate anymore.
Instead the more we think we know the more attention we should pay. Why? When you are already familiar with 98 percent of the information on a topic, you need to listen very carefully to pick up on the remaining 2 percent.
Cultivating a beginner's mind in everything you do can bring huge advantages.
These can include:
- Being more receptive to new ideas and opportunities
- Faster progress as you look for more ways to improve
- Viewing mistakes and failures as opportunities to learn
- Improved ability to develop new solutions
Lesson: The moment we say “I know” we stop ourselves from learning more.
Start your day with meditation
As meditation and mindfulness have become more mainstream there are countless apps, styles and courses you can choose from.
If you’re thinking about meditating regularly and never meditated before I highly recommend using the Headspace App.
The app has come a long way since I first used it in 2017. They now have playlists and courses for nearly every situation including managing anxiety, difficult conversations and even working from home.
Their Basics Course covers all the fundamental concepts and principles you need to get started.
Although the app you decide to use is only one piece of the puzzle. Building the habit of meditation into your routine is far more important.
Personally I found meditating for 10 minutes immediately after waking up in the morning (find a space away from your bedroom to avoid falling back asleep) the most effective. This way you can start your day mindfully rather than checking emails or social media. Plus you get the added bonus of getting a small win under your belt.
Lesson: Meditate first thing in the morning, use the Headspace App to get started.
Meditation lives up to the hype. If you're stressed, anxious or want to see what the fuss is about I guarantee you'll get something out of it.
Like anything worth doing it can be frustrating, challenging and even boring at times. There's still days where I get completely lost in thought. Even days when I miss the session altogether.
But the benefits and lessons you'll learn along the way are worth their weight in gold.
I hope you found some of these ideas and lessons valuable! If you’re interested in staying up to date on topics like self-improvement, business, and technology subscribe to my newsletter here.