Practical Tips for Starting a Meditation Habit

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Each New Year, I see more and more folks adding “meditate” to their resolutions list. And for good reason—meditation is good for you. Meditation can help manage stress and anxiety while boosting a sense of overall well-being. Furthermore, you don’t need any special equipment or clothing to meditate and you can do it anywhere.

Maybe you have the best intentions to meditate but you feel too distracted or have trouble switching gears. After all, those constant notifications, Zoom meetings, current events, and family responsibilities can be intense. Maybe you also sit for most of the day for work and sitting more to meditate doesn’t feel all that appealing.

Here are my tips for developing a meditation practice and sticking to it:
1. Know your “why.”
2. Check your schedule.
3. Protect your time.
4. For the fidgeters: consider walking meditation.
5. For the sitters: set the scene.
6. Just do it.

Know Your Why
The first step for sticking with your meditation practice is to really get clear about why you want to do it. Are you hoping to manage anxiety and stress? Are you hoping to feel more calm and centered? If you’re thinking “I just know meditation is good for me and so I think I should do it,” that’s probably not going to cut it.

Extrinsic motivation is when someone else or something outside of you tries to motivate you. So this would be like your doctor saying, “You really need to manage your blood pressure and stress; why not try meditation?” That was your doctor’s idea, not yours. Intrinsic motivation is going to help you stick with your goal more consistently.

One reason I meditate is to help me practice staying present in any given moment—especially in parenting situations. So for me, I think, “Meditation helps me show up for my kids.” What about you?

Check Your Schedule
Look at your calendar and think about your daily responsibilities. What’s a good time of day to gift yourself 10-15 minutes for meditation? Maybe your schedule varies a lot from day to day, so instead of a specific time being your cue, you zero in on an activity to be your cue (i.e. “After I brush my teeth, I meditate”). This is called “habit stacking” and it’s a super-effective way to loop a new habit into your daily life. You can read more about that here on my favorite time management guru’s blog.

Protect Your Time
Now that you’ve found your cue to meditate (whether that’s a specific time of day or a specific activity) put it on your calendar. Let your work team know that you’ll be unavailable for those 10-15 minutes each day and that you’ll also block time to respond to urgent messages soon after you return. When the time comes, go into “do not disturb” mode and silence notifications, vibrations, visuals, etc.

If you’re working from home, be sure to also notify your “coworkers” that you’ll be unavailable during your meditation time. Maybe that just means putting a “do not disturb” hanger on the doorknob or, if you’re not able to close a door, maybe some noise cancelling headphones could help you focus while also letting your coworkers know you’re unavailable.

For the Fidgeters: Consider Walking Meditation
If you’re spending most of your day sitting at a desk, sitting more for meditation may not feel all that appealing—especially if you’re a fidgeter. So although sitting cross-legged on a cushion is the first image that comes to mind when most people think about meditation, I often recommend that my desk jockey clients consider walking meditation. Getting outside in natural light with fresh air provides a myriad of benefits (like boosting your mood and creating opportunities to rest your eyes with distance looking). The added dose of walking will get your blood pumping and may also increase your productivity when you return to work.

If walking meditation sounds like something you’d like to try, first decide in advance where you’ll be walking. Can you just head out the door and safely walk around your block or neighborhood? If you live on a busy street with no sidewalks, could you instead walk around your yard or head to a nearby park? As a last resort, you could simply walk around your house—but make sure you’ve cleared a path so your walking meditation doesn’t become an obstacle course!

If you’ll be walking outside, set your gear—whether that’s your shoes, coat, or umbrella—within sight. Every time you look at it, you’ll be reminded that you’re going to take such good care of yourself by meditating and, when the time comes, it will be easy to gear up and go.

Even though your meditation time won’t be sedentary, you should still protect your time by silencing notifications and going into “do not disturb” mode. I usually head out for a walking meditation session with earbuds in to signal to my neighbors that I’m not available for a stop and chat (even though I’m not listening to anything). It’s okay to be antisocial sometimes!

For the Sitters: Set the Scene
If you’re opting for seated meditation, take time to set up a cozy space for your practice. Decide what you’ll sit on—maybe a different chair than your work desk or even a comfortable floor cushion. Consider adding a candle, flowers, or a beautiful piece of art; you could also diffuse your favorite soothing essential oil if you want to get really lux. Set the scene so that meditation feels like a treat instead of a chore.

Just do It
By now you’ve gotten really clear about your intention for wanting to meditate. You’ve scheduled time just for meditation and you’ve covered all your bases by notifying those around you that you’ll be unavailable for a bit. Furthermore, you’ve made a plan—you know when, where, and how you’re going to meditate. So when the time comes, get up and just do it!

Try not to get discouraged if your mind wanders the whole time or if you have trouble switching out of work mode—these things take time. Plus, it takes a certain amount of awareness to even realize that your mind is wandering or that you’re still thinking about that work meeting. Just the fact that you blocked time out of your schedule for the sole purpose of taking care of yourself can be an important first step. Be kind to yourself and take it one day at a time.

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