While we often hear about the growing body of research showing the benefits of meditation, and how some form of spiritual practice supports overall wellbeing, it can be a major challenge to integrate it into our daily lives.
Two of the most common reasons people say they want to meditate but don’t follow through regularly are:
Time. We’re just too busy with life, work, family, and other responsibilities, including other forms of self-care.
It’s too hard. We’ve reached a point in our modern action-driven world where it is very difficult to sit there and do nothing. It's too easy for our minds to wander or get bored.
Luckily, what we propose can address both of these obstacles!
Here at Integrative Nutrition, one of our core concepts is primary food –spirituality, career, exercise, and relationships all nourish your life. Taking time to connect with yourself is an important part of primary food, and is so beneficial for many people. Meditation can play a big role in helping you to connect inward regularly.
The truth is that daily meditation doesn’t have to take up much time, even a few minutes of personal stillness a day lowers stress and improves mental clarity, and if you can get over the initial hump of discomfort you’ll adapt pretty quickly. With consistency, you’ll find that you may start to crave meditation as a welcome activity that greatly improves how you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally.
So how do you get on the meditation bandwagon in a practical way?
Connect it to an existing habit.
Mornings are a good time for meditation because our minds are naturally calmer than they are later in the day. Choose an activity you already do, such as drinking your first glass of water or brushing your teeth, and begin to consistently have a moment of silence and stillness before or after this activity. Consistency is more important than quality or quantity, so even if all you can spare is 1 minute, just 1 minute, that suffices as your first step to a daily meditation practice.
Turn off your self-performance judgment.
“Am I doing this right? I’m thinking too much... Oh I forgot to send an email... I have to pick up kale for dinner...” Some days you’ll have an easy time finding mental stillness and feel positive and rejuvenated after your meditation and other days you’ll be consumed with nonstop thoughts. Both are ok! Let go of your attachment for some form of objective accomplishment with this practice, no one is keeping score. Even if your mind is occupied with thoughts the entire time, you’re still getting some benefit from the attempt, this is a natural part of learning, so keep doing it every day anyway.
Gradually move towards 10 minutes a day.
If you can stick with the 1-minute habit mentioned above for a week, then you might find yourself naturally extending that 1 minute into 2, or 5, as the days progress. Within a month you should be able to sustain a regular practice of 10 minutes of mediation per day. Congratulations! 10 minutes a day, every day, is a great commitment to your self-nourishment and you’ll likely experience some major personal benefits. This makes it even easier to continue, extending your practice to 15 minutes, 20, or longer whenever possible.
Experiment with your preferred style.
There are many ways to support ongoing meditation in a way that resonates with you, such as various breathing techniques, affirmations, placing your hands on your heart or belly, chanting, or visualization. These are all worth exploring in order to find what works best for you, and it will help personalize your practice and keep you engaged on a deeper level.
Find a community.
As you get used to the practice of meditation you may want to join a community of fellow meditators. This does not have to involve any form of religion or conflict with your current faith, it simply helps to be around others who are learning and exploring this practice as well. There are many online meditation communities, groups, and forums you can join, and likely some local groups who meet in person as well. Give it a try and see if you find it helpful.
The most important element to keep in mind is to continue with consistency. It is the regularity of a practice of inner stillness that rewires your brain and provides the greatest benefit to you and all those around you.
How do you maintain your personal meditation practice? Share with us in the comment section below!