Picture sitting in your apartment in the middle of a busy city, trying to concentrate on your breathing, with the noise of cars and sirens filling your ears. Or worse–your own nagging thoughts. Meditation may seem easy but sitting quietly for just 20 minutes a day takes practice and discipline to not just only set aside the time to meditate, but to also be successful at it.
Making Meditation A Habit
Madonna Soans, a PR executive says, “Despite knowing about all the wondrous benefits of meditation, I always end up buying the “I’m too busy excuse” and just not do it. The handful of times I actually did 20 minutes, it was mentally exhausting.” Relatable much? You’re certainly not the only one who struggles to develop a meditation habit. If you’re just starting out and want to make 20 minutes a day meditation practice a habit, it would be helpful to take a look at the 3 Rs of habit building exercise. This new habit challenge, a series of daily habits will help you lead a more mindful life.
The 3Rs Of Habit Building: Reminder, Routine, and Reward
In the psychological aspect, habits are formed through learning and retaining what we’ve learned.
Understanding the pattern of how habits form and work can help you form better ones. Science has shown the cycle of how habits work, which is what we call the 3 Rs of habit formation—Reminder, Routine, and Reward. It is also known as the habit loop.
This pertains to the cue or trigger that prompts the behaviour. A reminder can be a piece of information that predicts the reward or what you would get out of doing a specific action. It could be a material reward, such as money, or intangible benefits, such as approval from someone or a personal sense of satisfaction.
Routine refers to the action you take. It’s important to make sure routines are effective and goal-oriented to the degree possible. If you’re mindful and purposeful in creating routines, habits become powerful tools to help us achieve goals.
It’s obvious that you won’t be able to stick to doing something if there is nothing in it for you. Reward refers to the benefit that you obtain out of doing the activity. The reward doesn’t have to be grand for as long as it is positive, it will help you keep going with the new habit you’re trying to form.
How Making 20 Minutes A Day Meditation Practice A Habit Is Beneficial?
Scientists at the University of Washington concluded that mindfulness meditation, the goal of which is to become more present with ourselves just as we are, helps people stay on tasks longer with fewer distractions, improves data retention, and reduces stress. And if all of that isn’t enough, researchers from Johns Hopkins University found that regular practice of meditation can temper our anxiety throughout the day.
Steps To Create A Daily Meditation Habit
Often the most challenging part of meditation could be to turn the practice into a regular habit. Take a look at these steps that will help you build a habit.
1. Meditate at the same time
Find a time and stick to it. Oftentimes, the morning is the best time to start your practice before your usual day starts. Don’t check your phone or email and don’t engage in a conversation with your family. Plan your wake-up time to be before life calls you to start the day, so you can get up and meditate. If this doesn’t appeal to you, meditate right after work or directly before bedtime. Experiment with different times of day and see which one works best for you.
2. Try mini meditations
One of the reasons a regular practice can be challenging is the misconception that you need to meditate for long periods of time. In the beginning, start small. Begin with a 5-minute practice and as you get more comfortable, then challenge yourself to sit for longer. Starting small is the best way to make it part of your daily routine.
In order to give yourself the necessary push to get started with your meditation practice, you need to be clear on the reasons why you want to take it up. The stronger your reasons “why”, the more likely it is that you’ll take the plunge and give meditation a try.
4. Build an environment
Creating a beautiful space for you to meditate will encourage you to create a nourishing daily ritual, that energizes and inspires you. Think about ways to create an attractive space for your ritual with comfortable cushions, or beautifully scented candles. Carving out a space specifically for meditation will also help you know when and where you’re going to meditate.
Remember to not expect anything right of the bat. You may not notice benefits of your meditation practice in the beginning, but research indicates that a regular practice can strengthen your immune system, decrease anxiety and depression, and more.
Try this short meditation 20 minutes a day to get started.
Encourage your mind to consider this process an experiment. See if you can observe, with curiosity, what works and what doesn’t work for you. By using these simple techniques, you will get into the groove of a daily meditation practice sooner rather than later.
About the author:
Suhasini Jha is a Mumbai-based ex-journalist who has previously worked with Firstpost and Moneycontrol.