Susan Johnston Taylor
Whether you’re trying to meditate more or train for a marathon, consistency is key to creating new habits. But oftentimes life gets in the way.
You meant to meditate before work, but you overslept or your roommate interrupted. Or you try to do it in the evenings, but get sucked into a Netflix marathon instead. But clearly, people do it. Marathons are run, practices are maintained, so what changes can you make to implement your own practice? I talked to the experts about how to start and maintain a meditation habit or other positive lifestyle changes.
Meditation has all kinds of potential benefits like lowered stress levels and more positive interactions with others. Focus on your reason for wanting to meditate (or exercise or tackle other healthy habits). “If you aren't clear about why you are choosing a new habit or what all of the benefits might be, then it will be harder to maintain the habit when things get challenging,” says Nicole Bandes, CEO of The Productivity Expert. “Being able to refer back to the benefits will help you to maintain your willpower.”
Make it easy to remember your new habit by pairing it with something you already do. Liz Barnet, head coach at Liz Barnet Fitness + Food Coaching, offers these examples: “Meditating while you wait for your coffee to brew, taking a few minutes to stretch after brushing your teeth, or always taking the stairs when you exit or enter your office building.” I wear a hot eye mask for about ten minutes in the mornings to combat dry eye so I meditate while wearing the mask, since I’m already seated with my eyes closed.
Build good habits into your daily routine by doing them at the same time every day (or most days). “If you schedule your meditation for every morning after you brush your teeth, once it becomes part of your daily routine it'll be hard to miss out on or avoid doing,” says Tom Casano, a life coach and the founder of LifeCoachSpotter.com. “You'll just do it every day as a part of your routine.”
Daily practice helps reinforce good habits, and tracking your practice (if you’re a Headspace user, the app will tell you how many days in a row you’ve meditated and when you reach 30 days, you’ll be able to gift a free month to someone else) ensures that you stick with it. “The best way to create a habit is to practice the habit you’d like to cultivate—maybe it’s morning exercise, meditation, journaling, drinking warm lemon water every morning—it could be anything,” Marissa Vicario, founder of Marissa's Well-being and Health. “The key is to keep practicing it consistently and set out to do it for 30 days straight.”
Stuff comes up—a late start to your morning or a broken coffeemaker may disrupt your routine and cause you to skip a day. When that happens, don’t beat yourself up. “You're not a failure if you miss one meditation session, and you don't have to give up on performing your new habit again tomorrow and the rest of the week,” says Camille Charbonneau, a mental performance consultant at Peak Perform. “If you didn't meditate today, that's OK. What can you do tomorrow that will make sure you will meditate?” Negative self-talk about missing a session will only derail your practice, so just focus on getting back on track.