Just because we know that daily meditation is good for us doesn’t mean we’ll be any better about actually doing it. We know that working out regularly and eating healthy is good for our bodies, but we don’t always follow through on those, either. But just like a regular workout or a healthy diet, there are some things we can do to make our meditation practice consistent and sustainable.
Here are 10 easy tips for making meditation a daily habit.
Do it early
The earlier in the day you meditate, the more likely you are to do it. I recommend meditating as soon as you get up in the morning. It’s the time when you’re least likely to get distracted or have something come up that bumps it.
It’s also a good time because you’re most open and susceptible to being really honest with yourself since you’re just waking up. You haven’t had a chance to put up your defenses yet.
If first thing after you wake up isn’t an option, go for as early in the day as you can make it. It will set you up for a more grounded, mindful day.
Make it a priority
The saying goes, if it’s important, you’ll make time for it — or something to that effect, anyway. However it’s worded, the point is the same: if something matters to you, you make sure to make time for it. Think about it: do you ever skip a bathroom break when your bladder feels like it’s about to burst — or when you’re clapping your hand over your mouth to avoid vomiting? Of course not, because at that moment, it’s a priority.
Your mental health, and therefore your meditation practice, needs to be a priority. It may not be a bursting bladder or a rebellious stomach, but if you don’t take care of your mental health, eventually it will do something to remind you it’s there and has been neglected.
Prioritizing your meditation practice means deciding it matters, and deciding it matters more than other things. It might mean skipping an episode of your favorite Netflix show, or staying up 15 minutes later (or getting up 15 minutes earlier). It might mean putting it on your calendar as an appointment with reminders.
But the first step is deciding it matters and thus making it a priority.
Keep it simple — and familiar
The city I live in has a beautiful meditation park, complete with fountains, benches to sit on and lots of beautiful scenery and quiet. It’s a lovely place to meditate — but it’s also a 40-minute drive from my home. If I had to drive 40 minutes every day to meditate, I’d never meditate.
Your meditation practice doesn’t have to be some elaborate process, and you don’t always have to run off to a class or park or other location to do it. Keep it simple — meditate in your bedroom or living room. Sit on a cushion or the floor or in your recliner or on your couch.
If you really want to get the most from your practice, do it in the same place each day. Just like your body comes to associate your bed with sleep and sex, your mind will come to associate meditation with a particular spot on your couch or a cushion on the floor if you go there every day. This will let you ease into your session more quickly and easily, and that means you’ll get more from it.
Connect it with another daily activity
Do you drink a cup of coffee every morning?? Boil an egg for breakfast? Sit on the porch to read the paper? These are all activities to which you could tie your meditation practice. Simply tack a few extra minutes to one end or the other of the activity (or, in cases like boiling an egg, while the activity is taking care of itself!), and meditate.
By connecting your practice with a consistent daily activity, you make it a habit that can’t be ignored. It’s unlikely you’ll give up your coffee or morning shower any time soon, which means you’ll be less likely to skip your meditation.
Choose something that you do whether it’s a workday, weekend, or vacation. This will make it much more difficult for the habit to slip even when things change.
But be flexible
You might meditate first thing in the morning while your coffee is brewing — and that’s perfect. But you also need to be flexible. What if the coffee machine breaks? What happens when you oversleep? Or when you need to schedule an early-morning meeting or doctor’s appointment?
Consistency and routine are great things, but not every day can look exactly the same. Things will come up. You need to be able to be flexible with your practice without letting it go entirely when things come up.
Learn to move your meditation without skipping it entirely. If nothing else, on a day when something prevents you from meditating at your usual time, set an alarm on your phone to go off just before bed to remind you. This will ensure that, even if you didn’t find time at any other point in the day, you will remember to meditate right before bed.
Remember the benefits
When you finish meditating, take a few extra moments to really steep in the feelings of peace, relaxation, accomplishment, and whatever else you feel. Pay attention to how much better your concentration and focus are, your improved memory, and how much less stress you feel. Note every little detail you can about the difference meditation has made for you.
When you feel tempted to skip your practice, pull all those feelings, memories and details to the surface. Remember how good it feels, how much better it makes so many parts of your life. This will make you much less likely to give in to temptation.
Write down your reasons for skipping it
Despite the best intentions and all the other tricks you might come up with, there are still going to be times you’ll skip your meditation. They may be few and far between, or so we can hope, but they will happen. So when they do, write down the reason.
There’s two reasons for this. One is that you may see a pattern. You might begin to notice that you skip your practice when you’re extremely stressed, or on Fridays when you have an early meeting. Noticing this will help you find ways to change it, which will make your practice more consistent and beneficial.
The other reason for doing this is that seeing your reason in writing can remind you how important your mental health is, and help you see that perhaps the reason you’re skipping your meditation is irrelevant or silly in comparison. This can snap you out of it and encourage you to meditate after all.
Get some accountability
Similar to connecting your practice to a daily activity, sometimes practicing with someone else can help make meditation a habit. Just like you’re more likely to work out if you have a workout buddy waiting for you, you’re more likely to meditate if you have a meditation buddy waiting for you.
If you’re really struggling, your best accountability buddy will be someone who doesn’t struggle as much. Peer pressure only goes so far if both of you are prone to excuses, and you’re both more likely to let each other off the hook if you’re both hoping to get off the hook yourself.
If a single person isn’t an option, or if you don’t have anyone you can consistently count on, try finding a class or group session that you can attend. Yoga studios often offer a variety of meditation classes. Find some classes that fit your schedule, put them on your calendar and if possible, RSVP and pay for them in advance. By RSVPing, you take up a space that someone else might have taken — and guilt, though it may not be ideal, can be a powerful motivator. By paying in advance, you encourage yourself to go to class so you don’t waste the money you spent.
One of the biggest reasons someone ends up giving up on a daily meditation practice is that they have unrealistic expectations that aren’t met. They think they can sit down once and meditate for five minutes and get all the benefits.
There are definitely benefits that can be felt with just a single, short session. And those benefits should not be ignored. But the reality of meditation is that the best benefits come from sustained practice. The best benefits are cumulative.
Don’t sit down to meditate expecting to open your eyes and see a completely different world before you. Don’t sit down to meditate expecting that in a single session, you’ll wipe out all your stress, anxiety, tension, or whatever else you’re feeling.
Instead, sit down with the knowledge that you’ll feel better with each session that you complete. Sit down with the knowledge that sticking with your practice means that in a few weeks, you’ll feel better than you do today — and in a few months, you’ll feel better than you’ll feel in a few weeks.
It’s also important to manage your expectations in regard to physical health benefits. While we often tout benefits such as better sleep and lower blood pressure, meditation only goes so far. There may be physical reasons behind your trouble sleeping or high blood pressure that meditation can’t touch. So it’s important if you’re not seeing the results you hoped for with a physical health issue to see your doctor and confirm that there’s not something else going on that needs to be addressed with medication or other health treatments.
Make these tips your own
These are all tried-and-true tips for making your meditation a daily habit. But it’s important to remember that they can all be tweaked to suit your own needs. Each individual is unique, with their own schedules, lifestyles, families, and more.
If something doesn’t work for you, adjust it until it does. Throw it out entirely if necessary. But don’t give up on making your meditation a daily habit. If it matters to you, stick with it and keep making adjustments until you’re able to make it work for you.