How to Cultivate a Consistent Meditation Practice
While it can be easy to begin a meditation practice or any new healthy habit, it's often challenging to stay motivated to sustain a consistent practice. Of course, it is still helpful to meditate and practice breathwork sporadically, as any effort toward your self-care is better than nothing at all. However, you will ultimately experience more of the benefits of meditation with consistent practice, because the results accumulate over time.
Read more about the healing benefits of meditation.
If you tend to struggle with maintaining consistency, it's important to create a plan to overcome obstacles and follow through with your goals. Below, you'll find a 10-step process to help you maintain a consistent meditation practice, counteract resistance, and set yourself up for success.
How to Cultivate a Consistent Meditation Practice
1. Schedule Your Meditation Time
Set up a repeating alarm on your phone or a calendar reminder to help remind you to meditate every day. If it's not scheduled, you're less likely to prioritize it.
2. Tie your meditation practice to another healthy habit
Tying one healthy habit to something you're already doing will improve your ability to sustain a new habit. This is referred to as habit stacking. For example, if you already brush your teeth or practice yoga every morning, you can "stack" your meditation practice to begin before or after one of your established habits so it eventually becomes a natural part of your daily routine.
3. Practice yoga or stretching before you meditate
Five or more minutes spent in yoga poses or stretching will help you to release stress and excessive mental energy. This will make it easier to experience inner quiet and stillness during your meditation.
4. Eliminate Distractions
Make sure to close your door, turn off phone notifications, and wear headphones if you are easily distracted. If you're not listening to a guided meditation, set a timer with a chime or vibration to guide you out of the meditation so you don't have to keep track of the time by looking at your phone.
5. Meditate in the same place at the same time every day if possible
For some, meditating in the same place a the same time helps to create a ritual by anchoring the practice in a specific location. You can set up an altar, sit outside, or choose a specific chair, pillow, or room for mediation. Identify the best time of day to commit to your meditation practice and try to practice at that same time every day.
6. Keep It Simple
Don’t become too rigid or overwhelmed by meditation techniques. While it may be awkward or uncomfortable when you are first learning to meditate, as you practice consistently, it will become easier and more enjoyable over time. Ultimately, meditation is all about being present and breathing. If you feel overwhelmed or bogged down by techniques, keep it simple and focus on diaphragmatic breathing (breathing in and out of your belly for 5-20 minutes per day).
Read more: Learn 3 accessible, uncomplicated meditation techniques to increase relaxation and mindfulness.
6. Be Patient and Remember that Your Small, Daily Efforts Accumulate Over Time
Some people find that tracking their progress helps them to stay consistent with their mediation practice. If this is the case for you, make a note on your calendar each time you meditate to remind yourself of your efforts and to maintain a sense of momentum. Remember that your efforts will accumulate over time. Give yourself at least 3 months of consistent practice to establish a new habit.
7. Track Your Progress
Some people find that tracking their progress helps them to stay consistent with their mediation practice. If this is the case for you, make a note on your calendar each time you meditate to keep track of your efforts and to maintain a sense of momentum.
8. Avoid Hedonic Adaptation
Hedonic adaptation means that we develop tolerance and stop getting the helpful benefits or enjoyment out of things that we enjoy a lot in the beginning. We get used to things and we stop doing them. To avoid hedonic adaptation, keep the following tips in mind:
Savoring and gratitude: Focusing on the future or past can trigger stress and also makes you take things that you already have for granted. If you are susceptible to this, focus on slowing down, taking a breath, and bringing yourself back to the present moment. Savor the small things that you have access to, such as your ability to breathe or the fact that you can take a quiet moment for yourself. Think about all of the small things you are grateful for in your meditation practice. This subtle but powerful shift can increase your enjoyment of the practice and your happiness in general.
Keep it interesting: Be consistent with your practice, but also make sure that it's inspiring, and helps you grow as a person. If your meditations feel stagnant or stale, it's important to adjust your practice to keep it interesting. You can explore multitudes of breathing and meditation practices for free online.
8. Be Authentic to Yourself
There’s no one size fits all meditation practice. What matters most is that your meditations feel authentic to you so are inspired to sustain your practice. Be creative, stay curious, and explore as much as you'd like until you find the practice(s) that are the best fit for you.
9. Follow Your Values, Not Your Feelings
Oftentimes, people don't practice healthy habits like exercise, eating vegetables, or meditating because they don't feel inspired to do it. The issue with waiting for inspiration or motivation is that it might never come about on its own. Instead of being overly dependent on motivation, it's important to follow your values instead of your feelings. While you might not feel like meditating, your values will help you to remember what you stand for and why you will benefit from choosing a healthy habit.
10. Write an Implementation Intention
Writing an implementation intention will help you stay accountable to your goals and promises. Habit formation researchers have found that people who write an implementation intention before they embark on a new habit or goal are far more likely to stick with it and see it all the way through than people who don’t write an implementation intention.
Implementation intentions are effective because they help you to identify your goal and get as specific as possible about exactly how and when you will follow through with it. The more specific you can be, the more you will get out of this practice. Below you'll find an implementation intention template. Fill in the blanks with your specific goals and details in mind. Once you’ve written your implementation intention, sign and date it. Keep this somewhere in your home or office where you’ll encounter it every day.
Read more: Learn about goal attainment and the science of implementation intentions.