Starting a Mindfulness Practice
Let’s make this easy. You don’t have to allow your brain to complicate things. You don’t have to make it challenging. You just start! Remember, no one is “good” at meditating. You are either practicing meditation, or you are not, and you most certainly won’t begin to experience the benefits of a regular practice if you aren’t doing it.
Remember, the main tenets of mindfulness are:
- Attention on the present moment
- Openness and acceptance of the moment’s experience
As long as you are striving towards these ideals, you are succeeding! Here are the practical steps that I recommend to get started.
- Chose a time of day to meditate that you want to test. Make this the same time of day every day for 3 weeks. Then, if this is not working for you, you can re-assess and try other times. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you. (I choose to set my alarm earlier in the morning to get up and meditate before my family is awake…then there is peace, quiet and no distractions!)
- Start small. I began with just 10 minutes per day. If you’d like, you can try my 10-day series here, which are about 10 minutes each. Another excellent resource: the app called Headspace which has a free trial and is great for beginners.
- At first, you will just want to focus on making it a regular habit. The “quality” doesn’t matter as much. Just practice!
I have found that this is the thought model that many people operate under when delaying a start to their meditation practice:
Thoughts: I don’t have time for this. I don’t know how to do this. I am not good at this. My brain won’t be quiet.
Action: Make no attempts to practice meditation. (inaction)
Result: The benefits of a regular practice are not available to you.
Together, let’s try this alternative model!
Thought: Doing something calming for myself is something I deserve. (Alternatives: I will never learn if I don’t try. I want to be a person who is open to growth and change.)
Feeling: optimistic, motivated
Action: Start today, being open to where the experience will take you.
Result: Personal growth and realization of all the amazing benefits mindfulness meditation will offer you.
What works for beginning a meditation practice is not so much the quantity of time you are committing or your perceived quality or skill level, it is about trying it out on a regular basis and determining whether your practice is fulfilling for you. Is it enough to make a difference in your life? What needs to be adjusted?
How long will it take to see a difference? Research on the health benefits of meditation shows that practicing for at least one hour per week for 8 weeks may be enough to show significant positive effects on your mental and physical health. In fact, one study by Dr. Deborah Norris at a children’s hospital showed that even just 5 minutes of guided meditation before procedures resulted in profound physiological and behavioral effects.
Making a regular practice a priority is something you will not regret.
Please comment below if you need further help or advice!