A lot of words are being used repeatedly just now, unprecedented, uncertainty, anxiety, and isolation to name a few. We are all facing this change in our daily lives and each one of us will have our own set of circumstances that make this situation unique.
Everything we do, each action we take, or behaviour we reinforce can be the start of a habit. Our habits can ground us, keep us healthy, improve mental and physical wellbeing, and give us a sense of purpose. For all the challenge that is around us, (admittedly some of which can feel too much) we have micro choices that we can make to help ourselves feel more or less stable. These micro choices are little decisive moments in our day, which can often be the difference between us defining a day as good, bad or somewhere in between.
‘What are the decisive moments in your days which are helping, or hindering you from having the day you want?’
The Micro Choice of Mindfulness
I’d like to share one of the daily micro choices that improve the chance of me creating the day I want, meditation. It sets me up to be more present and I become aware of the choices I make.
When we’re present in our lives, and ‘wake up’ to individual moments we reduce some of our life being lived on autopilot-that state where stuff just happens, but we don’t live it or give ourselves a chance to enjoy it. Meditation allows me to live with more intention. Being human, I don’t always follow through on my intentions but by making them, and building up more times when I have than when I haven’t, I’ve increased the chance of me doing what I say I want to do. When we do that we increase our sense of trust in ourselves, and that gap between the life we lead and the life we want to lead lessens.
Remembering the Meaning of Practice
One of the most common things I hear from people trying to learn meditation is that they do it for a few days, and then they forget, or become too busy. They are aware of the many benefits including, mental wellbeing, regulation of emotions, focus, and improvements in health and mood, but building a sustained meditation habit can be a challenge.
Practitioners often refer to having a ‘meditation practice’ because we are practising improving our focus, attention, and awareness during meditation. The ability to develop a regular meditation habit is part of that practising, we gradually improve at showing up to do it. Here are a few principles below that might make the process run a bit more smoothly:
Starting to Meditate
- Find A Type
There are many types of meditation, Vipassana, Zen, Transcendental to name a few so it is worth experimenting with. From my experience, one of the once accessible and easy to learn is mindfulness meditation with a large range of books, online information, and recordings to follow. I have attached one of my own short 6-minute breath meditations to this article to get started.
For further practices, some common apps are Insight Timer, 10 % Happier, and Headspace.
Mindfulness meditation often starts with the neutral focus on the breath with steps in this link: Mindfulness: The Basics from mindful.org
- Plan Your Time
Follow habit psychology and have cues in your schedule and environment. James Clear author of Atomic Habits calls this Implementation Intention. Setting a cue to start a new habit = I will (Behaviour) at (Time) and (Location).
So often we say we’re going to start a new habit and then we leave it down to chance, and hope we’ll “remember to do it” or “feel like doing it”. Two of the most common missed cues when changing behaviour are Time and Location. E.g. I will Behaviour, (meditate for X minutes) at Time (8.30 am) and Location (home office).
A type of Implementation Intention strategy is called Habit stacking = After (Current Habit) I will (New Habit). Habit stacking has the time and location built into it because of the choice of current habit you attach it to. E.g. after Current Habit (brushing teeth/eating breakfast/having a shower/getting changed for bed) I will New Habit (meditate for X minutes.)
So, set your Behaviour, Time and Location OR Habit Stack with a Current Habit.
- Make It Attainable
Set an easily attainable amount of time to sit for and allow it to be flexible in duration.
Use a timer, personally I often recommend the one on the app Insight Timer. Set the timer initially for 2 minutes in the first week and build from there. In no time you could be up to 15 minutes. In forming habits you want to initially make the behaviour as easy as possible to complete (almost too easy to not do it). If you are busy, you still show up for the time and location to maintain the habit but do 1 minute.
A great book is Mark Williams and Danny Penman’s Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world. It includes recordings and guides you through an eight-week course.
Through Mental Note Performance, I offer one to one sessions on tailoring a mindfulness practice to suit your requirements alongside links to enhancing your performance and wellbeing in life and work. Sessions can take place over the phone or by video conferencing.
Give meditation a try-please do get in touch if you have any questions!