You’ve probably heard how great a regular meditation practice can be for your health, but it may not be enough to inspire you to get started. When you’re trying to juggle a career, family, and a social life among all of life’s minutia, it can seem like there isn’t a moment to spare—especially for sitting quietly. But author and journalist Dan Harris has some good news: you can start reaping the benefits of mediation in as little as one minute a day. In his latest book, Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics, he outlines nine “pro-tips” to help you establish your practice and get you feeling Zen—even on your craziest days.
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PRO-TIP #1: Grit Won’t Do the Trick—You Need Rewards
Harris points out that for most of us, sheer willpower is not enough to form a habit. But if we think of the benefits of meditation as a reward—say, because it helps quiet our anxiety—we are more likely to continue. A visual reminder also helps. Use an app to track your sessions, or simply mark the calendar. You’ll stay motivated as you watch your progress grow.
PRO-TIP #2: Think Strategically About Your Schedule
If your schedule is jam-packed, look for opportunities where you can slot in a few minutes between obligations. Harris recommends setting a time, as the “cue, routine, reward” loop is scientifically proven to help habit formation. For example, “After I park my car [cue], I will meditate for five minutes [routine], and I’ll feel a little calmer and more mindful [reward].” Put it on your calendar if it helps.
PRO-TIP #3: Give Yourself Permission to Fail
It’s vital to give yourself permission to fail when starting your practice. Just because one tactic doesn’t work doesn’t mean something else won’t. “It’s important to approach habit formation with the same attitude we hope to employ during meditation,” Harris says. “Every time you get lost, just begin again.”
PRO-TIP #4: One Minute Counts
Though five to ten minutes a day is a reasonable, achievable goal, it doesn’t always feel doable. When pressed for time, look for “quickie meditation” opportunities, such as after your morning coffee, or when you lay down for the night, and use this one-minute meditation exercise: Wherever you are, in any situation or mental state, close your eyes and count ten long, slow breaths.
PRO-TIP #5: Free-range Meditations
Though not intended to be a substitute for traditional seated practice, Harris suggests meditating during routine activities, like showering and tooth-brushing. Focusing on the feeling of the individual streams of water on your skin or the rhythm of bristles on your teeth are both easy ways to bring meditation into your daily life—and in as little as ten seconds.
PRO-TIP #6: Adopt an Attitude of “Daily-ish”
Don’t let the voice in your head tell you you’re a failed meditator because you’ve missed a day or two. Instead, adopt an attitude of “daily-ish,” which gives you the psychological flexibility to continue a good habit without the guilt. Think of it as the 80/20 diet rule for your brain.
PRO-TIP #7: The Accordion Principle
Combine tips #4 and #6 to give yourself a break. If your goal is five to ten minutes a day, allow yourself just one minute on busy days. It’s a good way to keep your foot in the game without getting overwhelmed.
PRO-TIP #8: Make Yourself Accountable to Others
By joining a group at your local meditation center, or by developing a relationship with a meditation teacher, you’ll be more likely to stick to your practice. Having a supportive community—or simply a place to go—helps establish the habit much like a scheduled fitness class.
PRO-TIP #9: Try Enjoying Meditation
When it comes right down to it, meditation just feels good. Why not focus your meditation on the very sense of pleasure it brings to your body? The next time you sit, focus on the breath and bring an attitude of enjoyment to the activity. Feel the sense of refreshment as you inhale, or relaxation as you exhale. Fake it if necessary! After a few minutes, shift your attention to the body, relaxing into it like you would a hot tub, and opening to whatever sensations are present.
Whether you think you don’t have the time, or that meditation is too “woo-woo,” Dan Harris’ Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics will make a believer of anyone with its funny, down-to-earth approach and simple meditation exercises.
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