This article was previously published on Openfit.com
If you haven’t made a healthy meditation practice part of your daily wellness routine, what are you waiting for? Not only can meditation help you feel calmer, but it also benefits your overall health and wellness.
Meditation can improve focus and attention, stress management, and emotional regulation, says Catherine S. Marquette, E-RYT 500. It can also help you build awareness, feel a deeper connection to the world around you, and manage stress and anxiety symptoms. Here’s how to make meditation a part of your daily routine so you can feel happier and more present in everything you do.
1. Schedule It
Just like your meal plan or your workout routine, plan your meditation practice in advance. “Commit to a time — ideally the same time each day,” Marquette says. “This is a good rule for building any sort of a habit.”
Figure out what time of day works best for you — in the morning to start your day feeling focused, in the afternoon as a pick-me-up, or before bedtime to relax. Marquette schedules her practice in the morning, right after a walk: “My day hasn’t run away from me just yet, helping me to set the stage for the rest of the day,” she says.
2. Take Advantage of Tech
Can’t get to a meditation studio? No worries — you can meditate anywhere, thanks to your smartphone. Set a reminder on your phone for your daily meditation practice so you don’t forget. Then try a guided meditation app or virtual class to learn more about meditation techniques. Sound Meditation, for example, is a series of sound meditations designed to help reduce stress, increase productivity, create balance, and sleep better. It’s convenient, simple, and will give you the support you need to get started.
3. Start Small
Start with just a few minutes of meditation per day so it doesn’t feel burdensome, then work your way up. “Consistency is the most important aspect in order to see change,” Marquette says. “I’d rather have students meditate 5 minutes a day every day then meditate for 60 minutes only one day per week.”
4. Decorate Your Space
You can meditate anywhere or any time, but creating a designated space for meditation in your home may motivate you to stay consistent. Here are a few items you may want to include in your “zen den”:
- Candles or incense in soothing scents
- Photos of nature or a favorite piece of artwork
- Comfy pillows, cushions, and blankets
- A supportive mat or meditation pillow
5. Journal After Each Session
Journaling is a great way to notice the benefits, revelations, struggles, and impacts of your meditation practice. “Have a notebook and pen close to wherever you are meditating,” says Marquette. Jot down any reoccurring thoughts or sensations from your practice, she adds, and look for themes or patterns at the end of each week. This will help you see the progress you’re making!
6. Hold Yourself Accountable
There will be days you’re feeling uninspired, but if you’ve got someone or something to keep you going, you’ll set yourself up for greater success. Marquette suggests putting a streak board on your fridge as a visual reminder of your progress, or inviting family and friends into your journey so they can help hold you accountable.
7. Combine Meditation and Exercise
Feed two birds with one scone and try a movement-based meditation, such as walking meditation. If walking is already part of your daily routine, it’s a great opportunity to add some mindfulness. Try walking a new trail or path. How do your feet feel on the ground? Do you hear any sounds, like crunching leaves or birds chirping? What are the smells around you? How does the sun feel on your skin? Really notice each step, sound, and sensation.
8. Be Mindful During Daily Activities
Stack your habits! You can train yourself to meditate while cooking, commuting, or even doing household chores, Marquette says. Here are a few ways you can sneak in a meditation practice:
- While washing dishes or riding the bus, look out the window and notice what’s happening in your environment. Do you see kids playing? Do you notice a dog chasing a squirrel? Are the leaves blowing in the wind? Take mental inventory of your space.
- Count each piece as you fold your laundry. Feel the warmth of the freshly dried clothes on your skin.
- Practice mindful eating. Chew each bite slowly, tasting the different elements of the food.
Above all, Marquette says, stick with it: “Be disciplined and courageous in order to build meditation as a healthy, daily habit in your life.”