In 2018 I’m doing month long “experiments.” Thirty day journeys into developing habits and routines that I think I may want to implement into my life. At the start of a new year we often have a list of “resolutions” that are vague – things like “lose weight” or “get fit.” These monthly experiments are meant to break a bigger goal down into small steps – steps that will help us figure out if its something we want to add to our routine…or not. Small steps that will help us really develop the habit.
March’s experiment was 31 days of daily meditation. I’ve been meditating for a while now, but it’s been sporadic in my daily morning routine. If I’m short on time, my meditation is usually the first thing to go. I wanted to commit to doing it daily to see what a difference that made to my life.
The Benefits of Daily Meditation
You may have heard that meditation is good for you. I know I have. But what are the benefits? Giovanni Dienstmann at Live and Dare has created a great infographic that summarizes the benefits.
The main ones that I’ve heard of and wanted in my life is:
- increases well being (lessens anxiety and depression)
- lessens stress and the negative effects of stress
- increases focus
Those are pretty general, but definitely attractive in what it promises.
How the Month of Daily Meditation Went
This month went really well. I think I did about 5-6 days out of each week. I didn’t mark it in my calendar tracker and I can’t read the insight app timer’s tracker very well.
The first week of the month I used “tapping meditations” as part of the World Tapping Summit. Otherwise, I used a phone app called Insight Timer, which is free. It has a timer feature with bells that ring at intervals you can set. It also has a ton of guided meditations that you can try. I tried morning meditations, bedtime meditations, and a timer with waves in the background.
I really enjoyed “Morning Ritual” by Jason McGrice. It’s a 10 minute meditation that focuses you on your breath and intention for they day. It always flew by and I felt like I had only been meditating for a minute.
Lessons Learned from a Month of Daily Meditation
Lesson #1: Experiment with all the types of meditation. Approach it with curiosity.
My sporadic meditation sessions in the past have always been in silence, with a beginning and ending bell. I’ve worked up to 15 minutes sessions. Recently I added ocean background sounds. I’ve been enjoying that for a while but realized they were playing the same sounds over and over and it became distracting to me.
Since I was committing to daily meditation, I started searching the guided meditations and trying a new one every few days. I enjoyed trying different ones out. I figured out I like Australian and British accents (who doesn’t?) and that most background music is distracting to me. In the end, I know that I get the most personally from just sitting in silence.
Lesson #2: Daily meditation helps me be present focused.
Whenever I start meditating, most of the time my mind is racing – racing with memories from the past and worries about the future. When I’m worrying, my breath is shallow and in my chest. When I notice it, I come back to my breath, focusing getting my inhalations all the way down to my belly. Focusing on the breath – inhaling deeply, holding it, then slowly exhaling keeps me focused on the present.
Meditating also gives me the time and space to do a body scan and to speak kindly to myself.
- Where am I holding tension?
- Unfurrow your eyebrows, Angela
- Unclench your jaw, Angela
- Release your fists, Angela
I don’t say “all is well” consciously, but it’s implied for me when I remind myself to relax.
- “Unfurrow your eyebrows, Angela, all is well.”
- “Unclench your jaw, Angela, relax in this moment.”
- “Release your fists, Angela, be at peace.”
Lesson #3: The benefits of meditation are (hopefully) carried throughout the day.
I find meditation to be similar to yoga. The emphasis on staying on your mat (not focusing on what others are doing), coming back to the breath, and taking the benefits that you get on the mat with you when you’re off the mat.
We all have thousands of thoughts racing through our brains each moment. When I meditate, I’m training my body to relax and my brain to let thoughts come and go without choosing to engage. This is especially helpful with anxious thoughts.
“Yes, I see/feel/hear you anxiety. I’ll come back to you.” When I first learned Centering Prayer, my teacher suggested imagining placing the thought in a tiny boat and letting it float downstream. I’ve always imagined a small paper boat.
Of course the real challenge is utilizing this ability to slow down and be able to choose how we respond and react to our self and others throughout the day, particularly in high stress situations. Baby steps!
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: 3 Simple Ways to Add Mindfulness to Your Day
Tips for Planning Your Own Monthly Experiment
Decide ahead of time when you will do your activity daily.
I chose to do my meditation as part of my morning routine, but if I missed it in the morning, I did it during lunch or right before bed.
Start small. Consistency is more important.
Whatever your 30 day journey is, evaluate where you are right now, and set the daily goal from there.
If your goal is to drink more water, how much are you drinking now? If you drink 16 ounces, then set the goal above that and add on throughout the month.
If your goal is to declutter everyday and you haven’t done any decluttering, set your goal at decluttering one item a day at first. I’ve found with decluttering that a lot of the training is in recognizing the clutter instead of walking around with our clutter blinders on.
Whatever your goal is, doing it daily is the important part. Start small with the amount and increase as the month progresses.
When I first started meditating, I started with 5 minutes.
When you feel yourself hesitating, say this to yourself…
At one point during my 30 day yoga journey, I found myself saying, “Ugh, I don’t feel like doing yoga.” I was lying on the ground feeling lazy. As I lay there debating, a statement came to me.
“I am a person who does yoga every day.”
It rang true to me. Yeah, I AM a person who does yoga every day. I got myself up and on to the mat.
If you find yourself hesitating, affirm your desire and intention and see if that changes something for you.
Reward yourself daily or weekly
If your task is difficult for you, plan a small reward after you complete it. It will help you stay motivated.To meditate means to go home to yourself. Then you know how to take care of the things that are happening inside you, and you know how to take care of the things that happen around you. Thich Nhat Hanh #meditation #simpleliving… Click To Tweet
In April my intention is to give up white sugar and white flour. I recently had my annual health screening at work. I looked back at my older ones and realized that I have been gaining 5 pounds each year since 2014. That means I’m 20 pounds heavier than four years ago! That was shocking to me. It’s amazing how it creeps up on you.
I’ve mentioned how much I love Brooke Castillo before on the blog, and on her podcast she talks about giving up flour and sugar as one of the first steps when she works with her weight loss clients. So this month I’m going to give it a try and see if that helps me shed some weight around my middle and helps me feel more energized!
Do you meditate? Silent or guided? I’d love to know in the comments!