Top 10 tips for a successful Meditation practice
1. Just start!
The most important tip for successful meditation practice is to just get started. In the beginning, it doesn’t matter how long you do it. It also doesn’t matter where or how or when you do it. The brain prefers a rhythm in its life. Everything outside this pattern needs additional effort. This implies that the more patterns or habits you establish in your life, the more energy you have left for the rest of the tasks that come up during the day. For example strategic decisions, intensive conversations, and discussions with colleagues or deep, focussed work on a complex task.
To summarize this point: You are best served by integrating your meditation into your daily life as quickly as possible and not allowing excuses. Every time you let it slide, you have to start all over again to develop this habit. An effort that you can save yourself!
2. Form a habit around your meditation practice
As already mentioned in the first point, it is necessary to develop a habit. But what is a habit and how can I integrate it into my life as quickly as possible?
A habit could be defined as follows: A task that becomes a fixed part of a daily routine through regular execution. Of course, there are not only positive habits. The goal should be to actively replace negative habits with positive habits. I could probably write a whole book about habits at this point, but this part is just about tips to help you establish one positive habit in your life: taking time for yourself regularly to give your thoughts space and live a more mindful life – a successful meditation practice.
3. Integrate meditation practice and mindfulness in your existing rituals or daily activities
There is no predestined way for you to create a new habit. However, several tools can help you build and maintain a habit as quickly as possible. In academic circles, it is relatively certain that a person needs about 21 days to get used to a new regular task. After that, the level of energy needed to devote to the activity is adjusted. In principle, this means that you have to be disciplined for 21 days and spend a lot of activation energy to perform this duty regularly. After that, it becomes much easier to stick to the habit, since you no longer have to „convince“ your brain to start this task. Maybe you have never really thought about it actively but: you are already doing a lot of habits without even thinking about it and spending energy on it. I’ll show you this using a „normal“ start to a weekday of mine. I usually get up around half-past seven in the morning. Then I usually go for a run for about half an hour. After that, I hop in the shower and turn on the coffee maker. While I’m warming up, I get breakfast out of the fridge and pour myself something to drink. After breakfast, I put everything away, pack my bag and get everything ready to leave the house. Before I leave I sit down again (knowing that I have already packed my bag and everything is ready for work) and meditate for 10-15 minutes, depending on how I feel.
For all these tasks I didn’t have to plan anything and I didn’t invest any „active energy“ because by now I know exactly in which sequence I perform these tasks. So the cognitive effort is gone and with it the possibility to give my brain the time to doubt one of the tasks. I don’t give my brain the chance to say „hmm, do I have to clear the breakfast table now? I could also just do it tonight.“
4. Sit comfortably in a distraction-free environment
Sitting cross-legged under a tree. This is a conventional image that is often painted in connection with meditation. In my eyes, this has nothing to do with meditation. It is not about where and how you sit, but that you give your body and mind a little time a day to think about things for which there is otherwise no place in your life. This allows you to collect thoughts, prepare yourself, process topics, and really listen to yourself. How often are we not told what we have to do? But that should be our decision alone. So it is not only psychological and mental advantages that meditation brings. It makes you a reflective person who forms his own opinion and does not say yes and amen to everything. This quality is often highly valued, especially in a professional environment, contrary to what one might think. So it doesn’t matter where and how you want to sit. The main thing is that you feel comfortable and are not disturbed every minute by conversations or loud noises.
5. There is one step in your meditation practice that you should do every single time
In many apps that offer guided meditation, there is a hint that you should take to heart and follow every time during meditation: Focus on your breath or something similar during the entire session. Your breath is particularly well suited for this. For example, it can give you information about how you are feeling at the moment. If you breathe fast and short, it could be a sign of stress and anxiety. If your breaths are calm and long, you feel good and can approach your meditation differently. If you notice that your breath is different today, try to investigate this sign and think about why you feel stressed. Such a factor can be a great focal point and theme for your meditation session. Because the breath is regular, we can always use it as guidance day by day. I know some people who also like to use a „Meditation Pebble“. A small stone on which you can direct your focus. As with many factors of meditation, the means differ depending on our personal factors. Something that works well for me does not necessarily mean it will work for you and help you. The proof of the pudding is in the eating!
6. Be disciplined and start with a morning meditation practice
If you have just started and have not yet made a habit of your meditation then I can advise you to take the first steps in the morning. It’s easy to make excuses in the evening and then do nothing or say „I’ve been so productive at work today – why do I have to pull myself together now?“ Often you may not be able to plan your evening well because your friends or colleagues have another appointment coming up. In the morning you can always be sure that you can plan it yourself.
7. Transitioning from your meditation practice to your daily life is one of the most important steps
The transition from your meditation to your daily life is one of the most important contextual transitions of the day. Just as it is important to make sense of your meditation, it is equally important to be clear about what you will do after meditation. A clear plan helps you take your focus from meditation to the next task. If you are meditating on different topics, it can also be useful to establish small check-ins throughout the day to pause and check if you are doing what you set out to do in the morning.
8. Remind yourself about the proven psychological benefits of practicing meditation
If you are like me, you will have good days and bad days. The important thing is to keep up your meditation even on the not-so-good days. If you can do that, then I can promise you that you will be all the more proud of yourself. Your future self will definitely appreciate this!
Another way to help is to remember why you started meditating in the first place: Is it your increased ability to perform, your more mindful approach to tasks and people around you, your calmness in the face of stress, or your more balanced self? The positive qualities are proven by numerous studies and you will feel them, too, I promise.
9. Don’t let go once you made it a habit.
Once you have made the effort to make a habit out of your meditation, try not to just let it go. This happens quite easily when you get sick or go on vacation. However, you will be able to testify that it was a long way to get there in the first place. So why stop and start all over again because of an irregularity in your life? Even if it sounds hard at first and the temptation is great: Don’t stop meditating – even if your life circumstances complicate the situation. The effort you would have to put in to rebuild your broken habit would exceed anything you have accomplished so far. Therefore I would recommend you to bite your way through!
10. Pat yourself on the shoulder – track your efforts
So you’ve done it and mastered your first attempts at meditation? You may even have experienced the positive effects that meditation can have on your body and mind? Great! Wins are to be celebrated. Share your progress with friends and family, and maybe even record your progress somewhere. You deserve it. Here’s a little extra tip: the „chain effect“ will keep you going longer and easier. You can reproduce it quite easily: Get a calendar and make a cross on every day you meditated. After a few days, the „chain“ will have formed. The longer the chain, the more important it will be for your brain not to break it. You could also call this principle gamification of your habit. Just give it a try 😉!