While we can make commitments to lifestyle and behavior changes at any time, the New Year is the traditional change resolution starting point. As someone who meditates, and promotes its use, I am happy to hear more and more people say that they intend to start a meditation practice as a New Year’s resolution. My concern is that many resolutions fall by the wayside within a few weeks and meditation can otherwise be an elusive practice to integrate within our busy lives.
I am hoping to provide some ideas to help people make a successful meditation resolution.
To do that, I want to consider what helps make resolutions successful in general, and apply that guidance to having a resolution to start a meditation practice.
Here we go:
Don’t have too many resolutions. Meditation should be a singular goal or one of two or three maximum. The reality is that the more goals you have the less chance for success you will have for any of those goals. We are actually subject to a “cognitive overload” which lowers our powers of self-discipline to achieve goals.
Do your homework. This is the prep work, the research and investment in your desired change. Do some reading on meditation. There are different types of meditation, different ideas of what meditation is. You can take a very secular approach or a more spiritual direction. There is a ton of information out there on the benefits of meditation which might enhance your motivation. Different people may have different tips on what works for them. The works of Jon Kabat-Zinn are a good starting point for a lot of people.
Be realistic. Don’t expect to meditate like a monk on the first day. Don’t compare yourself to experienced meditators you may know. Basically, start small and build upon that.
Have a strategy. Be specific. Write it down.
Part of a strategy would be to start small and build upon that, i.e. five to ten minutes per day of meditation for the first month. Part of the strategy could involve seeking out a teacher, meditation groups, course work, recorded audio or visual meditation media, apps etc. The strategy should integrate the practice into your life and it should anticipate obstacles to success. Examples would be to plan to meditate every time after a shower or after going to the gym; having a meditation audio program in your car or on your phone for easy access during busy times; attending a meditation group once per week; doing slow deep breaths throughout the day or at certain times, when not meditating.
Don’t expect perfection. Cut yourself some slack. There may be days that you didn’t get to meditate or days whereby you feel it is just too hard, there are too many thoughts spinning in your head. Use any setback as a learning experience. Remember that meditation is a practice. You are building a skill that doesn’t come over night. There will be days that you are not meditating at all. You will simply be sitting and doing some deep relaxing breaths. That’s okay.
Have a support system. Meditation in general, is a solitary pursuit not subject to the buddy system which can be helpful with other types of resolutions. That being said, you can still have a friend resolving to start their own personal practice and you can learn from and support each other. The books, media, phone apps available to you can be part of your support system. Find a Youtube meditation guidance video that works for you. A teacher or meditation group in your area can be part of your support system. Many yoga studios will have meditation sessions available separate from their physical yoga classes.
Create an accountability and reward system. Simple accountability would involve looking back at each week and tracking how your strategy is working. Look at what issues which have interfered with your practice and adjust your strategy accordingly. I will say that meditation in itself is a reward for the peace and relaxation it can add to your life, but otherwise treat yourself to a meditative massage, facial or healthy meal after a certain period of generally adhering to your strategy.
Put an emotional charge behind the resolution. I believe successful resolutions come from the heart, that there is a desired emotional state that comes from reaching a goal. People might set a promotion as a goal, but it is the sense of accomplishment, utility and/or greater financial freedom tendered which sets an emotional charge behind the goal. With meditation, we will generally receive greater tranquility, greater emotional regulation, less stress and anxiety, more focus and self-discipline.
If you can discern the desired emotional state, how you want to be and feel, behind your meditation resolution you will have greater chance of success.
Best wishes for a Happy New Year and successful resolutions whatever they may be
by Barry John Johnson
(Also for some basic meditation tips, check out my article on Elephant Journal: Meditation
is not a Battle Help for Newbs the Occasional Meditator)
Image Above Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net