After two years of mandatory lockdowns, business closures, job losses, and general isolation have left many feeling lost. Fortunately, as the world begins to reel from the damage left in the pandemic’s wake, people are becoming more invested in the many tools and methods available for improving individual mental health.
Of these tools, mindfulness meditation has become an increasingly popular topic of discussion within the zeitgeist of today’s post-pandemic world. For those entirely new to the method, this article will highlight several crucial elements that comprise mindfulness meditation and how to make a habit out of it.
What is mindfulness meditation?
As a concept, mindfulness is relatively straightforward. It involves the ability to remain aware of the present moment while acknowledging the thoughts and feelings that may arise in consciousness. It often involves accepting both negative and positive thoughts or feelings and physical sensations such as pain, discomfort, pleasure, etc. Meditation is the portion of mindfulness that involves employing different exercises such as deep breathing, body scanning, and grounding.
Think of meditation as a practice room for performing the exercises and sharpening the skills needed to access moments of mindfulness throughout the day more readily. These elements might seem esoteric at first, but mindfulness can become a viable method for improving a person’s overall mental well-being with enough time and practice. In short, the practice of mindfulness meditation must first become a habit to reap the benefits such a powerful tool has to offer.
How to do mindfulness meditation
The first step in transforming meditation into a daily habit involves choosing a mode of practice that best suits the individual. There is no single ‘best way’ to get started; the method chosen will depend heavily on a person’s preferences, needs, and what they have access to. For example, some people prefer guided meditations, while others might opt for silent self-practice using a simple phone timer. Furthermore, some individuals can invest money into a monthly subscription to a mobile meditation app.
In contrast, others might need to source any one of the hundreds of free guided practice audios and videos available online. Be sure to pick a method that is affordable, accessible, and most importantly, matches your current skill level. There is no use shelling out hundreds of dollars for a two-week silent meditation retreat in some remote corner of the world if meditating for an hour seems like an impossible task.
How to practice mindful meditation
The second piece of advice often given to those new to the practice is to start small. When it comes to building habits, slow and steady win the race, and meditation is no different. The standard for daily meditation is usually at least ten minutes of focused practice. Some might initially find this ambitious, opting for five minutes or even as low as three minutes. The key is to choose the amount of time you can commit to each day.
Eventually, as is the case with physical exercises such as weight training, a person’s ability to meditate and maintain a state of mindfulness for more extended periods will gradually increase. Most importantly, novice practitioners need to pace themselves. Like any other skill, mastering mindfulness requires time, patience, and, most of all, consistency.
The final and arguably most essential step to developing a solid meditation habit is consistency. Without it, the steps mentioned above are essentially useless. Meditation needs to become a daily practice before individuals can enjoy the full spectrum of benefits it offers. With consistent practice, individuals can begin to incorporate more complex exercises such as mindful walking, loving-kindness meditation, and ‘looking for your head.’
Try to meditate at least once every day, aiming for around three to ten minutes per session. The time of day this daily practice occurs is mainly up to the individual. Some enjoy scheduling their practice early in the morning and others later in the evening. Whether before work or before bed, staying consistent will ensure that meditating will eventually become second nature.
Transforming meditation into a habit involves gradually making incremental changes and improvements. Over time, these improvements bear fruit as the novice practitioner becomes more adept at accessing states of mindfulness throughout the day. The steps outlined above serve as a solid starting point for beginners hoping to add the practice of mindfulness meditation to their repertoire of mental health tools.