Meditation is a habit I’ve dabbled with on and off over the years. I first downloaded the Headspace app, which was my first exposure to meditation, in 2013. Over the years I’ve gone through periods of where I meditate regularly followed by long dry spells where I don’t meditate at all. As I’ve said on the blog before, I often use habits like meditation and journaling when I feel I need them.
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But my attitude towards meditation has changed recently. Rather than using meditation as a way to treat stress or that feeling of being overwhelmed, I now view meditation as a tool to maintain a calm, composed feeling all the time (to the best of my ability).
When I meditate regularly, I notice a few improvements in myself:
I’m more aware of my mind wandering off. When I meditate using Headspace, the only objective is to maintain a focus on the breath. When your mind wanders off and you catch yourself thinking about something else, you simply return your focus back to the breath. Our monkey brains have a tendency to bounce from one thought to the next. When I’m not meditating, sometimes I’ll unintentionally let a thought completely take over and I’ll obsess about a thought instead of focussing on what I’m doing. If I let a negative thought go too far, it can even change my mood. Being able to catch myself as this happens is a great way to maintain focus.
Improved focus. As you get better at catching your brain as it wanders off, you’re able to stop yourself more quickly from procrastinating or getting distracted during a task. This is really useful when I’m working as I’ll be receiving emails, messages and updates in Asana; loads of things that need my attention. By maintaining a strong focus on what I’m doing I feel more organised than I would be if I were constantly switching from one thing to the next.
More present with what I’m doing. Do you ever find yourself doing something but you’re not really present mentally? A good example for me is at the end of the day, when I’m spending time with my family, thoughts about work can occupy my brain and so I’m not really focused on playing with my son as this other thought consumes my attention. But I’ve noticed that when I meditate more, you get better at letting these thoughts go so you can be 100% present and focused on whatever it is you’re doing. Your brain and body are more aligned instead of your body doing one thing and your monkey brain thinking about something else.
If you’ve never meditated before, or if you’ve tried it and haven’t really been able to get “into it”, I highly recommend the Headspace app. I’ve tried one or two others, but Headspace is the one I always come back to. The beginner course introduces you to meditation in a really friendly way. And there are even options in the app to get help with sleep and even parenting. My son, Jay, and I have been doing some of the kids breathing exercises. Headspace has created some great videos in collaboration with Sesame Street and Star Wars to help teach kids how to be more mindful.
By the way, this post isn’t sponsored in any way by Headspace, I just really like the app.
As I’ve said on the blog and podcast many times, when it comes to building new habits, personally, I find it best to set smaller, more achievable goals. This is why I’ve never tried to meditate on a daily basis as this isn’t something I’ll ever be able to maintain. I also want the option to skip a day if I need to without the guilt (e.g. weekends). Instead, my goal now is to meditate at least 4-5 times a week. Setting an achievable goal like this means I’m more likely to stick with it over the long run. And I think this is why I’ve been able to maintain the habit consistently over the last few months.