How you can make a minute the most productive time of your day? Try meditating for one minute on most days for just one month. Forming healthy habits is tough, which is why most resolutions tend to go down in flames. We may be wired to fail. Evolution has bequeathed us a brain that optimizes for survival, not longterm health planning. Natural selection primed us for detecting threats and finding food and sexual partners, not for teeth flossing. The very fact that we are up against this evolutionary challenge in this month-long proposal makes sense.
Two Considerations to Simplify Meditation
- First, aiming to meditate most days, rather than every day, is a good goal. Consistency counts, the more often you meditate, the easier it gets and the deeper and more enduring the benefits. However, if you miss a day, your inner critic won’t have a chance to call you a failure. This daily approach has elasticity or psychological flexibility,
a key concept from behavior change research, which promotes a
lasting habit, be it a meditation practice, a new gym routine, or a commitment to learn Spanish.
- Second, one minute is a low bar. The proposition of a single minute is not intimidating. Indeed, it’s scalable. After one minute of meditation, people often think to themselves: I’m here so I might as well keep going. As This is a key moment, because you’re moving from extrinsic motivation (meditating because you feel like you must) to the more powerful intrinsic motivation (meditating because you want to). In the second you opt in for more meditation, you’re doing it out of actual interest, which makes it likelier to have a lasting effect.
How to Make Meditation Consistent. Use the following strategies to make the habit stick.
- Think strategically about your schedule. It is said that having a set time each day (right before bed, first thing in the morning, just after a workout) helps establish a habit. Behavioral scientists talk about “cue, routine, reward.” Experiment with constructing a cue-routine-reward loop that gets you to meditate. Example, “After I park my car [cue], I will meditate for five minutes [routine], and I’ll feel a calmer and more mindful [reward].” Repeat this loop to ingrain the habit. You may find it helps to put your daily meditation session in your calendar. Now if your schedule is unpredictable, thinking strategically may mean fitting your meditation in whenever and wherever you can.
- Make yourself accountable. Some folks cannot institute a healthy habit on their own unless others hold them accountable. You can create that kind of accountability by joining some sort of community. It can even be just getting a few friends together and starting. Another great option is to join a regular sitting group at your local meditation center. Many major cities have drop-in meditation centers. As well, Buddhist centers tend to go light on religion and give good meditation instruction. Check it out for yourself or form your own sitting group. Hanging out with other meditators sets up a kind of HOV-lane effect. Being around those who take meditative principles seriously and endeavor to apply them in their own lives can create positive peer pressure by normalizing it.
- Focus on the benefits. In many ways, humans are akin to rats in a maze, constantly pressing the levers that deliver food pellets to us. According to behavior change science, the best way to ensure a consistent meditation habit is to identify where and how the practice is giving you pellets. Like rats, we are far likelier to keep doing something if it feels good and get something from it. There are two levels to this. The first is to pay attention to how the act of meditating in itself can be pleasurable. The other is to notice the benefits as they arise in the rest of your life, in terms of both inner mood and outer comportment. Meditation can make you feel better and act better.
Meditation is the healthy habit par excellence as a regular dose of mindfulness can give you the clarity and sanity to figure out how to best pursue some of your other resolutions. Practice a one-minute meditation for a month. At the end of the month, if you really feel that it does nothing for you, at least congratulate yourself for rising up to the challenge!
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