The stats for the number of people who meditate are impressive. It’s believed that globally 200-500 million people meditate, yet although many of us practise on occasion, making it a regular habit is a much bigger challenge. But why so? And how much difference does meditating every day make compared to every once in a while or as and when we feel we need it?
To Do or To Be?
Despite the high numbers of people who meditate, only 16% report doing so daily, and the majority of us do so 3 days a week or less (with my guess being it’s probably more on the less side). Although any meditation is, of course, beneficial and can help combat current negative states (84% of people meditate to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety), it’s when we build a habit of daily meditation practice that its benefits can truly be seen.
According to a 2018 study published in Behavioural Brain Research, meditating for just 13 minutes a day for eight weeks led to decreased negative mood state, enhanced attention, working memory, recognition memory, and reduced state anxiety. When it comes to meditation, research shows that frequency is much more important than duration. Committing to a short daily meditation allows our brains to learn at their own pace how to be present in the here and now and how to extend that awareness into everyday activities, fundamentally shifting the way we relate to our thoughts, feelings, and to each other.
When we meditate solely as a reaction to a negative state, like feeling anxious or overwhelmed, we’re simply treating a symptom without looking deeper at the cause. We meditate, but we don’t become meditators. It’s when we make meditation a daily habit and practise no matter our current mindset that we can truly begin to peel back the layers of who we are, discover our traits that influence our emotional states, and make long-lasting changes.
That’s why, in the Moments of Space app, the meditations are laid out like a course, journeying across four pillars (Body, Mind, Heart, and Space). This means users can work their way through the content in a structured way to improve their entire self and not just use meditation as a quick-fix for their current emotional state. This way, users don’t wait for a negative state as a reason to practise; they know they’re working towards a greater goal and will be more motivated to meditate regardless of their current headspace. This regular, varied and structured practice encourages users to delve beyond surface-level states and make deeper, more impactful and longer-lasting changes to the way they respond when those states arise.
The Hare and the Tortoise
Of course, I'm not stating anything you're probably not aware of. It seems obvious that the more you meditate, the more beneficial it’ll be. So why do we still struggle to build the habit into our life?
Well, our own good intentions might have something to do with it. So many of us embark on a meditation journey with high ambitions, setting the goal of meditating for 30 minutes a day and, as a result, overwhelming ourselves, giving up and putting it off again until we feel the stress mounting up and the need to come back to it.
Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action when, in fact, change is often the result of dedication to continuous small actions over extended periods of time. As James Clear states in his book Atomic Habits, "habits are the compound interest of self improvement, their effects multiply as you repeat them." This is true but hard to appreciate in daily life. Ten minutes of meditation a day seems relatively insignificant, and when we don't see the results after a few days, it's easy to let our practice go. But this practice that may seem small and insignificant at first will compound into remarkable results if you're willing to stick with it for years. Just as the age-old fable says, it’s the tortoise with his small and steady steps that wins the race, not the hare.
"Breakthrough moments are often the result of many previous actions, which build up the potential required to unleash a major change." James Clear, Atomic Habits.
Give Me a ‘WHY?’
The 'why' behind our meditation habit also makes a huge difference. Practising something every day without understanding why we're doing it will make it much harder to continue when we're feeling unmotivated. Despite guided meditations for just about anything being available online, very few explain the method, the real benefits, how it works, or what we should be watching out for when practising. They fail to give us the validation we need to know we’re on the right path.
Moments of Space starts each of its meditations with an introduction explaining both the what, why, and how behind each technique because we believe that, in all aspects of life, our actions are motivated by the beliefs behind our habits. It's hard to change or create a habit if we never change or create the underlying belief, and how can we do this if we don't know what it is that we're meant to believe?
Having a clear understanding of why a particular meditation technique is effective and what impact it's having on our body, mind, or emotions will give us a lot more patience when it comes to practising on a daily basis.
Hack the ‘Lazy Brain’
Finally, our energy is precious to us, and we’re hardwired to conserve it whenever possible. We're motivated to do what's easy, which is why habits like scrolling on our phones or watching television steal so much of our time – because they require virtually no effort. Ironically, lots of us also feel like we have no spare time in the day to incorporate a new daily habit into it. But what we really mean is we don't have the energy to take time out of our day to prepare ourselves and our space to meditate, find a suitable meditation, and practise it. But that's where we are going wrong. We don't always need to find a quiet spot, light candles and incense, or scour online for the perfect meditation to suit our current or desired state.
We can meditate in daily life; we just need to make it convenient and easy for ourselves.
Stop making meditation something that has to be practised outside of your current daily routine and instead look for the endless opportunities to meditate that already exist within it. Use the tube journey on the way to work, the waiting time at the dentist, or when you walk the dog. Or build a habit of practising informal awareness check-ins while you’re doing whatever you’re doing.
Once we start building in these short moments multiple times a day, meditation can become as effortless as scrolling on our phones and be even more rewarding. By letting go of the idea that we need a certain set-up to meditate, we suddenly open ourselves up to countless ten-minute slots in the day that often go to waste. These slots can be repurposed without much effort to become moments to meditate, without taking up any more time in your day for a new activity.
So What You’re Saying Is?
That reaping the benefits of meditation is a lot less effort than we assume it to be, and most of the time, we just overcomplicate it and make it harder on ourselves!
Building a meditation habit (or any habit) is different for everyone, some of us make it part of our daily routine straight away, and for others, it’s something we have to make the effort to stick to before it becomes second nature. But we can help ourselves on the path from meditating to meditator by making our practice:
- Short: Practising for less than ten minutes a day will mean that you don’t become overwhelmed and will motivate you to keep it up.
- Often: Try and practise as often as you can find the time and when you remember, whether that be a couple of times a day or a few times a week. Most importantly, if you miss a day or two, don’t beat yourself up and let that throw you off; every moment is a new opportunity to pick your practice back up.
- Non-Reactionary: In order to really build the habit, meditation needs to become something you practise regardless of your current emotional state. If you purely practise on a reactionary basis, it won’t become part of your routine, and you won’t feel the effects balanced across all aspects of your life and being.
- Easy: Don’t overcomplicate it and make more work for yourself. Forget the salt lamps and ambient music, simply stick your headphones in when you have ten minutes spare in your day – and you’ll find those moments start cropping up all over the place!
If you’re interested in building a meditation habit that will last, download the Moments of Space app today for digestible and informative meditations that can be done any time, any place.