Beginning on January 2nd, 2016, I decided to meditate everyday for 30 days.
I’ve written before about how I’m a chronic over-thinker and already stress out way too much about the stupidest little things, but the last few months of 2015 were the most stressful months of my life, and I desperately needed to do something to relax.
Plus, it had been a while since I had done a 30 day challenge (you can check out my other 30 day challenges here and here), and with the new year I figured now was the perfect time to try something new.
My goal was to meditate for 10 minutes every morning, for 30 days. This was my routine.
- 7:00 AM – Wake up
- 7:01 AM – Pee, brush my teeth, splash cold water on my face
- 7:05 AM – Drink a glass of water
- 7:06 AM – Stretch
- 7:20 AM – Meditate
- 7:30 AM – Eat breakfast and get ready for work
- 8:15 AM – Leave for work
Well, that was my ideal routine, at least. Sometimes I woke up a little late, and would have to shorten my stretching routine or grab breakfast to go on the road.
But, no matter what, if I did nothing else, I made sure to meditate. And I succeeded.
In fact, not only did I meditate every day for 30 days, but I’ve continued to meditate every day since (currently on day 45, as I’m writing this).
What I Used To Meditate
There are lots of different ways to meditate.
To keep things simple, I decided to use Headspace, a meditation app that guides you through meditation in just 10 minutes a day.
I had heard a lot about this app before, but this was the first time I ever tried it out. I was a little hesitant to try it out at first because I had never done guided meditations before, but this app is awesome. I’m a huge fan now and I can’t recommend it enough.
Not only does the app makes it SO easy to build the habit, but it also takes you through a number of different kinds of meditation and does a great job of explaining different concepts in short, easy to understand videos.
The one downside is that the app is only free for the first “level” (the first 10 days) and then after that you have to pay to continue on to the next levels. It’s normally $7.99/month, which comes out to $96/year. I found it hard to justify $96, but when I came across this thread and found a promo code that reduced the cost to $72, I figured it was worth it.
I’ve been using the app for 45 days straight now, and I would say it was worth every penny. Relative to the cost of something like a gym membership, and when you think of Headspace as a “gym membership for the mind” (that’s actually how they advertise themselves), it’s a bargain.
I’ve also been using a habit builder app called Way of Life. It has a super simple interface that makes it super easy to track new habits you’re trying to build.
Seeing the visual chain of green boxes (green = yes I completed the habit, red = no I didn’t complete the habit) is a very powerful motivator. This is the same motivation technique purportedly used by Jerry Seinfeld that’s often referred to as “Don’t Break the Chain.”
With the Way of Life app, it only takes a few seconds to mark whether or not you’ve completed your habits each day, and another nice little feature is that if you haven’t yet completed one of your habits and it’s getting close to the end of the day, you get a push notification reminding you to do so.
The one downside for this app, similar to Headspace, is that you’re only able to track a maximum of 3 habits at a time using the free version. But, I actually didn’t find this to be a problem since I don’t think you should be trying to build more than 3 habits at a time in the first place anyway.
As you can see above, my 3 habits were stretching, meditating, and journaling. Meditation was the one habit I was really focused on, and stretching was easy to do as well since it’s the only thing I do right before meditating.
I was originally trying to journal in the morning as well, but eventually, I ended up cutting it out of my morning routine because I kept not having enough time for it, so I started journaling at night instead. That was semi-successful (perhaps another post for another day), but I’ve noticed that it’s a lot easier to talk yourself out of doing something at night, when you’re tired and just want to go to sleep, than in the morning (as long as you have enough time).
If you’re trying to build a new habit, whether it’s meditation or exercise or something else, I think you are much more likely to succeed with it if you schedule it in the morning.
How Meditation Has Helped Me
So, my goal going into this 30 day challenge was to determine whether or not it’s worth setting aside 10 minutes a day to sit and literally do nothing.
If it wasn’t obvious already, my answer is YES. It is absolutely worth it. I can honestly see myself meditating every single day for the rest of my life.
My main reason for meditating, as I mentioned in the beginning of this post, was to relax. And it has definitely helped me relax, but it has also helped me in so many other ways.
Meditation has helped me be more focused, more productive, more engaged in my work, less judgmental of others, and many other things.
It’s hard to describe all the benefits, but I’ll try my best. Here are the top 7 benefits I’ve noticed so far from meditating for just a little over a month.
1. It helps you focus.
When you meditate for the first time, you’ll quickly realize how badly you suck at focusing. The whole point of focusing on your breath is to give you an anchor, a point of reference, so that you can recognize when your mind starts to wander. Usually a few thoughts have already passed before you even realize that you’ve been distracted and aren’t focused on your breath anymore.
It’s impossible to completely eliminate your thoughts, but that’s not the goal. The goal is simply to be able to catch yourself when you have been distracted, and then to shift your attention back to your breath. It’s a skill that, like anything else, improves with practice.
2. It makes you more productive.
This quote says it best.
“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”
– Tweet This
The 10 minutes you spend meditating will ultimately save you hours. It is well worth your time.
3. It puts things into perspective.
When you take 10 minutes a day to just sit and focus on your breath, it creates this newfound appreciation for life and you realize how minuscule your problems really are in the grand scheme of things.
Since breathing is normally a completely involuntary act, when you take the time to become consciously aware of it, you suddenly become aware of a bunch of other things you’re normally unaware of as well. It’s hard to explain, but I think this is what makes meditation such an amazing stress relief. It helps you recognize what’s important, what’s worth your time, what’s worth stressing out over, and what’s not.
4. It makes you less judgmental.
You’ll likely get frustrated when you’re starting out with meditation, because you realize how bad you are at focusing. But resisting thoughts only makes it worse, because then you not only have the thoughts, but you also create tension.
Training the mind is about stepping back, and observing your thoughts from a distance, rather trying to change them or control them. When you understand this, you become less critical and judgmental of yourself, which carries over into your view of other people, allowing you to be less critical and judgmental of others as well. You start to choose acceptance over resistance.
5. It makes work more enjoyable.
Sometimes when you’re meditating, especially when you’re first starting out, you’ll catch yourself wondering how long it has been. When that happens, the 10 minutes ends up feeling like 20 minutes, or even longer. On the other hand, sometimes you’ll completely lose track of time, and the 10 minutes ends up feeling like 2 minutes, or even shorter.
This is one of the best feelings in the world. It’s called a state of “flow,” and it only happens when you’re fully present and engaged with whatever is that you’re doing. Meditation helps you enter that state of flow more often.
6. It makes you a better listener.
Most people are terrible listeners because they don’t actually listen to the person who’s talking. Instead, they’re thinking about other things, or they’re just waiting for their turn to speak.
People with social anxiety, for example, are constantly worrying about what kind of an impression they’re making. They’re lost in their own self-centered thoughts, instead of paying attention to what’s going on around them. You can’t be present when you’re distracted by your own thoughts, and you can’t be a good listener unless you’re 100% present.
7. It reduces stress and anxiety.
I’ve noticed that anytime I’m feeling stressed, or anxious, it’s because I’m not present.
For example, when you feel overwhelmed, it’s because you’re worrying about everything you have to do, instead of focusing on just the one thing you have to do right now, in this moment. You’re clustering everything into one big problem, rather than focusing on one small problem at a time.
Life is full of challenges, but it’s a lot less challenging when you realize that you only ever have to take on one challenge at a time, one day at a time.
Really, what it comes down to is self-awareness. A greater sense of self-awareness enables you to recognize your faults and your areas for improvement, while at the same time, accepting yourself as you are, without judgement. The result is a deeper sense of calm and tranquility with not only yourself, but also with others.
“Meditation is the ultimate life hack. It makes you a better human being.” – Tweet This
It’s something I think everyone could benefit from, and I wish I had started sooner.
In addition to the benefits I’ve outlined above, there is tons and tons of research on the amazing benefits of meditation (like the fact that meditation physically changes the structure of your brain, making you better at handling stress and increasing your attention span).
I’ve included some links to other great articles and resources below.
- Scientific Benefits of Meditation – 76 things you might be missing out on – A massive article that analyzes over 100 scientific studies and categorizes the findings into 76 proven benefits (both physical and mental)
- What Happens to the Brain When You Meditate (And How it Benefits You) – More about the science behind meditation. Very interesting stuff.
- “My Brain is Stronger Than Your Brain” – A thorough article about the benefits of meditation, written by my friend Zack Sexton, that begins with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s unique take on meditation.
- Meditation for Beginners: 20 Practical Tips for Understanding the Mind – 20 great tips for getting started with meditation by none other than Leo Babauta, author of Zen Habits.
- The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide To Meditation – An in-depth guide on the various types of meditation and how to progress with each.
- How To Mindfulness Meditation – A hilarious yet very useful video guide to getting started with meditation.
- All it takes is 10 mindful minutes – A TED talk by Andy Puddicombe, the founder of Headspace, in which he describes the transformative power of refreshing your mind for 10 minutes a day.
- Tara Brach Guided Meditations – A free alternative for guided meditations if you don’t want to pay for Headspace.
Are You Up For The Challenge?
If you’ve never meditated before, I highly encourage you to give it a try–10 minutes a day, for 30 days. If you don’t find it beneficial after 30 days, then stop.
If you’re up for the challenge, let me know in the comments below!