Make Meditation a Habit Using Habit-Forming Psychology

This is Part 4 in our Six Step program to making meditation a habit in your life.

Do you wish you could meditate more often or for longer? Are you struggling to make meditation a daily part of your life?

The solution is to make meditation a habit. The way to do something every day (or twice a day) is to make it automatic – so it’s no effort to remember and find the will power to do it every time.

Think about it – do you forget to brush your teeth or take a shower each day? Is it an effort to do these things? Probably not.

So we want to make meditation an automatic habit like brushing your teeth – or one of the many habits we do each day.

Here is an introduction to making it a habit. Remember it takes time and patience. Research shows that it takes on average about 2 months to form a habit that has become automatic.

Guide to Forming a Meditation Habit:

Step 1: Start with a simple goal

  • Being too ambitious will make it very hard to form a habit. Start small and build up over time. If you’re a beginner try 5 minutes per day to start with, then go to 10 minutes once you’ve mastered that. If your goal is super easy you will achieve it and feel good and then keep going to bigger goals.
  • Remember to bring self compassion to your meditation and not pressure yourself for overly-ambitious goals.

Step 2: Cues or Triggers

  • To make it a daily habit you need to find an event in your day (ie another habit) that you can tie the meditation habit to, so that automatically after you do the first habit you will meditate. For example, each morning we get out of bed, probably go to the toilet and then drink some water. So after doing that you could go and meditate. Or make a cup of tea first and use that as the trigger to meditate. Or after your shower. You get the idea.

Step 3: Routine

  • You need a routine to go and meditate that you do the same way every time. So if your trigger is getting up, going to the toilet and then drinking a glass of water, your routine might be to put the glass down by the sink, walk to the meditation cushion or chair (same place each time) and sit down, set your timer and meditate. Creating a place in your home where you can meditate every time without disturbance is crucial.

Step 4: Reward

  • The only way that you will be drawn into meditating habitually is if there’s some reward for you. Meditation has benefits over time but these are not always evident every time we sit (especially if you have a restless day). You need to create small rewards that you can connect to every time.
  • Here is what I use and have found very helpful: every time I start or finish meditating I actively focus on the positive feelings of meditating that I have felt over time. That feeling of connectedness to my heart or to the world, a warmth in my body, or a sense of alertness and presence. Even on a day where meditation is a struggle, I can still remember those longer-term feelings. That’s my reward (before and after the sit).
  • Some other rewards you could try are to:
    • Congratulate yourself after you finish (regardless how it went) – say the same thing each time eg “Well done on sitting Suzie!”
    • Schedule your cup of tea or coffee after your sit as a reward – okay that’s using caffeine addiction as a reward, but if it works…!
    • Tick the session off on a weekly meditation journal you have stuck on the wall and feel good about the big tick!

It’s important to know that to really get ‘hooked’ you need to crave the rewards of meditation. Research has shown that it is the anticipation of the reward before you do the habit that makes you want to do it. So you need to find that feeling (as I described above or a different one such as of achievement) that feels so great that it makes you want to meditate to get more of it.

Step 5: Find a support person or community

  • Having others both support us and keep us accountable is a huge help with sticking to a new habit. You could buddy up with a friend, colleague or your partner and try to build the habit together. Or you could form a group of friends to do it. My upcoming meditation habit program will have an online group so people will commit to the group and share their progress.

If you’re interested in learning more about forming habits like this, I recommend reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

For those of you who have a consistent meditation practice, I’d love to know what has worked for you in forming the habit – email me!

May you go well,

Suzie

Posted in Uncategorized.