Sitting quietly for 20 or so minutes every day seems like such a simple thing – yet, it’s actually quite difficult for many of us. We so used to doing, that something we perceive as not doing (just being) is hard to do. It’s strange, if think about all the hours we work in order to take two weeks break away from it all, you’d think a 15 minute holiday every day would be easy.
If someone suggested that with 15 minutes of relaxed training a day, you could improve your mental performance, self-control, resilience, concentration, relationships with others, and reduce stress, do you think you would give it a go*? In my experience, most people would, and do.
The problem comes a week or two down the road. It’s difficult to feel like you are accomplishing anything during mindfulness practice – how can this relaxing, activity be doing me good; then add in that doing bias, and you have a recipe for lots of people to start mindfulness practice, only to give it up quite soon after.
If the benefits are real, and there are plenty of empirical studies that say they are, then how do we stay motivated to stick at our mindfulness practice? Here are a few suggestions, see if any of them work for you…
Create a habit
Once it’s made its home in our regular schedule, anything becomes easier to do. So, making it a habit is a good goal. Association is one of the tricks to creating a habit – associate your mindfulness practice with… your morning coffee, do your practice then have your coffee; or practice before your shower; or after you’ve been to gym. With association, you’re hooking your mindfulness practice to an existing habit. Also, after you’ve practiced, giving yourself a reward will help cement it – so the coffee after your morning practice, or 5 minutes playing your favourite game, or a little taste of something sweet.
Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, has plenty of examples on making and breaking habits, and he also offers a number of supporting resources, like a flow chart on habit creation in the resources section of his website, it’s worth a look.
A regular reminder of the benefits
Part of the problem with dwindling practice, is that the details of the benefits and the reasons why we first thought we’d like them, fade.
Do some of your own research on the benefits of mindfulness, and write yourself a personalised summary. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, perhaps half a page on how repeated mindfulness practice might impact your life. Now, take a copy of the benefits with you, in your bag or wallet, and take a look at the summary as you walk between meetings, commute to work, or take a break, reading your summary regularly.
I’m sure you can think of multiple variations on this theme, including re-writing the benefits from memory, writing a blog post about them (ahem), discussing the benefits with like minded friends, and so on.
This one is tried and tested… find a buddy who is already practicing mindfulness, or just starting, and practice together. Or, agree to text each other after you’ve completed your practice, or some other model of mutual encouragement. Or, if there is a group that practices regularly, join them.
Finally, a personal commitment contract might work. This is a contract you make with yourself, committing you to regular practice – and if you fail to keep your commitment, there is a forfeit. It might be, paying money to a charity you don’t agree with, or denying yourself pudding, or … doing something else that you don’t like. It doesn’t have to be big, just a little nudge to get you over the practice hurdle, while you’re still working on making it a habit. It’s really useful to have a buddy to report to, even if they’re not practicing themselves. You agree to tell them when you’ve done it, and if you don’t tell them, they ensure the forfeit goes ahead.
It’s worth checking out the website StickK where you can automate this process, for free!
Generally, it’s easy to see why we should practice mindfulness, the benefits generally out-way the costs. But, regular practice for many of us, isn’t quite as easy as we’d imagine. So, use that initial period of motivation to help create a habit that will keep you practicing for the long term.
Happy mindfulness habits,