4 Ways to (Finally) Make Meditation a Habit

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When you think of meditation, do you envision the old cliche of a young, skinny male in a room lit full candles, sitting in a pretzel position, with his eyes closed and his fingers in a mudra?

No wonder people think meditation is intimidating.

Would it surprise you to know that meditation can truly look however you want it to look? Many people are able to find a comfortable—if not "traditional"—meditation place that works perfectly for them, whether it be their home, car, or work. Meditation is not governed by a set of rules, but more specifically, a set of beliefs. And no: You do not have to be a pretzel-bending yogi to embrace the meditative life.

I'm a prime example of this practice. During the summer of 2012, I began to experience anxiety. We hear this about this often, but I feel that no one can truly understand it unless they experience it. My anxiety evolved into having panic attacks—sometimes three times a day.

Before I knew it, I was fearful of everything.

My mom kept encouraging me to try out a meditation tape, in hopes that it would help ease my anxiety, but I had a preconceived fear that it was going to fail—just like the rest of the coping skills I had tried. I eventually did try it, however, and I still remember the moment I tried it. In my quiet bedroom, I turned the meditation DVD on and simply listened to the directions while I closed my eyes. The next thing I knew, the man’s voice guided me to open my eyes.

I couldn’t believe the results: I felt calmer and more peaceful than I had in a very long time.

To keep it realistic, not everyone will have these results immediately. Some people may not even believe that meditation can help you find a peaceful place. From my personal experience, however, I will say that it requires making the practice a habit—not just a one-time thing. This can be daunting, so here are four practical recommendations to help make your meditation practice a habit.

1. Start Early

Put on a five minute YouTube video or other recording as soon as you wake up. Your phone is probably sitting right there: Instead of checking Instagram, grab some ear buds and make your way to meditation land. This will help start your day out from a peaceful and grounded place.

2. Set the Mood

Light a candle or some incense. Put on some soothing music. These simple actions will actually makes you feel somewhat peaceful, and it can certainly set the mood for a meditative state.

3. Let It Flow

Do not worry about having other thoughts, and don't try to empty your mind. It is completely normal to have other thoughts while you are meditating—that is fine! Do not have a mindset that you are taking nothing from it if you can't slow your thought stream—just allow the thoughts to come in and go as they please. Eventually, with practice, they will settle.

4. Stretch

When you've finished meditating, take a long stretch at the end. Stretching your muscles allows you to loosen up and get the blood and breath flowing again. Stretching is a great way to end the practice and start your day. While stretching, bring to mind something that you are grateful for and keep in the back of your mind for the day. Let that thought be your anchor to your meditation, and to your peace.

How do you stay dedicated to your meditation practice? Share in the comments below.

Photo by Ellen Ho