When we suggest to clients that they try mindfulness meditation, their reaction is often one of confusion. They started the Habits of Health to begin a journey toward optimal wellbeing, but meditation sounds like it is spiritual or religious. What does spirituality have to do with reaching a healthy weight or improving your sleep?
The truth is that mindfulness meditation does not have to be a spiritual practice. You might initially associate the idea of meditation with religion because of eastern ideas around spirituality. When we hear meditation, we picture the iron-willed Buddhist monk sitting in a lotus position with his eyes gently closed, for example.
In practice, meditation is a tool with multiple uses.
In its simplest form, mindfulness meditation can last for less than a minute. It can be a moment where you pause, become aware of your breathing, and reflect on what you are experiencing and why. You feel anxious. Why? What is making you feel this way? What are the choices you can make in this situation? Which choice best supports your goals?
That’s not so bad, right?
For me, I begin most of my days with a few minutes of meditation. I think about how I am feeling and about the impact I want to make on the world. In our crazy world, those few minutes of calm let me take charge of myself and my day, focusing my mind and my choices on what really matters to me.
For your journey toward optimal wellbeing, meditation can help you to do the following:
- Become more aware of the choices you are making
- Better understand the emotions and reactions that drive your feelings and behaviors
- Reduce feelings of stress and anxiety
- Establish the foundation for reprogramming Habits of Disease into Habits of Health
The awareness that mindfulness brings to our days helps us to see what might have been invisible to us before. When we don’t pause to think about why we want to reach for a candy bar or why we suddenly feel our stomach twisting into nervous knots, we can’t create change. After all, if we don’t realize something is happening, we will never be able to take the problem apart and make the healthier choices for ourselves and for our futures.
I talk a lot about this topic in Dr. A’s Habits of Health, but for now, I’d like you to try this micro Habit of Health to begin building your mindfulness meditation habit:
- For 30 seconds a day, go somewhere quiet. Sit down, and close your eyes.
- Breathe slowly, in and out. Big, deep breaths.
- Reflect on what you are feeling and identify why you are feeling that way.
- Think about your goals and what you want to accomplish.
- Next, think about the choices that surround those feelings. What choices can you make that better align with your goals?
That’s it. 30 seconds. If you want to do more than that, great, but for the next 60 days, give yourself 30 seconds a day to practice mindfulness meditation. If you forget during the day and need to do it right before bed, that’s fine too. Just make sure you do it every day to establish the habit.
This small Habit of Health will have bigger rewards than you might realize. I’m looking forward to hearing about what you learn along the way, so feel free to share your thoughts and reflections with the Habits of Health community if you’d like.