The “How I Changed My Life In 30 Days” series was born out of my desire to create exponential growth in my life. I knew there were certain habits that would help, but I’d been inconsistent in implementing them. So, on my 34th birthday in May 2018, I committed to adopting a new habit each month. My aim was, and still is, to excel in all areas of my life by making positive, lasting changes. Maybe you want to join me?
It’s time to take on a new habit! This time, we’re focusing on daily meditation/mindfulness. Read on for the details, the (many) benefits, and the apps I recommend.
(If you missed the first habit, or want a more detailed explanation of what the challenge is all about, you can catch up here: "How I Changed My Life In 30 Days: Challenge 1")
I’ve been meditating on and off for several years now, but I’ve never been consistent with it. The benefits are impossible to ignore, though, and the more I read about it and about other people who do it, the more convinced I am that this simple practice can have a radical, positive effect on my life. So it’s time to get serious about it.
Maybe you think meditation is for yogis and monks. I mean, you’ve got a stressful, full-time job and two boisterous kids to contend with every single day. Sitting in silence for a few minutes and emptying your mind of all thoughts? That’s for someone else.
But meditation has an expansive list of proven benefits, including less stress, better sleep, improved memory, increased focus and concentration, increased immunity and wellbeing, less anxiety and depression, decreased blood pressure, increased happiness and self-esteem, and even slowing the ageing process.
Sign me up for some of that!
And some of the world’s most successful people are already on board the meditation bandwagon: Tony Robbins, Arianna Huffington, Jerry Seinfeld, Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart…
And if it’s good enough for Martha, it’s good enough for me.
Even if you think it seems a bit silly, you can’t ignore the science. At the very least, you should try it to see if it’s a good fit for you before dismissing it. So sit yourself down, close your eyes (or keep them open if that feels more natural to you), and start taking some deep breaths.
Congratulations, you’ve just meditated.
"Wait, that's IT?!"
I mean, you can certainly build up from there, sitting for longer periods each time, and there are more advanced methods you can try. But for now, if you can sit and breathe, you’ve got the basics down.
Here's a video I made on the topic a while back that will explain it a bit better:
“I still feel a little lost and may need some help.”
A guided meditation might be what you’re looking for, where you listen to someone’s calming voice telling you exactly what to do. Those can be incredibly helpful, especially in the beginning when you’re finding it difficult to shut out distractions and slow your brain down a bit. (We’ve all been there.)
A quick Google or YouTube search will bring up more than enough options, and there are various apps out there too if you prefer to carry that calm voice with you wherever you go.
The two I use and recommend are Aware and Headspace. Both have free versions that will bring you through the basics and give you a good start. After that, you’ll have to pay a subscription for additional exercises, but the beginner stuff should be more than enough to get you going.
(For full disclosure, Aware gave me free lifetime access to their premium service a few months ago. But like I said, the free version will be more than sufficient when starting out.)
I’ve also heard great things about Calm but haven’t personally had much experience with it so can’t officially give it the HowToGYST seal of approval. Worth a look if the above two don’t float your boat, though.
"OK, I'm down. But when should I do it?"
Because habits are better likely to stick if you “stack” them (i.e. tie them in with something you’re already used to doing), I’m going to be stacking my meditation practice with the habit I picked up from last month’s challenge – rising early.
So, for the next 30 days, I’ll be waking around 6.30am, reading something inspirational for a few minutes to kick-start my brain and get those creative juices flowing, and then meditating for at least 10 minutes to help me focus on the day ahead.
Then, before each meal, or any time I’m feeling a bit frazzled, I’ll take a few deep breaths to bring my focus back to the present moment. It’ll be like a brain wash, where I clear away the mental cobwebs and start seeing clearly again.
10 minutes might sound like a lot to you. Remember, I’ve been meditating, albeit sporadically, for several years, so don’t feel you need to jump in at that level. In fact, if you do, you’ll probably jump right back out again. Start with 1 minute and slowly increase from there as you practice and get more comfortable with it.
The idea is to ease it into your life so it becomes a natural, positive part of your day.
Remember to tie it to something you do as part of your normal daily routine, which will serve as a reminder to you. For example, do it as soon as you wake up, or after you've had a shower, or just after you've put the kids to bed. It's the consistency that counts, not the specific time of day.
"Will I be all alone in this?"
Absolutely not. If you haven’t already joined the Facebook group, get yourself over there. You’ll find a whole bunch of enthusiastic supporters who are taking the challenge too. They’re ready to cheer you on and help you through any struggles. (It’s also where we decide what the next challenge will be, so if you want to have a say, stop on by.)
Got time for a table? Last month I logged the times I was waking and getting up, as a way to keep me accountable. This month I’m doing the same for my meditation practice. I’ll be noting the length of time I meditated, whether I used a guided meditation (and, if so, which one), how distracted I felt during it, and how I felt afterwards.
That should give me a good indication of whether I’m improving over the month, and if I’m noticing any benefits.
As usual, I’ll be posting a video here and to YouTube at the end of the 30 days, talking about how I fared, what I learned, and whether I’ll be keeping it up. After all, I’m only interested in putting effort into habits that I feel are making a positive contribution to my life.
Starting tomorrow, I’m joining the ranks of successful, regular meditators who reap massive benefits!
This is the year of exponential growth and learning.
This is how I changed my life in 30 days.
Are you in?
Challenge your friends to get in on the action too, or just let them know you’re leveling up in the game of life: