The last months of our lives have presented us with some big challenges. The main reason is obvious: the covid pandemic. People lost their jobs, companies went bankrupt, and even worst: thousands of lives were lost, affecting thousands of families and friends. Although things for the past few months have been getting to normality almost everywhere in the world, the impact it had in our lives is still ongoing, especially in our mental health. I, just like many of you reading, have been facing anxiety and stress from circumstances that before wouldn't even bother me.
Things have been getting better, as I've finished university and have more time for myself to think about what is "overwhelming" me.
But there's a tool more than any other that I think is putting me back into my best mental health: meditation. As of the time I'm writing this post, I'm on my 16th consecutive day and I don't see myself going back.
Meditation is not something new for me. I started doing it in my 12th grade (about 5 years ago) in Portuguese classes (talking about a very alternative teacher uh) and I was not able to see any benefits from it, probably because I was doing it out of obligation. About 3 years ago, I came across some youtube videos and blog posts about meditation and started practising it here and there, just for fun and to see where it could take me. This time around I was able to see some of the benefits, like reduced stress and anxiety and increased ability to focus. The problem was that I never was able to stick it into my daily routine and the hype for it eventually went away, just like most internet trends. By not sticking to it, I never had the opportunity to feel the long terms benefits.
Then, what changed this time? Two things: motivation and how I built the habit.
With everything that happened in my life during the past few months, I knew I had to change something to increase my mental health. I knew I was not okay. Then, I came across this Yes Theory video, where Thomas Brag told his meditation story and how he was on his 1000th consecutive day meditating. First, I was mind blown by the strike and that alone gave me almost half of the motivation. Second and most importantly, most of his story resonated with me and hearing his testimonial of how much meditation helped him was enough to put me on the meditation track again.
All I wanted was to get my mental health back, reduce the excruciating pain in my chest when I had anxiety, eliminate my mental fog and ultimately increase my ability to focus on the Track (athletics), study and work sessions, and hangouts with friends (yes, even when I was just chilling, my brain was always trying to solve future problems).
Motivate yourself, think about why you want to do it. I hope this article helps you in some way. If not, just watch the Yes Theory Video.
But how do you get into the habit of meditating every day?
How to build the habit of meditating every day?
To create a daily habit, there are some things to consider.
This is the framework/system I usually proceed with when I want to implement a new daily habit:
- First, you need to think When and Where you can do it, especially if you think you don't have 10 mins to meditate (not true by the way). Look at your daily routines and find the bad habits that happen when you are alone, every day.
- I changed the use of the phone in my bed (WHERE) to my daily meditation. Every night, when I go to sleep (WHEN), I check my phone and that is the cue, the fact that I'm checking my phone in bed. I kill two birds with one shot: I meditate instead of spending time scrolling on twitter.
- Second, you need to reduce the friction to start doing it.
- Place your earbuds or any other equipment you think you will need, where you plan to meditate. I have my earbuds every day on my bedside or even under my pillow, making it very easy to just start. I also have the app (Insight timer) on my phone's home screen.
- Make it satisfying.
- This a just a consequence of meditating. Right after you meditate you'll feel the benefits: more calm, relaxed, less anxious, and ready to sleep if you did a sleep meditation. And the long term benefits are even greater.
- Gamify it
- Seeing Thomas Brag having meditated 1000th straight days made me want to try to accomplish the same, or even more. Nothing like gamifying something that is so beneficial for your life. Use a habit tracker (TickTick - Referral link) or always the same meditation app, as more often than not they have a day and time tracker.
After you've built the habit, you will most likely start to feel the benefits in your daily life, those varying depending on how you were before starting and what you want from it.
Here's a list of the benefits I've felt in the past two weeks:
- Ability to focus
- I wrote this blog post in a 1h30/2h stretch without thinking of anything else.
- Reduced mental fog
- Less stressed
- Heck, an elder passed me at the gas station like I was invisible and I kept myself as a monk.
- Less anxiety
- Most of my anxiety comes from thinking about future possibilities, things that I can't control. I've found myself eliminating these thoughts or just going through them with more clarity, eventually discussing those problems with friends, family and girlfriend.
- More present
- Meditation is giving me the ability to be more focused and present with my friends and family. Probably this is just a benefit of increasing my mental clarity and not overthinking everything.
Mental health is a very important issue to talk about, and from my experience (and the research that has been made so far), meditation can be an excellent tool to improve anyone's mental health. Meditation, especially in the form of mindfulness, really helps get mental clarity, reduce anxiety and increase the ability to focus.
Some of you may be thinking that meditation is just a waste of time because you're literally just sitting and being aware of your breath or another thing. But that is where the power of meditation lies. It's about understanding that your brain needs to be where it is, and not in another place. It's about controlling where your brain needs to be and ignoring while accepting, any thoughts that don't belong.
Give it a try and tell me how it is going!