This is my monthly review of my goal for 2016 – to create space in my life for creativity and calm. Each month I will update my progress in detail on one of the habits I am trying to build and a brief summary on the other four.
A habit I wanted to create this year to help me achieve my goal of creating space in my life for creativity and calm was to meditate. Habit building is something I feel pretty comfortable with. I like habits, unless of course they are habits which are holding me back!
Just because I like habits doesn’t mean I find creating them easily necessarily. Research has shown that it takes on average 66 days to create a habit. Easier habits will take less time and harder habits require more time. With this is mind, I set myself a target of meditating for 33 consecutive days. I felt that if I could meditate every day for 33 days, this would be enough time create a meditation habit.
And it worked! As you can see in the graph below, I have missed only three days in the last 13 weeks. You can find out about the app I use to track my daily meditation habit here.
Habits are incredibly powerful. If you are wanting to make change and think I don’t have the willpower to do it, I highly recommend you do some reading on habits. Willpower is a finite resource and is an unreliable tool to create sustainable change. Habits on the other hand can help you establish the behaviours you desire long term. If you are interested reading more about habits and the science behind them, check out these posts on the blog:
How I started with meditation
I had been avoiding meditation for years. I am not entirely sure why I avoided it. I think part of it might have been that I was not prepared to slow down; part of me thought it was a bit “woo woo” and part of me thought I didn’t have time to add one more thing in my day.
Late last year I started doing some yoga, specifically Yin yoga. All the exercise I put my body through is quite depleting. Yin yoga had been recommended to me as way of putting something back. I found a great yoga studio and after one Yin yoga class I was in love. I particularly loved the shavasana position at the end of the session.
I would almost fall to sleep, but once I stood up and moved on with the rest of my day, I felt so much calmer and energized. This made me think that I really needed to try meditation. Even the smallest amount of research will show you that meditation is scientifically proven to:
- Help you regulate your emotions
- Increase focus and attention
- Decreases anxiety
- Increases immune function
- Plus many more benefits which you can read about here.
I had heard people rave about the Headspace App as a great tool for beginners, so downloaded it and started with their free 10-day series. I agree it a fabulous space to start. It helps you understand the how and why, breaks it down to manageable chunks and each day it is quite short less than 10 minutes so not overwhelming.
Once I finished the free series though, I just didn’t want to have to pay for ongoing-guided meditations, so I left Headspace at this point.
Tara Brach Talks and Meditations
I remembered listening sometime ago to a Tim Ferris podcast where he interviewed a meditation expert, so I went back through the podcast feed and found the interview, which was with Tara Brach. I loved her approach and her voice and immediately subscribed to her blog and podcast and can highly recommend both.
What I love about Tara’s podcast is that it is a combination of meditations and teachings. The meditations are more than just “focus on your breathing” but make me think deeply about how I am feeling and behaving. The only thing is sometimes the meditations are quite long and I can’t always dedicate that amount of time to meditation, so I wanted to find some guided meditations to fit in with my time constraints.
You can find Tara’s meditation talks for beginners here and her podcast here.
Insight timer App
The Insight Timer App is the app I use most to meditate most often. It is a free app and houses the most extensive range of guided meditations. You can also use the app to set up timers for your own unguided meditations that I am just dabbling in now.
Within the app you can search for meditations based on time or topic. For example I found a fantastic meditation to give me an energy boost if I start to feel tired in the middle of the day. It goes for less then seven minutes and works so well to give me a recharge – better than any sugary treat or caffeine drink!
Fitting meditation into my day
To make something a habit I need to find a way to fit in regularly to my day. I tried waking up 10 minutes earlier each morning and doing it first thing in the morning, but it didn’t work for me. As I rise very early in the morning for exercise, another 10 minutes felt that my wake up time was getting ridiculously early and I also felt I couldn’t fully relax into it as I was worried about being late for my gym session.
I then tried meditating as soon as I got home from the gym, but the house is simply too busy then and I was interrupted too much to be able to really make it effective. It was third time lucky, with making my meditation time when I came in from dropping the kids off at school and before starting work.
There are some days when I don’t do it then due to meetings etc, so I aim to do it before or after lunch. There are the very occasional days, where it gets towards the end of the day and I haven’t meditated. I will then choose a sleep meditation to help me go off to sleep. This is my least preferred time if it is the only time I am going to meditate during the day, as I find I miss the benefits that meditation can bring to my days.
The benefits of meditation
The reason I have found creating the meditation habit easy is because the benefits are so significant. The inner calm it gives me after even 10 minutes is amazing, but the benefits go well beyond the initial calming affect. I have found meditation to help me in the following ways:
- To stay calmer when chaos increases at home
- To stay calmer when my workload increases
- To be more focused on my work and be able to channel my energy to the task at hand
- To help me with complaining less, by stopping and just practicing focusing on my breath
- To help with my running by learning to control my breathing more
I know meditation is now a habit for me because if I don’t do it I miss it. I will also meditate more than once a day so I can feel the calm that meditation gives me if I am having a stressful day.
Don’t read into this that I am now some zen like, unflappable calm warrior! I wish I was, but I am not. I am however much better than I was and the more I practice meditation the more it is helping me create calm in my life and manage my own self talk.
If you haven’t tried meditation I can highly recommend giving it a go. I am not expert and am still on my training wheels with it, but I know it is a powerful tool in my tool box to help me improve my daily life.
Monthly progress review
Here is the summary of how I am tracking with my goals to help me achieve my goal in 2016 to create space in my life for creativity and calm:
|Habit||Connection to goal||Monthly progress|
|37 pieces of clothing per season||Decision fatigue is a real thing - less clothes to choose from will free up mental energy! I am going to simplify my wardrobe to make choosing what to wear easier and having less items in my wardrobe will give me back needed physical space.||Still absolutely loving this! It is definitely cooler now, so in April I will reorganise the wardrobe to reflect the change in season.|
|33 consecutive complaint free days||Complaining spreads negativity and I have so much to be grateful for. It is hard to be calm or creative when your mind is full of negativity. I have half heartedly worked on complaining less before, but to become a habit I need to track and measure it.||I am back to only 8 consecutive days of not complaining. My last complaining day was less than two weeks ago and I was so sad about it. Not just because I had to start all over again, but I was really whingey and it reminded me why I wanted to stop complaining. It sounds awful and sets a terrible example for the kids. Still working on it!|
|33 consecutive days of meditation||I have dabbled a little with meditation and it makes a huge difference to the noise in my head. It makes me feel calmer, but I am yet to do this regularly. Doing so will help create an inner calm in my life regardless of the chaos around me.||As you would have just read, I also love meditation!|
|33 items decluttered from the house each week||On the surface our house looks relatively clutter free, but there are over flowing cupboards and drawers. Decluttering will give me a greater feeling of space and calm.||Struggling a little with this one now the easy wins have been had. Going to have to be more strategic about this next month.|
|3 hours a week for creativity||Time for creativity never made it to the top of my to do list as I didn't give it the value it deserved. If you want something to happen you have to schedule it.||An improvement on last month, but not quite reaching 3 hours a week.|