8 tips to keep your mindfulness practice going

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A new study found that nearly 60 percent of people who subscribed to a popular mobile meditation app stopped using the app within a year. Mobile meditation apps are a convenient way to learn to meditate and have been shown to reduce anxiety and stress. However, many people find that it can be challenging to stay engaged with meditation and mindfulness apps.

The study examined a random sample of 2,600 new subscribers to the Calm mobile app in 2018. While 83 percent of people used the app for at least one more day, by day 350, 58 percent of users had stopped using the app. For those who continued to use the app, the average amount of meditation was about 4 minutes and about every 3 days.

Creating a new habit can be challenging and the benefits of meditation are not always immediate. Our digital attention span has also become bite-sized chunks of 8 seconds or less. Some marketing teams have shown that our ability to stay engaged has shrunk from 12 seconds in 2000 to just 8 seconds in 2013. Now it’s probably even less. This has created an even greater need to improve our attention span through practices such as mindfulness, and yet it can be daunting to find a way to integrate mindfulness into one’s daily life.

Here are eight tips to keep a daily mindfulness practice going.

1. Build little by little – even a minute a day.

Start practicing mindfulness for just one to five minutes a day. Listen to what your body and mind need and go at your own pace. If it feels like time is the limiting factor, make it easy and short so it doesn’t feel like a burden. Simple breathing techniques such as 4-7-8 breathing or audio-guided meditations found on websites such as the Free Mindfulness Project or on streaming services are accessible throughout the day.

2. Schedule a recurring moment in the calendar for mindfulness.

Making time for your mindfulness practice starts with putting that time on the calendar. Scheduling time is a helpful reminder and ensures that the time for it exists – even if it’s just five minutes – and lets others who have access to your calendar know that it’s protected time. The key is to establish a regularity in the practice so that it feels like a natural part of your day.

When should you schedule this time? Ask yourself what your natural rhythm of stress is – this can help you find the right time to schedule your workout. If you wake up anxious, it can be helpful to schedule the time as a morning meditation. If you have trouble winding down at night and feel stressed before going to bed, body scan meditations are helpful as part of your nightly routine.

3. Combine mindfulness with a regular daily routine.

New habits are easier to remember when they are connected to existing habits. If you have a daily morning or bedtime routine, these are good times to weave into your mindfulness practice.

4. Let go of expectations for immediate results – it’s more about the process.

It may not feel like mindfulness is getting you results, but like flossing, the regularity of the practice counts. Many studies, including brain MRI studies, have shown that regularly practicing meditation or other forms of mindfulness produces tangible benefits, including reducing anxiety and depression.

5. Give yourself permission to explore different mindfulness practices and the process can even be playful.

Not all forms of mindfulness or meditation work for everyone. And not all types of mindfulness always work for the same person. For some people, certain types of meditation can even be challenging or triggering. Meditation is just one of the many mindfulness and mind-body exercises you can choose from to help reduce stress and anxiety. For those who enjoy exercise, there is walking meditation, yoga (which is a form of moving meditation), or spending time taking walks in nature and observing the environment. For something at rest, there’s deep rhythmic breathing or listening to binaural beats. Mindfulness can come from many other fun activities such as walking, cycling, swimming or creative activities such as making music or drawing. Invite yourself to discover a form of mindfulness that works for you.

Mindfulness essential readings

6. Let go of judgment. There is no one “right” way to integrate mindfulness into your life.

Some people stop meditating or mindfulness because they feel like they’re not doing it right. The inner critic can begin to judge if it doesn’t feel like it’s working or if they are distracted or unable to meditate regularly.

7. Give yourself permission to return to your practice without judgment.

Another common barrier is when people who have stopped practicing mindfulness or meditation for a while feel they can’t get back to it because they won’t practice anymore and won’t be as “good” as before. Give yourself space to return to your mindfulness practice if you’ve been away for a while with no expectations or comparison to your previous experiences – remember it’s not a competition with others or with yourself.

8. Consider a digital detox.

If you’re finding it really hard to stop checking your email or social media when you’re trying to meditate or focus on another mindfulness practice, it might be time to consider a digital detox. A mobile app for meditation can be too distracting because of the temptation to check other apps or because of the notifications, so consider turning off alerts and notifications when you’re practicing, using a separate device for meditation, or trying an exercise those that don’t involve a smartphone. A longer digital detox may be necessary to lay the groundwork for a healthy mindfulness practice.

All rights reserved Marlynn Wei, MD, PLLC Copyright © 2022

8 tips to keep your mindfulness practice going

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