Importance of a Daily Practice
Going to a retreat or programme is a first step on our healing path. But how do we stay connected with these healthy lifestyles when we go home to our responsibilities, distractions, temptations, work and families waiting for us?
This is a question that applies not just to meditation, yoga, exercise, healthy cooking and other spiritual practices, but to any creative art we wish to commit to. Paradoxically, the practices we know are most vital to our wellbeing are the very things that are usually pushed aside by daily tasks that feel easier to do because they don´t push our comfort zones.
Here are some tips to help you implement change step by step.
1. Set Your Intention
Get very clear about what you want to commit to, and even more importantly, why.
Why is it important to you that you sustain a meditation practice—or do tai chi, or paint wildflowers? What part of you does it nourish? Write down your reasons. The more specific you are, the more likely you will be to do it. It’s not just “I want to meditate more.” It’s “I commit to meditating for ten minutes before I wake up the kids for school because it keeps me calm, grounded, and more present for my family.” To make your intention even stronger, share it with someone close to you. However, be careful about talking about it too widely, that can dissipate the energy.
2. Establish a Cue
This is what reminds you to start your practice. The most simple and reliable cue is a specific time. For instance, you decide you will meditate every evening from 9 to 9:30pm
It can also be a floating cue: you will do half an hour of yoga right after you finish work, whenever that happens to be. Or you will take ten mindful breaths whenever you are about to launch your email programme. To ensure that your good intentions do not get overrun by other plans, carve out the time in advance. Write it into your calendar and don’t schedule anything else during that period. Be sure to build in time for any preparations or clean-up’s that are necessary.
Remember, start modestly. Meditating for ten minutes every day for a year is more beneficial than meditating an hour a day for three days, then losing interest. Again, it can help to let the people close to you know what you are doing, especially if you live together. That way they can support you in your commitment.
3. Setting up your space
Make sure you have everything you need for your practice in a place where you can find it easily. That way you do not have to waste your precious time hunting them down. Maintain a meditation nook with an inviting cushion, a small altar, and a supply of incense and matches. If you want to write down your dreams every morning, place a notebook and pen on your bedside table.
4. Do Your Practice
So you don’t spend your dedicated practice time spacing out or trying to figure out where to get started, it helps to have a plan in place, especially at first. Know what meditation method you intend to practice—for example, breath meditation or loving-kindness practice—and stick with one method for at least a week before switching. (If you’re planning on using a guided meditation, download or bookmark the instructions in advance, so you don’t eat up your meditation time surfing the web.)
If you’re doing yoga, outline a standard routine you can fall back on, knowing that if you get inspired, you can always change it once you get going. If you’re doing a writing practice, put some prompts in your journal to get you started.
5. Gratitude List
Gratitude journals (lists) are used by individuals who wish to focus their attention on the positive things in their lives. In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. People feel and express gratitude in multiple ways.
Gratitude opens the door to more relationships. ...
Gratitude improves physical health. ...
Gratitude improves psychological health. ...
Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. ...
Grateful people sleep better. ...
Gratitude improves self-esteem. ...
Gratitude increases mental strength.
6. Track your progress
Keeping a record of what you have and have not done increases your sense of accountability. Make this part fun! You can go the old-fashioned route by checking off boxes on a calendar. Or you can use one of the many new habit-tracking apps that are available.
Remember, this is about celebrating your accomplishments, not beating yourself up when you miss a day.
Through daily small changes of routine, your whole life can shift over time to a new trajectory.
Just remember to enjoy the journey!