September marks a period of transition for most of us; we can sense a shift as the days get shorter and summer gradually makes way for the fall season. This time of year involves returning to a more structured routine, getting the kids ready for back-to-school and daily activities. It also usually involves getting busier and feeling more stressed. As our life speeds up, many of us find a renewed interest in making time to resume our mindfulness meditation practice, something that we know is deeply restorative but that somehow has managed to fade with our summer plans.
Here are four tips to get your mindfulness meditation practice back on track this fall:
1. Write Down WHY Meditating Matters To You
The first step in getting back on track with your practice is to remember why meditating matters to you in the first place. Maybe it is to better manage the stress in your life, maybe to be more present with your children or your spouse, or maybe it is to find time to reconnect with yourself. Pick your top 3 reasons and write them down somewhere you will see them regularly: on the fridge, in your reminders on your phone, or on post-it notes that you put around the house or at work. See if you can get in the habit of taking a few moments at the beginning of every meditation session to remind yourself of these personal reasons. You may find that the act of regularly renewing your intentions to be mindful can be very powerful.
2. Plan WHERE and WHEN You Will Meditate
Having good intentions and a strong motivation can only get you so far. Research shows that to maximize the likelihood that you will maintain a behaviour that is not yet habitual, you need to supplement your intention with an action plan. Specifying where and when you will meditate, and linking it to a behaviour you are already doing, makes you more likely to actually carry it out and maintain this habit in the long run. For example, if meditating first thing in the morning suits your schedule, you may form the plan: “If I am done brushing my teeth in the morning, then I will immediately go sit on my meditation cushion.” Then write this plan down and mentally rehearse doing it a few times until it is firmly implanted in your memory.
3. How you Deal with a Lapse in Meditation Makes a Difference
If you are like most people, life will get in the way. You’ll get busy, and after a few days, you’ll realize that you haven’t been meditating. This is a given. How you work with this lapse can have an important impact on your practice. Meeting it with judgment and self-criticism will put you in a state of negative affect, which will lead you to putting it off until some distant future when you’ll (somehow) have more time or motivation to meditate. However, meeting it with kindness and understanding will ensure that you are in an ideal state of mind to get back up after getting temporarily derailed. The great thing about mindfulness is that it is a state of awareness that is always immediately accessible. Why is that? Because it is about dropping into the present moment, and guess what – it’s always now. No matter how long it has been since you’ve lost our practice, you can always begin again in this moment… or this one!
4. Find out WITH WHOM You Will Meditate
What can really shield your meditation practice from the chaos of everyday activities is by finding ways to get support from others and from your community. One way to do this is by finding a meditation buddy. Pair up with a family member or someone at work and report to them daily on your meditation experience, in person or by email. This keeps you accountable and motivated. There are also tons of great apps that can help you keep up your meditation practice by connecting with others. You can also engage with the broader community by participating in online events, such as this one that takes place throughout October, where you can join thousands of other people interested in practicing mindfulness meditation. Additionally, look for local resources. Here at the MindSpace clinic, we offer a variety of mindfulness programs, including the all-new weekly sitting groups, which can be a great way of keeping your practice alive by regularly meditating with others. If you want to learn more about the programs offered at MindSpace and are in Montreal, you are invited to join us for our Open House event that will take place on September 26th.