Coming next month I'm taking on meditation as a new habit. I am hoping others will join me, share insights and encouragement. My goal is to instil the habit and continue meditating regularly after I am done with this period, so I am also creating a routine.
First of all, go read Mark's post
, if you haven't yet, and decide how you are going to meditate. If you, like me, are a beginner, you've got all the information you need on that post.
Decide how are you doing it and for how long. I'm starting with 10 counts, for 10 minutes a day, hoping to get to 15 mins after 2 weeks. I'll do it in the morning, as soon as I get up. I'll set a timer, so that I won't worry thinking if the time is up.
If you struggle with self-discipline and suspect that some days you may start creating excuses in order not to practise, write down under which circumstances are you reasonably allowed to skip a day, eg. being ill, waking up at some chick's place... Write it down and stick to it.
Ok, who's on board with me?
For those of you who intend for the habit to stick in the long term, it will help if you trick your brain into creating a neurological craving. Here's the scientific explanation, courtesy of "The power of habits" (chap. 2):
Quote:This explains why habits are so powerful: They create neurological cravings. Most of the time, these cravings emerge so gradually that we’re not really aware they exist, so we’re often blind to their influence. But as we associate cues with certain rewards, a subconscious craving emerges in our brains that starts the habit loop spinning.
This is how new habits are created: by putting together a cue, a routine, and a reward, and then cultivating a craving that drives the loop.2.26 Take, for instance, smoking. When a smoker sees a cue—say, a pack of Marlboros—her brain starts anticipating a hit of nicotine. Just the sight of cigarettes is enough for the brain to crave a nicotine rush. If it doesn’t arrive, the craving grows until the smoker reaches, unthinkingly, for a Marlboro.
Or take email. When a computer chimes or a smartphone vibrates with a new message, the brain starts anticipating the momentary distraction that opening an email provides. That expectation, if unsatisfied, can build until a meeting is filled with antsy executives checking their buzzing BlackBerrys under the table, even if they know it’s probably only their latest fantasy football results. (On the other hand, if someone disables the buzzing—and, thus, removes the cue—people can work for hours without thinking to check their in-boxes.)
To understand the power of cravings in creating habits, consider how exercise habits emerge. In 2002 researchers at New Mexico State University wanted to understand why people habitually exercise.2.28 They studied 266 individuals, most of whom worked out at least three times a week. What they found was that many of them had started running or lifting weights almost on a whim, or because they suddenly had free time or wanted to deal with unexpected stresses in their lives. However, the reason they continued—why it became a habit—was because of a specific reward they started to crave.
In one group, 92 percent of people said they habitually exercised because it made them “feel good”—they grew to expect and crave the endorphins and other neurochemicals a workout provided. In another group, 67 percent of people said that working out gave them a sense of “accomplishment”—they had come to crave a regular sense of triumph from tracking their performances, and that self-reward was enough to make the physical activity into a habit.
If you want to start running each morning, it’s essential that you choose a simple cue (like always lacing up your sneakers before breakfast or leaving your running clothes next to your bed) and a clear reward (such as a midday treat, a sense of accomplishment from recording your miles, or the endorphin rush you get from a jog). But countless studies have shown that a cue and a reward, on their own, aren’t enough for a new habit to last. Only when your brain starts expecting the reward—craving the endorphins or sense of accomplishment—will it become automatic to lace up your jogging shoes each morning. The cue, in addition to triggering a routine, must also trigger a craving for the reward to come.
The cue for your meditation can be doing your bed, picking a pillow to sit in or some other small activity. By the end of the month that cue alone should have you anticipating the reward.
I wonder if the heightened relaxed state of mediation is, on itself, enough of a reward to justify the craving or would it be useful to have a small external treat?