The secret to happiness and inner peace… is no big secret at all. There are no secret rituals. No magic spells.
The way to achieve a happy state of mind is ridiculously simple. The keywords are gratitude, intention and awareness.
BUT — and you just knew there was going to be a ‘but’, didn’t you — the biggest problem is actually doing it.
You need to take some time out and work on maintaining a flow of positive and joyful thoughts, feelings and energy.
Not just once or twice a week.
Consistently. And all throughout the day.
Habit is the magic word
Habit is what makes all the difference between knowing what you want in life… and getting it.
Habit is what turns dreams and desires into reality.
Habit is when your awesome superpowers of attraction and manifestation come to life.
BUT — what, more ‘but’s?! — habit is also a double-edged sword.
And since you weren’t given a manual about habits at birth, please permit me to be a bit bold (and ever so slightly rude) by making the following statement:
You’re doing it wrong (probably)
Without you knowing it, habits are already a big part of your life. They decide how you spend your day. They control how you react to certain people, words, events.
As a result, habits shape your reality.
So if you feel your current reality isn’t a very happy or fulfilling one, that simply means you’re stuck with a set of habits that’s less than helpful for you.
The good news is habits aren’t evil. You can take control of your habits. You can turn them around and put them to good use.
Make your habits work for you, instead of against you.
This is where you take charge
The formula to making habits work for you is simple:
a) beat your bad habits,
b) build new, more helpful habits.
Beating habits? First of all, you need to know that it’s useless to fight your so-called “bad” habits. For several reasons.
Whatever you give your attention and your energy to, will grow stronger. And we don’t want to give your bad habits any more power over you that they already have, do we?
Also, fighting your bad habits will probably leave you feeling bad about yourself. Which would only make matters worse.
The best way to deal with bad habits is to simply register them. Try to spot them whenever they want to set in motion their usual routine. This defuses some of their destructive power.
Very often, by merely catching yourself and your habits in the act, you’ll be able to resist the habit and choose a different decision.
This of course requires self-awareness.
Awareness isn’t some magical spiritual talent that only a fortunate few are born with. It’s a skill you can develop through practice. Like training a muscle.
Meditation is perfect for building your awareness skills. But as you read in the intro, the trick is consistency. In other words, you have to make a habit of meditating.
Ironic, isn’t it? You have to create a habit in order to beat other habits.
This is how you create a meditation habit
Step by step, that’s how.
Whenever we fail or struggle to build a new habit into our lives, it’s a sign we need to break down our routine into even smaller steps.
In a short moment I’ll show you just how small to make your first steps into meditation. You might even think they’re so small that they can’t possibly be of any use.
But they are.
The goal of these tiny first steps is to simply create a time and place in your life for your new habit. Nothing more. Once your new habit has firmly established itself in your daily routine, that’s when you can start ‘fleshing things out’.
Why are small steps more effective than trying to push through a new habit with your willpower?
Our brain is a habit junkie, and because of that it hates change. It will perceive the new habit you’re trying to build as a threat. That makes your brain nervous and it will try to resist your new habit.
By breaking things down into really small steps, your brain is less likely to see them as a threat to its familiar routine. If each individual step is small enough, your brain has nothing to fear from it.
How do you apply this to meditation?
- Start with doing nothing for 1 minute each day. Simply stand and stare. That’s it. Try not to look at anything. Just stare out in front of you. Time yourself. One minute.
Slowly build up to five minutes. Introduce other elements into your routine. But only one at a time. These extra elements can be sitting down and closing your eyes.
Don’t skip a single day. Keep a calendar if you want, and mark each successful day with an X. Seeing that growing chain of X’s will motivate you to not break the chain.
Once you’re in the habit of sitting down for five minutes each day with your eyes closed, you can take the next step. For instance, by bringing mindful breathing into your meditation routine.
Again, you can build up slowly and work towards meditating for 10 to 15 minutes, or longer.
As soon as you find yourself slipping, go back to a smaller step. Make your time a bit shorter again, until you’ve re-established a solid routine that works for you.
Feel like taking on an extra challenge? Instead of going for one single block of meditation time each day, try having two or more shorter moments spread out over your entire day.
Building several instances of quiet time into your life will help you to become more centred, more balanced and more in control. Simply because these sacred little moments act as a reset of your mind.
You flush out all the noise and distractions that always seem to be creeping in. And you make space for what’s truly important: the real you.
If you want more advice on meditation, check out my free (and non-threateningly short) e-book: 11 Tips for Success in Meditation.
Image credit: oddharmonic on Flickr