What I learned from 365 days of meditation

On the 31st December 2016 I signed myself up to a different type of New Year’s resolution. I was looking as starting to meditate and came across something called the 365 day challenge. The idea was developed by the founder of a meditation platform called Insight Timer. And having taken part over the last year I decided it would be beneficial for other people thinking about starting meditation to do a quick blog reflecting on what i’ve learnt so far during my meditation practice.

Don’t force it

Only do what makes you comfortable, some meditation styles might just not be for you e.g. complete silence could be too overwhelming for some people. A lot of people start off thinking meditation means you have to sit still and have no thoughts at all! I’ve learnt it’s simply about taking the time to be with yourself and acknowledge what arises while returning to the relaxing rhythm of your breath.

At the same token not everyone is as in touch with what they need and that’s ok. For example my husband isn’t ready to meditate and that’s fine. Trying to force someone to meditate isn’t the way to get someone engaged in an activity.

Find meditations that suit your mood

There are so many different forms of meditation and i’m still finding different styles that I like. The Insight Timer app has been fantastic for this, as during the challenge they curated different themes for each week, which has been a brilliant way to try out styles that you wouldn’t normally think of. I’ve particularly found meditation music and guided morning meditations work best for me.

Build it up gradually

There was one week at the start of the year, where they had a 20/20 meditate for peace challenge. This was a really great way to get from 0 minutes, to 20 minutes in the space of a week. It’s certainly a mini course i’ll be doing again.

My advice here is to start small, even if you only sit for 1 minute a day, that’s a minute more than you would have had otherwise. Again there’s a misconception around meditation you have to sit for hours! This leads nicely on to my next learning.

Quality over quantity

You don’t need to meditate for an hour a day! Some of the best meditation moments i’ve had have been the few minutes of solitude to breathe when I needed a moment of peace. There have been days where i’ve literally just done 5 minutes and those precious moments really have made a difference in helping to feel calmer.

Be comfortable

There is no one way to sit when doing meditation. Again there’s another misconception you can only meditate if you’re sat fully cross-legged on a cushion! I tried this to begin with and found I was mentally distracted due to feeling uncomfortable! I’ve personally found lying down works for me. Though in the morning I like to sit up in bed or on the sofa and feel more awake yet supported.

The essential takeaway here is to be however you want to, as long as you’re breathing this is what counts!

Embrace the silence

This is the hardest part of meditating I think, but when you can sit quietly by yourself and take a few breaths and really connect and listen to what your body and mind are telling you, this is when i’ve felt the most powerful benefits.

What i’ve taken from my challenge

So to summarise the key learnings i’ve taken from meditating are:

  • There’s always time — it’s about making space for when you want to meditate. Over this last year i’ve found some days mornings work best when I have a big day ahead of me, or when i’ve had a busy/long day taking 10–15 minutes before bed really helps to relax me and ease me into sleep.
  • Less judgemental — i’ve found that I’m less inclined to jump to immediate conclusions or make assumptions about people and situations.
  • Better focus — i’m more aware of when I multitask too much, and have made more of an effort this year to timebox my day to set aside time to focus on key tasks. In a way, this is a reflection of what you have to do when meditating. Set aside the time and commit to doing that one thing.
  • More receptive — as a result of regularly meditating i’ve found i’m able to tune into my emotions and body. For example when i’m stressed and tired I know I get more irritable and angry. I’ve been able to identify earlier on the signs of when i’m getting stressed and take a breath and not act upon my stress and snap at people or situations. This has been the biggest development in myself personally. My husband has noticed this in particular, so I am sure he’s appreciative of me meditating! ( even if he doesn’t like to admit it).

It’s been a really interesting journey and i’m so grateful to have come across Insight Timer and the incredible community of meditators around the world that have also been with me along the way. Tim the founder of the app did a review of the challenge to December of this year and of the 35,000 people who’d signed up at the end of 2016, there have only been 0.7% (around 200 people) who have managed to meditate every day and that included me! This shows that having a truly daily practice takes determination, however if you think of each day as your first and last then finding a minute of calm really is achievable for anyone.

I hope you find this of value and maybe try out a meditation. I know i’ll be continuing with my practice as it feels part of my daily routine now. We’re all entitled to have peace in our lives.

Wishing you a peaceful 2018.