My 30 Day Meditation Experience
Alright friends, it’s finally here! I took a poll on Instagram asking about whether or not people would be interested in hearing about my experience practicing meditation for 30days straight and the consensus was ‘yes’ so, here we go! To be honest I did the poll as a way to hold myself accountable to actually sticking to it, I’ve tried to develop a habit of meditation in the past but every time I had forgotten, or stopped after as little as 3 days. So, this time, I have you guys to thank for the success, now let’s talk about how it went.
To start let’s go over some of the benefits that a meditation practice is often said to provide:
- Boosts immune system function
- Reduces feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, and confusion.
- Increases blood flow, and reduces heart rate
- Helps control thoughts
- Increases energy
- Provides a sense of calm and balance
- Reduces stress
- Improves / deepens sleep
- Increases focus
- Reduces the impact of aging on the brain
- Reduces pain
...just to name a few. I collected these from an assortment of articles online, and because I’m just using them as a reference for exploring my own personal experience - I’m going to skip diving into the science/legitimacy behind these claims (for now, maybe in a future blog). Based on these alone, you can see why someone may consider trying meditation. I was also compelled to try it because so many leaders, and people I look up to in the world, cite meditation as part of their daily life, and a key to success.
Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve tried meditation before but I struggled to keep up with it, so this time I tried to be mindful (pun intended) about how I approached it. One of the most common recommendations for meditation is to do it at the same time every day, but I identified this as an obstacle for me because in the past, I’d forget to do it at the specified time and then just give up because I ‘ruined it,’ so this time I gave up on the rigidity of it - I just aimed to meditate for some amount of time, every day, simple as that.
I decided to experiment with different meditation apps, because without experience I think it can be difficult, and even feel silly to just sit in unguided silence. I tried a handful of them so that I could find out, and let you guys know, which I liked best.
The apps I used were Headspace, 10% Happier, Calm, and Simple Habit, all of which can be easily found by typing ‘meditation’ into the app store. I’ll go into detail about what I liked about each later.
So, here’s how it went:
The first few days, the biggest thing I noticed was that while I was trying to meditate I couldn’t seem to get comfortable, and I felt super fidgety. In my notes from day one it says “need to figure out how to sit,” but as it turns out the fidget feeling is actually just a natural part of the process. As I continued to practice daily, I was increasingly able to ignore the temptation to squirm, or reposition for no reason. So that was a cool development, especially because it showed me a more tangible example of ‘pushing thoughts’ to the side.
There’s a common belief that meditation is like ‘turning your brain off’ but that’s not really the goal, in fact that goal would probably be impossible for a living person. Meditation is more like developing a habit of ‘choosing’ what thoughts you spend time on, and establishing the fact that we do have control of it. A lot of the time life can feel overwhelming and your brain can become like a storm of thoughts and thoughts and thoughts - practicing meditation helps you to take control over that feeling, and eventually learn to prevent it at times. You learn and practice this by focusing on your breathing, and when you do get distracted with thoughts, you simply come back to focusing on your breath, and the more you practice it the more you begin to catch yourself getting caught up in thoughts. At the beginning the number one thoughts that kept distracting me, were literally about what I was going to write in this blog, which was amusingly contradictory. Some days it was much easier to push thoughts to the side, and other days I felt like I was getting distracted through the whole practice, and from what I’ve learned that’s a totally normal part of it.
While I can’t speak to the bolder claims like reducing the impact of aging, or reducing heart rate, I did notice a good amount of beneficial impacts.
I undoubtedly felt as though my patience was increased. I’m typically a super patient person as it is, but I noticed that it took a lot to really get to me and by that, I mean I have been feeling pretty ‘un-fuck-with-able” for lack of a better word (jk, that’s the perfect word).
On days that I did it in the morning, it set me into my day with a really clear head, and left me feeling ready to go. So, while I don’t necessarily know if it impacted my energy levels, it was a great way to start a day.
On days, I did it before bed, I felt it was easier to fall asleep because again, it clears the mind. So, there was significantly less tossing and turning, and anticipating what happens tomorrow.
One of the most interesting things to me, has been its impact on my sleep. I have always considered myself blessed with the ability to sleep great, I can sleep almost anywhere, anytime, so when I started this I wasn’t looking for any help in the sleep area. Normally, I never dream, or remember any dreams, and I always assumed it was because I sleep deeply; however, if you’ve ever read about sleep cycles, it’s when you’re in a deep sleep that dreams usually occur. So, you could assume that maybe I have not been as good at sleeping as I always thought. Since the very first day, I’ve been having dreams every night! It’s so strange, I didn’t even realize it at first and then a few days in I started to realize it was happening, and it’s still going strong. While I don’t necessarily feel a difference in my sleep quality and I haven’t felt more or less rested - the way that I am sleeping has very clearly been affected, and the addition of dreaming could indicate that I actually have been getting better sleep. This part has been just crazy to me, because it seems like such a real, and significant impact.
Another benefit from it is that once you’re in the habit, and you know how to get into it you can utilize it as a tool in life. Like, those nights when you’re lying in bed trying to fall asleep and you have something big coming up, so you’re planning it out and going over all the different details, even though what you need most is sleep, but you just can’t stop thinking - Once you’ve gotten a handle on meditation you can make the choice to just pause and focus on your breath, and next thing you know, you’re sleeping (for real!). In emotional, or frustrating moments, you can do the same - choose to stop indulging in all the thoughts spinning through your mind, focus on your breath for a moment and you’ll realize that you can find a sense of calm within yourself.
Overall, I think it has been really beneficial. I enjoy it, and even look forward to it, and I still haven’t missed a single day! I am going to try to start making it an every morning thing, because I really do like the way it feels to start the day with it, but I think allowing myself to just do it when I could for the last month or so has really made a difference for me in getting it done. That, and the fact that some of the apps keep track of your “streak” and the competitive in me is very motivated by seeing how long I can keep the streak going.
As for the apps, here’s a little breakdown:
I definitely recommend trying it, at least at first, with an app because they guide you and educate you on meditation. They teach you how it’s supposed to feel, give you different techniques to stay focused and undistracted, and some of them provide other little bits as well like wisdom, motivation, and/or calming sounds. All of them provide at least some guidance for free, and then they range in what they continue to provide if you do not choose to subscribe, and pricing varies as well.
The guide is a man with an accent that reminds me of the gecko from Geico. It uses helpful little cartoons and videos to explain the concepts of meditation, when you first begin, and it gives you the flexibility of choosing the length of time you want to meditate for each session. The app itself is well designed, easy to use, and simple. In your profile, it allows you to see how many total minutes you’ve meditated, and lets you look back to see which ‘sessions’ you’ve completed and on which days. Another great feature it has is you can add a ‘buddy’ which could help with accountability, and really making the habit stick.
This app is like a collection of guided meditations from all different guides, and for all different moods/occasions. It has both courses, AKA videos and insight from meditation experts to help you to understand the concepts, and actual meditations to practice with. This app is easy to use, and there is a lot to choose from - it has categories like: stress & anxiety, meditation for fidgety skeptics, self-acceptance, and even meditations for commuting that are meant to be done while you drive. In your profile, you can see how many total days you’ve meditated, and how many ‘mindful minutes’ you’ve completed.
Similar to 10% Happier this app has a variety of different guides, to listen to. You can browse the different categories like: to be more productive, to improve relationships, and more basic genres like, relax, sleep, and focus - or you can select ‘on the go’ and it will select a meditation for you based on your choices such as ‘SOS! I’m feeling nervous’ or ‘Tough Day, I’m feeling alone’. This one also has a social aspect, in which you can ‘nudge’ friends that haven’t meditated, and you can join meditation challenges to keep on top of your practice. In your profile, it shows you your current streak, total minutes meditated, total sessions, a bar graph showing the days and minutes, a calendar, and a list of your ‘recently listened’. This app is relatively simple to navigate, and well-designed.
If you’ve watched my instastories then you might already know that this one is my favorite. It has just one guide, a woman with a calming voice, and at the end of each meditation the app shares a quote with you. It allows you to select from a few different background noises like a crackling fire, ocean waves, and a rain storm, and those sounds just stay in the background regardless of the chosen meditation, and there’s also an entire section of music and sounds to browse if you’d prefer to do some unguided, timed, meditation. Within the app there’s a home screen, that has a new 10ish minute-meditation every morning called the Daily Calm, and a new “sleep story” shows up every evening. There’s also a whole library of choices to browse with categories like: personal growth, resilience, and inner peace, and you can ‘favorite’ any that you like to get easier access to them another time. In your profile, you can see your current streak, your longest streak, your total time, and total sessions, as well as a calendar.
As you can tell, they’re all really similar, and there are even more to choose from than the ones I tried. When I started, I used all of them sometimes one after another, until I eventually just leaned towards one and decided to commit to it by “upgrading to premium” - which is really just another accountability tactic, if I paid for it there’s a much better chance I’ll continue to use it. So far, it seems to be working out, as of the day that I’m writing this I’ve meditated for just over 8 hours, and I’m on a 40-day streak! Just thinking about the fact that I’ve been able to effortlessly dedicate hours of time to just me, and my mind, without feeling like I don’t have time makes me feel really good.
So, that’s been my experience! Leave me a comment and let me know what you think or if you have any questions, happy to answer any that you might have! Do you practice meditation? Have you ever tried? Let me know. Thank you for reading!