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8 Tips to Keep Your Mindfulness Practice Going

New research finds nearly 60 percent of meditation app users stop within a year.

Key points

  • Practicing meditation or other forms of mindfulness regularly provides tangible benefits including reducing anxiety and depression. 
  • Making time for one's mindfulness practice starts with getting that time on the calendar.
  • A "digital detox" can be helpful for those who can't avoid checking email or social media during their planned meditation time.
Pexels/Gustavo Fring
Source: Pexels/Gustavo Fring

A new study has found that nearly 60 percent of people who subscribed to a popular meditation mobile app stopped using the app within a year. Mobile meditation apps are a helpful way to learn meditation and have been shown to reduce anxiety and stress. However, many people find that staying engaged with meditation and mindfulness apps can be challenging.

The study examined a random sample of 2600 new subscribers to the mobile app Calm in 2018. While 83 percent of people used the app at least one more day, by day 350, 58 percent of users had stopped using the app. For those who did continue to use the app, the average amount of meditation was about 4 minutes and about every 3 days.

Creating a new habit can be challenging and the benefits of meditation are not always immediate. Our digital attention span has also become bite-sized bits of 8 seconds or less. Some marketing teams have shown that our ability to stay engaged has shrunk from 12 seconds in 2000 to a mere 8 seconds in 2013. It's likely even less now. This has created an even greater need to improve our attention span through practices like mindfulness, and yet finding a way to integrate mindfulness into one's daily life can feel daunting.

Here are eight tips to keep a daily mindfulness practice going.

1. Build a little at a time—even one minute a day.

Start with practicing mindfulness for as little as one to five minutes a day. Listen to what your body and mind need, and go at your own pace. If it feels like time is the limiting factor, make it convenient and short so that it does not feel burdensome. Simple breathing techniques like 4-7-8 breathing or audio-guided meditations found at websites like the Free Mindfulness Project or on streaming services are accessible throughout the day.

2. Schedule a recurring time on the calendar for mindfulness.

Making time for your mindfulness practice starts with getting that time on the calendar. Scheduling the time is a helpful reminder and ensures the time for it exists—even if it is just five minutes—and lets others who have access to your calendar know that this is protected time. The key is to establish a regularity to the practice, so it feels like a natural part of your day.

When should you schedule this time? Ask yourself about your natural rhythm of stress—this can help you find the right time to schedule your practice. If you wake up feeling anxious, it can be useful to schedule the time as a morning meditation. If you tend to have difficulty with winding down at night and feel stressed before bed, body scan meditations are useful as part of your nighttime routine.

3. Pair mindfulness with an established daily routine.

New habits are easier to remember if they are tied with existing habits. If you have a daily morning or bedtime routine, these are good times to weave in your mindfulness practice.

4. Let go of expectations for immediate results—it is more about the process.

It might not feel like mindfulness is giving you results, but, just like flossing, the regularity of the practice counts. Many studies, including brain MRI studies, have shown that practicing meditation or other forms of mindfulness regularly provides tangible benefits including reducing anxiety and depression.

5. Give yourself permission to explore different mindfulness practices and the process can even be playful.

Not all types of mindfulness or meditation work for everyone. And not all types of mindfulness work for the same person all the time. In fact, for some people, certain types of meditation can be challenging or triggering. Meditation is just one of many mindfulness and mind-body practices that you can choose from to reduce stress and anxiety. For those who enjoy movement, there is walking meditation, yoga (which is a form of moving meditation), or spending time on nature walks observing the surroundings. For something at rest, there is deep rhythmic breathing or listening to binaural beats. Mindfulness can come from many other fun activities like hiking, biking, swimming, or creative activities like playing music or drawing. Invite yourself to discover a type of mindfulness that works for you.

6. Let go of judgment. There is no one "right" way to integrate mindfulness into your life.

Some people stop meditating or practicing mindfulness because they feel like they're not doing it right. The inner critic can start to judge if it does not feel like it's working or when they're distracted or not able to get to meditation regularly.

7. Give yourself permission to return to your practice without judgment.

Another common barrier is when people who stopped practicing mindfulness or meditation for a while feel like they can't return to it because they are out of practice and won't be as "good" as they were before. Allow yourself room to return to your mindfulness practice if you've stepped away for a while without expectations or comparison to your prior experiences—remember it is not a competition with others or yourself.

8. Consider a digital detox.

If you find it really hard to stop checking your email or social media when you're trying to meditate or focus on another mindfulness practice, it might be time to consider a digital detox. A mobile app for meditation may be too distracting because of the temptation to check other apps or because of the notifications, so consider shutting off alerts and notifications when you're practicing, using a separate device for meditation, or trying a practice that does not involve a smartphone. A longer digital detox may be necessary to build the foundation to keep a healthy mindfulness practice.

All rights reserved Marlynn Wei, MD, PLLC Copyright © 2022

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