I challenged myself to meditate 20 minutes a day for 30 days! Scroll down to read about my experience and don’t forget to watch the video posted below!
If you already knew me a few years ago, you’d know that I would’ve definitely asked the same question! Seriously, I had no idea back then why people (who aren’t Buddhist monks!) would want to meditate.
Before I even started this meditation challenge, I have already been playing around with the idea of meditation ever since I learned its tremendous benefits (see below!). Even before this challenge, I was trying to do some sort of meditation on a daily basis (and failing to do it some days, of course! Haha!). I used to do 10 minutes but for this challenge, I decided to kick it up a notch and start doing 20 minutes — the ideal amount of meditation time for most experts.
Just to put it out there, I am not a spiritual person nor am I religious. I do, however, strongly believe in the importance of mental health, which is why I became interested in meditation in the first place. Plus, I am a firm believer that one does not need to be “spiritual” in order to practice meditation.
Tips to Help You Meditate
I can see why people would be intimidated by the idea of meditation, especially if they haven’t done this before. Meditation is actually very simple and doesn’t have to be complicated at all. You can do it in the comfort of your own home… and even your own bed!
If you prefer to watch how I did my meditation challenge, you can head over to my YouTube video here, or you can just read some of the tips that helped me along my meditation journey.
You can be seated or lying down
I’ve heard some people say that laying down isn’t as effective as sitting. In fact, many people would suggest you to NOT be laying down, especially if you’re a beginner just because it’s very likely that you’d fall asleep while meditating.
I, however, choose to lay down most of the time (Hey, it’s a process, yah know?!) especially now that I’ve already had some experience with meditation and I “usually” don’t fall asleep.
Choose the best time for you to meditate
I did my meditation in the morning because I have this feeling that if I didn’t decide to do it in the morning, then it’s more likely that I’m not gonna do it for the rest of the day (if that makes sense?). The morning is the best time for me because I have way less distractions and less demands. It’s the time that I can get some things done for myself that I am not likely to make time for later in the day.
One great tip if you decide to do it in the morning is to do a small morning routine, such as getting up and drinking some water and washing your face, before you actually sit (or lay) down to meditate.
What I usually do is: wake up, get out of bed, wash my face, and put on some skincare products before lying back down to meditate. This is because if I started meditating right after I opened my eyes, I would probably fall back asleep.
(If you’re interested, I talked about my skincare routine on this video)
Follow a meditation guide
Following a meditation guide makes meditation so much easier, especially for beginners.
Using a meditation guide gave me something to focus on because so many times, my mind would just easily drift into different thoughts. If you are a beginner, I highly suggest following a guide through an app or through YouTube, as these guides will help you figure out what to do during a meditation.
There were a couple of times I meditated with just music and there were times I meditated with no music and no guide at all (as in complete silence!). It was tough, and it was definitely more challenging than when I had a guide and some music. I just kept thinking about things and had to constantly remind my mind to go back and focus on my breath.
I really enjoyed this guide by The Mindful Movement on Building Positive Energy. I probably followed this one more than any other guide. Another one that I followed was this 20-minute meditation guide by Michael Sealy. This one, however, I listened to in the nighttime to fall asleep on (haha) because I realized his voice was very soothing and something great to fall asleep to. I wouldn’t suggest the latter for an actual meditation practice because I kept falling asleep (but boy, would I have a deep sleep…).
There are TONS of other meditation guides available on multiple platforms so you should choose the one that’s right for you. I recommend starting with a 5 minute guided meditation and working your way up.
How Was My Experience?
Honestly, my experience overall was up and down! There were days when it seemed like 20 minutes went by much quicker than I thought, and there were also days when it literally felt like an hour long!
Meditating 20 minutes a day was definitely a huge challenge for me, considering how busy my schedule is. Even when I’m not busy, I still feel like meditation is not a really “fun” activity. People might actually think it’s easy to do, but it’s actually quite difficult to breathe and be constantly mindful of the present moment. Let’s be honest, it can be boring and dull! They don’t call it a meditation “practice” for no reason.
One thing I noticed (more on this later) was that I definitely felt like my overall mood was elevated. Overall, I felt myself being more present in my everyday activities, such as walking my dog, and just enjoying life… for what it was.
My Biggest Challenges
I feel like meditation is so internal in the sense that it’s not tangible enough to produce results that are easily visible to the naked eye, especially after only a month of (semi) consistency. Working out and eating healthy, for example, are a bit more tangible and I could expect to see the results at least a little more easily than meditation (the results of which are more on the mind!). Because of this, I felt like my motivation to meditate was slightly lacking.
Honestly, if I had a million things on my to-do list, meditation is something I had a hard time putting on top of my priorities. This is why the hardest thing for me during this challenge was making time to do this and remembering to prioritize this as part of my routine. I had to remind myself of the benefits even though they were intangible.
Making the 20-Minutes-A-Day Commitment
There were days that I did a little less than 20 minutes, and there were days that I just didn’t do it altogether. On some days when I wasn’t able to do the full 20 minutes, I tried to do 10 minutes instead because it’s more important to be consistent than not doing any meditation at all.
The Dozing-Off Part
Another reason why I meditate in the morning is because when I meditate at night, I literally just fall asleep! (It should count when you fall asleep, though, right? LOL)
But one thing to note about this is that my sleep felt so good. I don’t know if I was just tired during those days, but there were times when I slept through the entire night. I feel like it has something to do with this meditation guide that was really soothing and it knocked me out!
So How Is Meditation Good For You?
There are so many benefits to meditation that have been backed by many studies. Meditation has been shown to help decrease anxiety, depression, stress and a host of other issues that we may face on a daily basis. I truly believe that a regular meditation practice can benefit every single person in different ways, no matter what sort of person you are.
Below, I’ve listed some of the key benefits of meditation but remember that there are so many more that I can’t count.
It increases mindfulness
Understanding the concept of mindfulness has really shifted the way that I view a lot of things in life.
We focus a lot of what happened in the past and we constantly go over whatever happened yesterday, two days ago, a year ago, etc. On the other hand, we also constantly worry about what’s going to happen in the future.
The point is, our minds are very rarely in the present moment. This is what people mean by living in the moment, being mindful, being present where you are, and actually taking things in as you see and experience them.
I don’t know if it’s just a placebo effect, but I feel like during this challenge, there was a slight increase in my overall sense of mindfulness and appreciation for little things that otherwise I probably wouldn’t have noticed because I was too preoccupied thinking about something else.
It’s a great mood booster
I feel like there are so many times when overall, we just don’t feel good. We feel sad for no reason, we feel unhappy, constantly worrying and stressed about something. This is something meditation can help with.
Of course, it’s never going to be perfect. We’re all human and we’re going to go through stressful times. That being said, meditation helps handle stress that often comes with negative emotions.
It helps to become less emotionally reactive
Another benefit of this meditation challenge is that I learned to deal with stressful situations in a calmer manner — taking a step back, learning to breathe, and telling myself:
“It’s okay, there is no sense in constantly worrying about this right now.”
“Try to do what you can, take the steps necessary, try not to be reactive.”
“Take a step back and inhale!”
This was something I noticed in myself. I felt like I was being less emotionally reactive and more calm in stressful situations and then I did a little research to realize that YES, this is also one potential benefit from meditation. For instance, a study in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that participants who’d done a guided meditation showed less brain reactivity to disturbing images than those who were simply told to be “more mindful” at that moment.
Mindfulness can be a factor towards happiness
For me, the most important thing is understanding the concept of mindfulness. That itself is a gamechanger; understanding the benefits of mindfulness and really appreciating and living in the moment. This is something I didn’t realize was really a big part of happiness and being overall satisfied with your life.
When I was younger, I used to really think happiness was something that I would get as a result of achieving a lot of different things and having some sort of perfect life — a perfect job, a perfect relationship, the most beautiful family, an amazing house, financial stability, fun adventures, blah blah blah~ (you get the picture)
I thought once I achieved all of the checkmarks then happiness would just come to me. I realized that this is so far from the truth. We cannot just wait for these external factors to come into place and expect that we’re going to just magically be happy. I feel like just like physical well-being, emotional and mental well-being requires practice, time, and a continuous effort.
Simply understanding this concept and realizing that happiness can’t come from all these external factors was an improvement in and of itself.
Not only that, understanding the concept of mindfulness consciously made me practice it on a regular basis. When going for walks, chatting with friends, or having a meal, I now know that I want to concentrate on that experience. I try to consciously think:
“Okay, I want to focus on this walk right now.”
“I want to experience this moment and be present.”
“I want to eat this meal, and appreciate how delicious this is.”
“I want to really be present in this conversation!”
With the practice of meditation, I hope to be able to be mindful more naturally in the future.
Results do not happen overnight
Obviously, I can’t expect to have instant results. This is definitely something that I’m sure I have to do for years. Plus, I’d like to incrementally increase my dedication and the time that I meditate to see greater benefits throughout my practice
It’s just like physical exercise where we can’t expect to do 20 crunches today and get a six-pack tomorrow. It’s all a work in progress; a constant journey of learning and growing and becoming better.
Meditation is definitely something that I’m going to continue practicing. The potential benefits are definitely worth the time commitment and I hope to keep seeing improvements in different areas of my mental and emotional well being.