Bad news: we’re only a month into 2019, but studies show that less than 25% of people are still committed to their new year’s resolutions. By the end of the year, that number will drop to somewhere around 8%. It’s understandable. Cultivating new habits can be hard. Until a couple of years ago, I was part of that majority.
Every year as December 31st rolled around, I’d dream up lofty, yet vague goals like achieving those elusive abs, or “eating healthier” (whatever that meant). Then, I decided I wanted to start meditating. The intention was borne from a desire to quiet my perpetually anxious mind. And to figure out what all the hype was about. So, for 2017, I decided my new year’s resolution would be to start meditating regularly.
In hindsight, “regularly” isn’t great word choice. Does that mean once a week? Once a month? But it turns out that unspecific commitment actually helped. If I had set out to meditate every day, I definitely would have gotten discouraged when I missed a day or two. Instead, whenever I missed a day, I just rolled with it. After all, it’s hard to add a step to your daily routine, and life often gets in the way. Whenever I caught myself falling off the wagon, I’d dutifully plug in my headphones and get back to it the next morning.
It wasn’t only the arbitrary goal of “regularly” meditating that kept me on track with my resolution. It was also the fact that after a couple of weeks, I noticed a difference when I didn’t meditate. After a few days of forgoing my morning meditation in the name of more sleep, I’d start to feel anxious, irritable, and overwhelmed. “What’s up with me?” I’d wonder, before quickly realizing that I hadn’t taken an intentional moment to breathe in a few days. At first, it seemed like a coincidence. After all, how much of a difference could sitting in silence for 5-10 minutes really make? It turns out, a lot.
According to psychiatrist Rebecca Gladding, meditating for 15-30 minutes a day can make a huge impact on the way you approach your life and how you deal with others. When you meditate routinely, it actually changes the way your brain operates. Researchers at Yale University found that meditation decreases activity in the default mode network (DMN), the part of your brain that creates wandering thoughts, rumination, and worrying. With all of this in mind, it’s no wonder that I stuck with my resolution. I noticed positive changes in my day-to-day life and I was hooked.
Now, two years later, I meditate regularly. Not every day—I’m not perfect—but it’s become a part of my everyday lifestyle. That’s the secret to maintaining a resolution in my opinion. You have to be realistic about it, and be on the lookout for the positive shifts that keep you coming back for more.
Written By: Kara Cuzzone