I Tried Meditating Every Morning for a Month — Here’s What Happened
Meditation provides an endless list of benefits, from reducing stress to improving one’s memory. Trends, events, and even homes are built around the practice. But as someone who could never sit still as a child, I never thought much of it, even though loved ones would often recommend I “try meditating” whenever my mental health felt particularly low.
That is, until I tried guided meditation sessions, which are accessible, affordable, and can be completed nearly anywhere. (All you need to bring is yourself, and maybe a cushion if you want to be extra comfortable.) There are plenty of guided meditation videos on YouTube, tracks on Spotify, as well as paid subscriptions to apps like Headspace and Calm, which I use: Last fall, I jumped at a promotion to purchase a year-long Calm subscription for $35.99 and used the investment as a challenge. I committed to meditating every morning for a month in an effort to destress and recenter myself.
How I Prepared:
I went into the month with no exact plan except to try meditating every morning instead of catching up on social media. I’ve never done a “challenge” like this, so I didn’t consider how to plan accordingly. In retrospect, I wish I had: Perhaps then I would have come into it with greater intentions for what I wanted to accomplish.
I struggle with self-control, but structure is vital in my everyday life, so I thought meditating could be a valuable way to start my day. I decided a month would provide enough time to figure out the problem areas — what I liked, what I didn’t like, and how I could make the practice work for me.
My first takeaway: My posture is horrendous. At the beginning of each session, I could feel my spine curl as I sat on my papasan cushion. This was exacerbated by the fact that my go-to guide, Tamara Levitt, would begin each session by informing the listener to “start by finding a quiet place to sit, take a position on a cushion or chair, with a straight back, and close your eyes.”
I didn’t even last 10 minutes during my first two sessions. My chronic back pain felt so acute that I could barely focus. On the third day, I pushed myself to complete a full session: Once I got past the first few minutes, the rest of the meditation flew by.
By the end of week one, I realized I was actually into the habit. I now had something productive and affirming to look forward to each morning, but I also noticed how often my mind would wander during each session without me even realizing it. I’d start thinking about what I had to get done, what I was behind on, and found myself self-criticizing. Returning to the breath allowed me to recenter myself, and let thoughts go. For what felt like the first time in a while, I experienced mental silence — and best of all, it felt comfortable.
I started the first week stronger than I expected but my newfound sense of peace disappeared once new problems arose in my work life and I struggled to juggle new responsibilities.
Each morning, the thought of meditating felt like a chore. I woke up feeling stressed about having to do “this thing,” though I knew I didn’t necessarily want to stop meditating. Instead, my to-do list felt heavy: I had so much to do between multiple jobs that meditating for ten minutes felt like cutting out a chunk of my day.
Thankfully I stumbled onto a solution to this dilemma when I hopped onto the app mid-week and discovered sleep meditation, a new-to-me concept given that I always pictured meditation to be a morning practice. According to Calm, “sleep meditation is a meditation practice with the intention of soothing the body and mind into sleep through deep, progressive relaxation.” By focusing on breathing and quieting your mind, you can retrain your brain to relax your body before bed, potentially leading to a more restful sleep.
After experiencing my first sleep meditation session, I recognized the value in practicing breathing methods and stopping my busy mind after a long day of work. I no longer felt stressed about “making the time” to meditate. I also could finally meditate lying down without guilt!
I went into the third week with a healthier, more solid plan for actually sticking to meditating every single day. Instead of bending my will to the plan, I decided to let my mood inform when and how I meditated. If I felt like meditating in the morning, I would do that. If the thought of meditating in the morning only brought me stress, I’d do it before bed.
Toward the end of the week, I not only felt more energized in the mornings but better rested than I had in months, too. I also noticed I became more intentional with my everyday choices, and at ease when issues arose. I started caring more about what I was putting into my body, and how I was spending my time. I noticed the small hiccups during the day wouldn’t get to me as much. I’d consider what was worth fussing over. Life no longer felt like it was happening to me, but I was making life happen.
The final week came with even more life challenges than the second week, and I suddenly had no time for anything but work and family. Throughout the stress, I kept meditating.
It was in this week that I finally understood the power of meditation: It allows you to return to yourself, your body, and your existence. I found myself able to block out the world in a meaningful way. I wasn’t escaping my reality. I was reconnecting to it.
During my last session, Levitt advised me to stop living on autopilot by catching myself whenever I zone out and to return to the present. I took that statement to heart. As I breathed, I felt myself exhaling all that caused me stress and inhaling all the possibilities.
What I Learned:
I did not expect to feel so great after a month of trying to meditate. I’m thinking more clearly, I am more present in my everyday life, and I’m sleeping better than I have in years. As someone who struggles with depression, anxiety, and insomnia, meditation afforded me a healthy method to destress and declutter my mind. Of course meditating isn’t a cure-all practice. I met with my therapist weekly throughout this period, and found meditating enhanced the benefits I received from formal help.
For almost a year, I have been working through my problems and the way I approach my life. Meditation provided me clarity when I was least expecting it to, but just by breathing, I remembered what’s worth living for — and that’s powerful.
I probably won’t meditate every morning from here on out, but I will practice every week and attempt longer sessions. I will also take the lessons I learned from the month in stride and apply it to my life long term.