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April 2014 Review

Yesterday marked the end of April and the start of a new habit. This past month was interesting so I thought it would be helpful to reflect back on the habit I focused on in April (meditation) and how I ended up performing.

Long story short, I didn’t perform as well as I had hoped. In summary, I meditated 18/30 days in April, not terrible but not great either. I started with the Headspace App 10-day intro to meditation. During that time, I was 9/10, meditating for 7 consecutive days before missing a day. However, when that program was over, I felt a bit lost as to what to do next. I thought about shifting over to a new app, but then, I ultimately decided that I would just build and evolve my own meditation practice that didn’t revolve around an app or specific programming. I finally settled on just listening to some relaxing music (kudos to Twitter peeps for recommendations) and practicing deep breathing.

If you’re just starting out, I would suggest following something similar to the Headspace 10-day program just to get your feet wet. The intro helps to dispel some common myths about meditation and what you should be thinking about and feeling during your 10-minute practice each day. After that though, I think it’s definitely okay to freestyle your practice and make it you. Here are some things I learned along the way:

  • I preferred to meditate at night before bed. I found it to be a calming way to ease my mind and a “hack” that helped to improve my sleep.
  • Deep breathing goes a long way. I’m guessing quite a few people reading this are “chest breathers” rather than “belly breathers”. Meditation is beneficial if it only just teaches you how to breathe correctly.
  • Sitting in silence for 10 minutes can be disturbingly challenging. I found my mind wandering quite often or thinking about the next thing I needed to accomplish.
  • It’s a great way to relieve stress. I found that I was pretty crabby on days that I didn’t meditate (there were quite a few).
  • If you can’t make time or find yourself failing to meditate for 10 minutes a day, try two 5-minute sessions. I read this tip from someone on the Lift App, and it worked really well for me.

I’m certainly not a zen master at this point, but meditation is something I’m going to try to keep up with over the next few months as I think it really offers some amazing benefits. However, my “practice” is going to change a bit. I’m going to shorten the actual meditation portion (the deep breathing with soft music) to five minutes a day. Beforehand, I’m going to add in 5-10 minutes of foam rolling before bed. I’ve found that I can still practice the deep breathing while foam rolling, and I’ve been hearing about how foam rolling can activate a parasympathetic response in the body (a fancy term for calming you down). I’m eager to see how/if this improves my sleep.

As for books, I didn’t finish any this month although I started Creativity Inc. If you’re still keeping score at home, that puts me drastically behind my goal of finishing three books a month. I’m going to try to pick it up next month by finishing Creativity Inc. and tackling the following:

On the plus side, I was busy writing a few articles this month. I had three pieces published:

Looking ahead – what am I going to focus on for May? Well, the plan was to take one cold shower a day, partly because I’m going to be camping in Zion National Park for the next handful of days making a shower unavailable and lessening the amount of times I would need to do this. But, that’s cheating. I really just don’t have any interest in taking cold showers despite what the research may say. I’m likely going to focus back on reading since I let that slip this month and continue to investigate this whole meditation thing.

Leave a Thought

  1. Thank you for sharing the update, I also love that that you included links to the books you want to read – buying the “Autopilot” book, though the link you included seems to point to the wrong book. 😉

  2. I got all 30 days in! It was hard after that first 10 days though so I repeated days 9 and 10 multiple times then also used the Smiling Mind app. I liked being guided and found just sitting hard. I don’t know if got a lot out of the meditation except noticing how active my mind is all the time. I had a couple rules that I develop over the month, mainly that I wasn’t allowed to think about anything in the future or do any planning. I had to simply be in the moment. And the times I didn’t do guided meditations, I would just replay the day in mind and give gratitude to people that deserved it or to things that helped me.

    Thanks for the challenge, bud! Let me know that next 30-day challenge you want to tackle

    • Impressive! Congrats on being so consistent. I definitely found the same thing with how active my mind was all of the time. It was hard to get settled in and not think about anything. When I wasn’t doing the guided meditation, I would literally just sit and focus on my breathing. If anything, I think the breathing work was beneficial.