April 2014 Review

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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.

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