I see a lot of people who want to make changes. They have an idea of what the end result will look like, but struggle with the process itself. I offer a lot of suggestions, and my therapist colleagues do the same. What we all agree on, is that regular effort is required to see a difference. There is no other way. Now I’m not saying that it will take hours every day, but it will take a daily (or almost daily) commitment to the process. In mental health treatments that don’t rely on medication, this may mean journaling, or observing and challenging negative thoughts and behaviors. It should also include a regular meditation practice.
Studies have shown that meditation can create real changes in the structure of the brain, connecting and strengthening areas associated with focus, self-regulation and well-being. But these physical differences didn’t occur after one meditation session, or after one session every week or two. They occurred after daily practice for eight or more weeks. I know it’s a challenge to find time for one more thing in a busy schedule, but many programs designed to reduce stress or improve the mood ask participants to meditate between 20 and 60 minutes a day. It may take a lot of effort to stick to it, but those that do will see noticeable improvements in just 8 weeks. Check out the studies on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for some real examples.
I have been a firm believer in starting small and building up. I thought more people would commit to 5 minutes of meditation a day than 20-60. But I’m starting to rethink this. Small changes may occur with 5 minutes, but those changes may not be enough to motivate continued practice. Maybe it’s better to challenge people from the beginning, with the simple truth: Meditation will help, but you must commit to the practice to see the results. Start sitting every day for 20 minutes, at a regular time, so it becomes part of a routine. Make it a priority. Know that it will take effort and some days the practice will seem extremely challenging. But keep in mind that study after study shows that your commitment will be worth it.