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  1. Blog
  2. Mental Health

How to Build a 5-Minute Meditation Practice into Your Busy Day

3 steps to lock into a 30-day routine

Woman meditating in the woods
Photo courtesy of Omid Armin

Easier said than done, I know, but all you need is five minutes to yourself. If you’re busy, stressed, or unmotivated, then now is actually the best time to start meditating. The sooner you start your practice, the better. 

When meditating, you’re tapping into your working consciousness, studies show, which results in more energy, less stress, and better health. While the practice of meditation seems complicated, the principles are simple: rest, build awareness, be present, and gain new perspective. 

Just like with yoga or cooking, your skills will improve with time, but no matter how many times you practice or how long you meditate for, you can always learn something new. 

Read more: What It Means to Reach Burnout: Your Work, Your Time & Your Health

Improve your personal and professional life

Meditation has gained popularity over the years, but it’s still an underutilized tool for personal growth. The skills learned from meditation are transferable and have proven to be effective in improving an individual’s health and mental health. Studies reveal that meditation can help to minimize stress, improve memory, control emotions, and switch tasks with more ease. 

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, has proven to prevent burnout, support psychological wellbeing, and improve the climate of an organization. Studies reveal that another technique, Transcendental Meditation, can increase job satisfaction, improve performance, and contribute to stronger relationships with coworkers and supervisors. 

“Meditation is a practice that retrains your brain so your mind can redirect thoughts. One of the greatest benefits is that you develop greater self-awareness and awareness of your surroundings,” says Monisha Bhanote, MD, FCAP, ABOIM, known as the Well-being Doctor, which can help you reduce stress and cope with stressful situations at work and home. “With practice you can train yourself to be in a parasympathetic relaxed state even when things around you appear stressful.”

Meditation is a useful tool. If you’re having a bad day at work or if you’re suddenly facing a stressful situation at home, you can use the skills you’ve learned throughout your practice to remain calm and ground yourself, which will in turn help you control your emotions in the moment and make more thoughtful decisions. 

The health benefits are great, too. According to Bhanote, meditation can help regulate your autonomic nervous system, which can, in turn, improve your blood pressure, metabolism, immune system, inflammatory levels, and hormone production, among other benefits.

Read more: 3 Practical Ways to Relieve Stress

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Challenge yourself with a 30-day practice

Building a sustainable meditation or mindfulness practice can feel arduous, especially if you’re a first timer. This is why you need to start slowly. We recommend starting with just five minutes of meditation per day, with a goal of 30 days straight.

To make the challenge achievable, here’s what you’ll want to do in preparation:

1. Educate yourself on basic meditation techniques.

While there are many different styles and types of meditation, the goal is to focus your mind. While meditating, pay attention to your body (where you’re sitting, what you're touching, if you’re tense) and most importantly, your breath. When you feel your thoughts wandering away from your breath, simply abandon the thoughts and return to your breath, which should feel natural and not forced.

2. Decide when and where to meditate.

You can meditate anywhere, but if you want to achieve your 30-day goal, you’ll want to be consistent with your practice. Pick a specific location and time of the day. Determine when you’ll be least likely to experience distractions and find a quiet, comforting place. This could be in your kitchen, before your household wakes up. This could be in the evening, while standing in the shower. Figure out what works best for you and stick with it.

3. Set a timer.

Five minutes of silence can feel like forever, especially if you’re constantly in motion, so try your best to stay calm and present in the moment. Understand that you may experience racing thoughts or you may get distracted, but it will get easier the more you practice. Be patient with yourself, especially in the beginning. You may be tempted to extend that five minutes, but remember your goal is to make it 30 days. Stick to five minutes and wait until the end of the 30 days to extend your session length if you want.

It’s more important to focus on the routine than the length of your session, which is why five minutes is a good starting point. Even if you miss a day or two, keep at it. There’s no such thing as perfection when it comes to meditating.

Read more: 18 Therapy-Backed Ways to Feel Better ASAP

How to incorporate meditation into your day

When building a routine, studies have shown that structured days carry more weight than conscious effort. The best way to incorporate meditation into your day is to make it a to-do list item, alongside checking emails, making dinner, or doing the dishes. With practice, meditation can become as routine as brushing your teeth.

“Your brain is a muscle that needs to be flexed so it can remember what to do under times of stress,” says Bhanote. “Training that muscle will benefit your overall well-being in the long run from dealing with work stress, to family stress to health related stress.”

Read more: Ask a Recruiter: I Want to Support My Employees’ Mental Health. How Do I Do That Inclusively?

Encourage meditation in the workplace

Knowing the personal and professional benefits, employers should support meditation during work hours. Sustaining productivity for eight or more hours a day is impractical, especially in a high-stress environment

Bhanote worked in a previous role at a hospital facility where there was guided meditation every Thursday at noon. With over 600 employees at the time, she said was one of the only ones participating in this offering. To incorporate meditation into a company and make it a part of the culture, Bhanote recommends offering incentives for participation. 

“When employees have less anxiety and less health issues, they cost the company less money, are less likely to make mistakes and are much more beneficial to the company,” says Bhanote. Rather than offering meditation as an option, employers should make it a priority.

You can incorporate one-minute meditation sessions into daily meetings. You can host guided meditation sessions once a week and encourage executive staff to attend. You can offer free subscriptions to meditation apps like Calm or Headspace. You can also try a virtual 30-day meditation challenge and bring in a meditation expert to lead five-minute sessions. These small changes are important, as they encourage staff to take deliberate breaks and prioritize their mental health. 

Read more: The One Wellness Benefit Your Employees Want Most

About our source

Monisha Bhanote, MD, FCAP, ABOIM is one of few physicians who is quintuple board certified in the country. She serves as a clinician, author, researcher, culinary medicine chef, mindfulness facilitator and certified Yoga Medicine teacher. Bhanote is passionate about empowering individuals to take control of their well-being.  She believes that the body has an innate capacity to heal. Her goal is to improve the health and wellness of individuals by providing a framework for personalized knowledge of their individual biochemistry so they can succeed in life. 

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