“I feel sleepy every time I meditate.“
“I just have so many thoughts, I can’t sit still.“
“My brain just won’t shut down.“
“Sitting to meditate makes me restless not calm.“
If these are your thoughts on meditation then let me explain the why of it and then we can move on to the how of meditation.
Why trying to meditate makes you restless
If you have been living your life the hard way, i.e., without giving much thought to things that are going around you while you keep yourself busy doing something or the other, then you have never tried to be still and understand what’s truly going on in your head. From this state, if you try to go for even a minute of calm mode where you do nothing it can be tough. Your mind doesn’t understand how to do it.
Something as simple as sitting and taking deep breaths while you watch the passing thoughts sounds like a mammoth task instead of making you calm it makes you anxious. Why? Because looking inside you, actually hearing your own thoughts, and deep diving into your subconsciousness is an alien concept for most of us.
When you sit down you’re suddenly hit by way too many thoughts and bam that causes panic, stress, and anxiety.
Why trying to meditate makes you sleepy
15 years ago, I went to a 10-day meditation camp. It was my first time practising meditation for 10-12 hours a day. It was tough and for the first couple of days, I felt really sleepy. On one occasion while I was supposed to be practising guided meditation in my dome I actually went ahead and lay down (AND SLEPT OFF) for some 40 minutes. So I asked our teacher about it. I wanted to be better and not doze off at every chance I got. She told me,
Meditation or practising mindfulness has to be a subtle balance between focus and relaxation. When you lose focus and become very relaxed you might start feeling drowsy.
Another reason why one feels sleepy during meditation is lack of sleep or improper sleep. You might be getting your 8 hours of sleep but if the quality of your sleep is low you might end up feeling drowsy when you meditate.
As you close your eyes, listen to calming music (or guided meditation), sit in a quiet place and take deep breaths you create a relaxing atmosphere which is best for sleep as well. So if you do feel drowsy you need to take a hard look at your sleep schedule.
Some folks might also feel drowsiness because meditation isn’t something they are into and it makes them feel “bored”.
Lastly, it’s also the question of the right nutrition. If you eat food that makes you more lethargic and less alert then it will convert into drowsiness while meditating.
Why do I have too many thoughts while trying to meditate
A quick internet search showed me that a lot of folks have been trying to find answers to:
“What to do when you have too many thoughts while meditating.”
But the question should be:
“Why do I have so many thoughts while meditating?”
The mind’s job is to think, to problem solve, to find problems to solve them and so it’s only natural for the mind to have way too many thoughts.
In all honesty, your mind always has too many thoughts. It’s just that when you focus on things like work, workout, cooking, or watching that new Netflix series, you delay these thoughts by focusing on what you’re doing. But when you sit to meditate you’re not exactly focusing on something that can divert your mind or stop that train of thought.
The idea is to:
Be aware of your thoughts but don’t engage with them.
It might sound simple but it requires practice to get to this state.
The bottom line is almost everyone has too many thoughts and the only way to meditate despite these thoughts is by treating them differently. That is, by just watching them and doing nothing. Which requires practice. This means you can’t expect to have a good meditation session every single time and you can’t expect to have a good meditation session right when you start it for the first time. You need to give it time and you need to show up for yourself even when it is tough.
What is meditation
Meditation isn’t a magic pill. It is also not the absence of all your thoughts. It is not a way to control your mind and stop it from thinking.
Meditation isn’t about becoming a different person, a new person, or even a better person. It’s about training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective. You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe them without judgment. And eventually, you may start to better understand them as well.Headspace
How to make meditation a habit
Find your why
The first thing you need is willingness. Willingness to spend 10-20 minutes each day meditating. This is something no one can help you with. This has to come from you.
Ask yourself why you want to meditate. Find a one-line answer and write it down. Stick it somewhere you can see it to start with.
Example: I want to meditate because I want to feel centred.
Stop lying to yourself
If you think you don’t have time, think again. 10 minutes out of 24 hours is very doable if you give it a chance. Set a time and stick to it so that it becomes a habit.
Understand different types of meditations
Then you must know that there are a lot of different types of meditations.
- mindfulness meditation.
- spiritual meditation.
- focused meditation.
- movement meditation.
- mantra meditation.
- transcendental meditation.
- progressive relaxation.
- loving-kindness meditation.
Then there is body scan, chakra meditation, sound-bathing etc. You can try all of them to find which one you’re most inclined to so that you’ll have more motivation to do it regularly. If not, go with your instinct. Most of us understand ourselves well enough to know what we may or may not like. However, I’d still suggest trying each type once before deciding.
Try mini meditations
Spending 10 minutes every day should be your initial goal. If you go for a BIG goal, that won’t be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely).
You can find guided meditations on YouTube to try these out.
Once you have found your kind of meditation, invest in apps like Headspace, Calm, Neend or just go with Youtube (ad-free because you don’t need interruptions).
Combine it with another activity
Try meditating after your workout or before your breakfast. Or write in your journal after 10 minutes of practice. When you combine two activities, you’re more likely to achieve your goal and make it a habit.
Do something about accountability
Join a community of like-minded folks or just find 1 or 2 friends for accountability purposes. When I posted one simple thing on my Twitter every day after finishing my meditation I felt the accountability. Find what works for you.
Most importantly treat it like you treat your food. Something you can’t live without.
There are other things like creating the right atmosphere, burning a candle, turning off unnecessary lights etc that you can do to create vibes.
In the end, you need to understand that meditation isn’t magic. It can be hard on some days and relaxing on others. The only thing you can do is show up every day and give your best shot.
Now you’re ready to meditate. Share your thoughts and questions on meditation in the comment section.
How I found my way back to meditation – My story
I started practising meditation when I was still a child. At first, I did concentration meditation using candles, then I did chanting and finally found chakra meditation, body scan and mindfulness meditation. At 17 I went to my very first Vipassana camp.
Anyway, once I started college and then work life got a little messy and meditation took a backseat. I did it at times but just couldn’t do it regularly.
Then there was a phase where I suffered from insomnia. I started listening to sleep stories to fix it and that’s when I restarted meditating. But once my sleep problem was solved I slacked again.
However, in February 2019 I had an eye-opening incident. Or eye closing. My eyes wouldn’t stop watering and it was painful. I had swelling on one side of my face and I had to go see a doctor. I was prescribed eye drops that I had to out every 5 hours and then had to close my eyes for 10 minutes after that for 30 days. I decided to use guided meditation for these 10 minutes and did it for all 30 days.
This time I decided to stick with my habit even when I was done with the eyedrops and my eyes were better than before.
I have added meditation to my first set of 21 days JOMO goal for accountability purposes.
17 responses to “Why is meditation so hard and how to make it a habit”
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