In this session, we're going to talk about some key elements to remember as you establish your new mindfulness habit. If you can keep them in mind as you begin to practice, I think before long you'll have a pretty solid foothold on this journey. So let's begin with a few things to consider before you get started. First, it's important that you have a clear sense of purpose for why you're doing this work. As I mentioned in the introductory video to this module, changing behavior and adding new habits is no easy feat. For real change to be successful, it needs a positive platform to launch from which means you need a positive self-edifying reason for taking on the challenge. Of course, I could go on and on about the benefits of meditation, but why are you interested in doing it, what do you hope to get out of it. If you can connect to a deeper why, for example I want to be more present for and connected with my partner. This will help motivate you both as you get started and when you feel challenged to continue. One of the best lessons that I've ever learned from my mindfulness practice is that, every moment offers us the chance to begin again. Establishing a new habit is hard and we don't help ourselves when we bring in all or nothing mindset into the process. Think of the dieter who's incredibly strict through the week, rotating through the same unsatisfying foods over and over again, carefully weighing and tracking every morsel of food consumed. She becomes so sick of being restricted that her willpower becomes sapped and instead of finding ways to moderate her diet, she decides to indulge, and then overindulge. For the all or nothing thinker, this means that the diet's blown and that the best intentions for change have fallen to the wayside. If we really want to adopt a new meditation practice, one of the first things we have to do is take all or nothing off the table and replace it with a more moderate set of expectations. We can't forget that slip-ups are given, you're just not always going to prioritize practice, but with the right mindset, mistakes and setbacks can be a step in the behavior change process, not an excuse to stop trying. If time goes by and you haven't practiced for awhile, it's okay. Forgive yourself for letting your practice slip a bit, investigate what took you of course, and then with a spirit of compassion, invite yourself to begin again. A next factor to consider prior to getting started with mindfulness meditation deals with location and where you might like to practice. It's a good idea to pick one space that you can meditate in regularly. Having a defined area in our home that we reserve primarily for practices is a nice visual cue that reminds us of our intention to incorporate daily stillness and reflection. You don't need an entire room for meditation, a corner of a room will do. You can even make the space in your backyard or garden if you'd like. Just pick any place in your home and create an inviting, cozy space for yourself that you can begin to associate with stillness, and with a special time for yourself that's devoted to your practice. You can decorate this area anyway you'd like, but it might feel good to be thoughtful about the objects or images to include in this space. It's generally recommended to go for a minimalist approach to decorating your meditation area so that you can avoid distractions, but you may want to incorporate things like cushions, candles or lamps, or pick somewhere in your home where there's nice natural light. I like including plants in my meditation space because they remind me of my connection to the natural world. Whatever the case, choose objects that are meaningful to you and do what you can to set this area of your home apart. In addition to creating sacred space and choosing where you'd like to practice, you also need to decide when you want to meditate each day. If you ask around, people with an established practice tend to do it at the same time every day. Think about your schedule and decide when you're most likely be able to carve out 20 minutes of time. Most people find some time in the morning to be best. It brings ease into the body and helps set the tone for the day which helps to reinforce and motivate the behavior. Research also shows that this is when your willpower is the strongest and your mind the most clear. Of course, it doesn't have to be first thing in the morning. Personally, I try and do my mindfulness practice after I've had a coffee, but before I've walked my dog, but it doesn't always work this way. Some mornings are more hectic than others, and on these days, I fit practicing during my lunch hour or at some other point during the day. Remember, all or nothing thinking shouldn't be applied here either. Your baseline should be a time you choose in advance that you'll stick to as often as possible, but on the days where it doesn't happen, be flexible and fit it in when you can. In the years that I've been teaching meditation, one of the most frequently asked questions is, how long should I meditate. The truth is, we just don't know yet. Even though we've had several insights about what happens to the brain before and after meditation, scientists still haven't determined an optimal amount. In my experience, it's best to approach starting a meditation practice much like you would exercise. Start small, build up slowly, and find your own personal sweet spot. In the beginning, it's important to find a length of time that feels and is doable. This will help keep you feeling confident and motivated. Aim for 10 minutes for the first few days to ease into things, then increase to 15. After a week or so of meditating, bump it up to 20 and see what happens. You can stick with 20 if that's what works for you, or you can continue to challenge yourself to meditate for longer periods of time. But once you reach 20 minutes, try and stay around at least that number. While we've seen increased psychological benefits after practicing for 10 minutes, 20 seems to be the better threshold. I'm pretty sure by this point in the course, you've figured out that practicing mindfulness regularly would be good for you, but knowing that it's good for you doesn't necessarily mean you'll immediately embark on a new mindful journey. In general, it seems we want to do what we know is good for us, just not right now. This is where identifying a system to hold yourself to a commitment can come in handy. If you're into behavioral economics, you may have heard of these systems as being called commitment devices. For those of you who're unfamiliar with that term, don't let the use of the word device fool you. There doesn't have to be any type of gadget involved, although there could be. A commitment device is essentially something you put in place in the present to lock you into a certain course of action in the future. We primarily use them to try and minimize our more impulsive behaviors and also to make it easier to make choices that are in alignment with our long-term goals. An example of a commitment device that could be used to build meditation habit might be to share the number of times you want to meditate this next week on a white board that's visible to your colleagues at work. This is potentially effective because you've shared your goal in a public space, which tends to be motivating to most people, and your colleagues can provide support in your moments of weakness. If that one doesn't work for you, you could sign up for a mindfulness course where regular meditation is expected of students. The bottom line is, using some type of commitment device is helpful when you're first getting started with the mindfulness practice because it's not a habit yet and you'll likely to find lots of excuses not to meditate. These days there are plenty of services and apps that you can use to commit yourself to your goals. Whatever your choice, find some ways to hold yourself accountable to your practice and do what you can to keep them top of mind. So those are some of the more pertinent areas to reflect on prior to getting started. I encourage you to ask yourself questions about the where, when, why, and how, and to be intentional as you begin your journey towards mindful living. If you can create a really solid structure for yourself from the beginning, you'll have a better foundation to build on and grow from. Now go get started.