Is your meditation practice stalling? Maybe you’re lacking motivation or having a hard time committing to sitting. While there is certainly no such concept of a ‘bad’ meditation session, there is a simple yet profound technique that you can use during meditating to drastically improve your focus. If you’re not already using it you should be.
If you’re still skeptical of whether or not you should be meditating, check out Meditation or Superpowers? A Simple Case For the Greatest Life Hack.
Use Positive Reinforcement!
As of the past few months, I’ve been employing the use of a technique that has radically improved my meditation practice. It’s no revolutionary and something you may already notice from time to time, but the effects of consistency with this technique have an almost immediate effect on our motivation to practice.
We have all been there: sitting on the cushion, realizing you lost focus and wondering how long your mind has been in space. This is a universal feeling amongst meditators’ and especially for beginners happens quite often. Now, when this happens there are two ways we can react. We can either become frustrated at losing our concentration and force ourselves back to the breath or we can acknowledge and congratulate ourselves for recognizing our distractions while bringing our awareness back to the meditation object. It’s a simple shift in mindset that allows us to build positive reaffirmations for noticing when we become distracted. When we respond to our spontaneous ‘aha’ of awareness with frustration or any negative emotion, we are programming ourselves to notice these states of mindless frequently. Meditation is much more effective when we notice our monkey minds and generate joy within ourselves when we notice we have become distracted or spaced out. The more often you give yourself a mental high-five for bringing your awareness back, the less your awareness will wander.
The Logic of Positive Reinforcement
By implementing this technique you are harnessing the power of operant conditioning. Operant conditioning can be broken down into two types of conditioning; positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement aims to present a favorable reinforcer so that the subject will repeat it’s behavior. On the other hand, negative reinforcement presents certain reinforcers that the subject will likely avoid in an attempt to minimize a behavior. For example, in our meditation situation, it is true that we want to minimize the amount of time our mind is wandering. At firsthand one may think that using negative reinforcement such as getting frustrated at the mind wandering would reduce this behavior. However, you must first become aware and conscious that your mind is wandering which in turn leads you to associate the frustration with becoming conscious, not your mind wandering. Instead, we can apply the positive reinforcement to the conscious awakening, when we snap out of our mind wandering and realize “aha,” proceeding to mentally pat ourselves on the back.
Positive reinforcement will allow you to enjoy your practice, because, as we all know calming the mind is an incredibly difficult endeavor. Our mind produces seemingly infinite distractions to combat our goal of focusing on the breath. Praise yourself every time you find yourself present. The amount of time your mind wanders will begin to lessen the more you do. In meditation, it takes work to calm the mind, but you will work smart not hard.
To read more about reinforcements in psychology check out Psychestudy!
Recommended reading: The Mind Illuminated
Have you any profound tips that helped your practice? Let us know, we are happy to learn!