What Personal Practices are Best for YOU?

When there are A LOT to choose from.

Photo by  Caju Gomes

Photo by Caju Gomes

Today, mindfulness, physical health, energetic hygiene and other practices that support our wellbeing are being explored more than ever before, creating an inspiring movement towards living more authentically.

But when faced with information-overload and so many ideologies, traditions, and paths for self-development, it quickly becomes difficult to make sense of how and what we can sustainably implement in our lives. Juggling work, families, and the obligations inherent to our humanity makes it impossible to incorporate everything out there in a pragmatic way.

A lot of us are equipped with a monstrously large bag of self-development tools, techniques, and practices. But having them is one thing — determining how to best make use of them is another entirely.

And for those who haven’t yet begun to explore such practices? The choice can be overwhelming.

First things first: something is better than nothing

If you’re considering investigating a new meditative technique, workout regimen, diet, or training, its easy to give in to indecision and not actually choose anything.

Something is better than nothing.

Paradoxically, doing something might actually mean doing nothing. Boredom, for example, is really important, and exploring something like a meditation practice may be just the “nothing” that you’re in search of.

Fortunately, you can’t really go wrong in— even if a practice seems to be a waste of time, there is value in the invaluable.

Anything that’s done with the intent of promoting our well-being offers, at the very least, an opportunity for learning. Experiences characterized by struggle and hardship, for example, often turn out to be the most impactful.

To this end, something as simple as flipping a coin may be worthwhile if you’ve been bogged down by indecision.

But how do we determine what’s best for us?

Our individual needs are constantly changing, so it’s no surprise that the practices that are best for us do as well.

Our dietary needs fluctuate based on our activity levels, schedules, seasons, and geographic location. Our physical requirements shift around many of these same things, including our goals, our body types, and our environments. The types of meditation techniques that may best serve us are often just whatever we can do consistently.

So while this may not be a romantic answer: trial and error go a long way.

We can read about the experiences of others til we’re blue in the face. We can know how to workout, and how to meditate, but if we never actually take action then the information quickly becomes useless.

Prioritize

It’s impossible to incorporate all the things that could be of benefit to us into our day-to-day.

It then becomes necessary that we focus more on supporting the aspects of ourselves where we need the most help right nowmental/intellectual, emotional, physical, or spiritual.

You may, for example, have a strong foundation around exercise and recovery to the point where you feel solid in your physical health. It may then follow that you’re experiencing emotional or spiritual imbalances and a lack of practice that supports them.

I was at one point intensely focused on my spiritual and physical practices — I put much of my energy towards exploring my body’s capacity and endurance. I meditated a lot, playing with a variety of techniques that really helped. But this led me to unknowingly sacrifice other necessary self-care practices: I wasn’t creating as much, nor was I challenging my mind in new ways.

With this realization, I began to establish balance; finding time to still work out and meditate while also making room for things like writing and engaging in mentally stimulating tasks (Sudokus, crossword puzzles, new work projects etc.).

Benchmarking

When doing something to improve our well-being, its helpful to have some way of measuring our actions — are the practices actually benefitting us, or are we perhaps doing them because we think we “should”?

Find some way of benchmarking your progress — this obviously differs from practice to practice, ranging from quantitative to qualitative, but here’s some food for thought:

Physical practices: do I feel better in my body? Stronger? Over-worked? Here we can often use more quantitative metrics: PRs, weight, lung capacity, times measures etc.

Spiritual practices: am I more present in my daily life? Am I less reactive to the things I experience? Am I more compassionate and loving, both towards myself and others?

Get the point?

Commit

We can’t benchmark if we don’t commit — and just as it takes commitment to develop a practice, the same is true for evaluating one.

If we don’t give things the time of day to make an impact, then the results will seemingly suck.

Vipassanna meditation courses, for example, start with a 10 day minimum course and continually stress the importance of adhering to consistent practice before making any decisions as to whether it makes sense for you to continue.

When we choose to do something, whether it be a new workout regimen, diet, or meditation program, it’s unfair to evaluate them without first giving them a chance.

Evaluation of our personal practices is a continual process. Giving our practices the time necessary to work and making sure they’re addressing our needs is a worthwhile challenge.

Don’t get too comfortable

Challenge is inherent to the act of trying new things.

But it’s also important that we’re continually challenged by the practices we’re already familiar with.

It’s really easy to get complacent with things that have become habit.

Example: I’ve exercised consistently for a long time. I love moving my body, and it is something I both enjoy and need in my life. There have been times, however, where I realize I’m just sticking to the status quo. While routine is great, I get too comfortable and stop pushing myself.

Whether it’s focusing more on technique, setting a new PR, or increasing my standard of what my “best”, pushing myself in this way embodies what I believe these practices are all about: development and enjoyment.

Get to it

Find something that you feel works for you, and stick to it until it no longer does.

We invest a lot of time into our practices, and this sometimes necessitates compromise — they may take hours a day, they may only take minutes, but it’s funny how time complies with our needs when we prioritize.

Maybe we have to use our phones less, or recommit, or say no (or yes) to late nights and early mornings.

So just get started. Recall that it’s being impossible to make a “wrong” decision — we’re growing regardless of how difficult it may be to see in the moment.

I hope this article was helpful to you. As always, please feel free to share your thoughts with me in the comments and share this article with those you think could benefit from it.

Thanks for reading!

~Varun