Perhaps you’ve just started meditating and have not yet seen any progress. Or maybe you’ve been doing it for a while but are struggling to motivate yourself each morning. You should never feel like you’re forcing yourself to meditate, nor should it feel like a chore. So if this happens, you may wonder if it’s okay to take a break from meditation.
Unfortunately, the answer is not black and white. Sometimes taking a break can make your meditation practice better. Other times, it can be destructive. It all depends on how long you’ve been meditating and why you feel like you need a break.
So, before you decide, get clear on what the problem is. In this article, I’ll help you figure out if taking a break is a good idea and what other alternatives you can try.
Should you take a break from meditation if you don’t see results?
Meditation becomes more profound the longer you do it, but it doesn’t necessarily give you instant results. So, in a society that craves instant gratification, building a habit of meditation can be difficult.
In fact, this is why many people give up on the idea of meditating after just a few days. They don’t see any significant benefits, so they return to an activity that gives them an instant hit, like scrolling through social media.
However, according to a study by the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes an average of 66 days to build a new habit. During this time, the neurons in your brain rewire in what is known as a “habit loop.” Eventually, a behavior like sitting down to meditate becomes automatic.
Consistency is essential when learning anything new. For example, if you cannot understand how to play the piano in just a few lessons, you definitely cannot know how to master your mind in a few meditation sessions.
Staying consistent when learning something positive, like meditation, helps you break bad habits and replace them with healthier ones. Therefore, no matter how little process you see, you should not consider giving up or taking a break until you’ve practiced every day for at least two months.
Should you take a break from meditation if it feels like a chore?
So what if you’ve established meditation as a habit, but you struggle to find the motivation to sit down and find stillness each morning? While many people see yoga as a hobby and a fun activity, meditation typically feels more like an essential daily task that you know is good for your health, such as brushing your teeth.
In addition, as human beings, we all have bad days when we cannot focus and our minds feel too busy. As a result, meditation can feel like a chore and become something we force ourselves to do. When this happens, we lose touch with the magic of the practice. We forget about all the powerful meditation experiences we have had in the past and focus solely on the bad ones.
Instead of taking a break, I recommend trying another style of meditation. For example, if you usually meditate by focusing on your breath, try mantra meditation instead. Better yet, follow a guided meditation. Or, switch it up even more by practicing walking meditation, where you walk mindfully, focusing on the sensation of each step.
You don’t have to do the same style of meditation every day. So instead, keep things fresh by alternating between types. Also, make sure you are not putting too much pressure on yourself to meditate. Meditation should not be a rigid practice. While it’s traditionally a practice where you focus your attention on something, you can also try sitting in silence instead.
The difference between meditation and sitting quietly
Although sitting in silence is not technically meditation, it’s still a mindfulness practice. You don’t have to take a mediation position or even close your eyes. Instead, connect to your senses by noticing the things around you, the sounds you can hear, and the smells in the air.
Sitting quietly and connecting to your senses brings many of the same benefits as meditation. It decreases your heart rate and blood pressure, relieves stress, and rebalances your nervous system. So don’t worry about forcing yourself to “meditate”; sit quietly instead.
Should you take a break from meditation if you cannot focus?
Another reason people consider taking a break from meditation is that they struggle to stay focused. They have no problem motivating themselves to sit down each day, but their minds go into overdrive as soon as they close their eyes.
This is a common problem among busy people who allocate a set time window for their practice each day, squeezing it in between two high-energy activities. As a result, they struggle to switch off as their minds are still focused on the last activity or anticipating what’s coming up later.
Struggling to stay focused can also create a lot of frustration, as you feel like you are wasting time. However, it’s not a break from meditation you need, but a change in how you incorporate the practice into your life.
Stop trying to squeeze your daily meditation into a specific time window if your mind is too active during that period. Instead, try meditating at a different time or break it up into multiple small “meditative minutes” throughout the day. Alternatively, if meditation is an established habit, why not give yourself the freedom to do it when you feel like you need it rather than at a set time?
Can I take a break from meditation if I’m an experienced practitioner?
If you’ve been meditating every day for years, you’ll likely have high self-awareness and a clear understanding of how the practice helps you. However, one day you might wake up and not feel like meditating. Perhaps your mindset already feels good, or you feel like doing something different.
As someone who has meditated for 6+ years, I have days like this. Now, here’s my confession: I will usually allow myself to skip meditation that day. Why do I do this? Because I am in touch with myself enough to distinguish between whether a break would genuinely benefit me or if I’m being lazy.
Now, this level of self-awareness and self-trust only comes with experience. So if you have not yet established a habit of daily meditation, I don’t recommend taking a break. But if you have been meditating for years, there is no harm in taking a day off. The practice is already ingrained in you; thus, there is no risk of breaking the habit.
Why breaking a meditation routine can be good
Taking a short break from meditation can improve the meditation practice of experienced practitioners. As human beings, we crave structure, but we often get stuck in routines. Even if it’s a healthy routine, changing things up can be good for our minds.
When we get stuck in the ritual of meditating every morning, we do it on autopilot and lose touch with ourselves, which is the opposite of what we are trying to achieve. So, by breaking routine for a short period, you’ll return to the practice invigorated and refreshed, similar to how you feel returning to work after a vacation.
However, if you decide to take a short break from meditation, replacing it with a different mindful activity is recommended. Perhaps you take a walk in nature, spend time journaling or drawing, or do a Yoga Nidra practice. This way, you’ll get yourself off auto-pilot and open your mind to new ways to incorporate mindfulness in your day.
Everyone has good and bad days when it comes to meditation. However, just because you’ve been struggling doesn’t mean you should take a break. Sometimes, trying a new style or a different mindful activity can be all you need to get back on track. So don’t be quick to blame the practice. Instead, figure out the problem and determine how you make meditation work better for you.