When I sit to do my daily meditation, I try not to look at my meditation streak. Like a lot of apps, Headspace, the meditation app I use, calculates a variety of different things, captures a variety of metrics. Minutes meditated is a big one, as is number of days meditated.
I tend to be a somewhat competitive person, and so sometimes these metrics do more harm than good for me. I want to have the longest streak! I want the most minutes meditated! I don’t know why I’m like this (ok fine, I do, I’m a Capricorn) but it’s sometimes off-putting to me. It felt weird to be gamifying meditation. Apps can be sneaky that way, I’ve learned. Like when I found out I had high blood pressure and my doctor suggested I find a way to track the sodium content in my food and so I downloaded My Fitness Pal, the only app that seemed to be any good at the time I was doing this. Sodium tracking was part of the premium plan at the time (not sure if it still is) so I paid a monthly fee to access that, but what I learned was that there was NO WAY to turn off the calorie counts. This really fucked with my head and sent me back into disordered eating for a time because LOOK HOW MANY CALORIES I CAN RESTRICT JUST BECAUSE! I’ve since deleted it and now I just wing it with sodium which might not be the best, but it’s not worth backtracking on the progress I’ve made with regards to eating. Also: if anyone knows anyone at the Heart & Stroke Foundation, there are probably lots of people who would benefit from an official H&S sodium/cholesterol tracking app! Spread the word!
Anyway, so Headspace. I’m almost positive when I started using the app ages ago there was no tracker feature, but over the years they have added a phenomenal amount of content, and one day I finished my mediation and a little ticker flipped over and read “Current Run Streak: 1.” Now the type A part of me thought “Oh, it’s on, suckers! I am going to create a streak that is so long!” and then I thought, wait, what are you doing?
Meditation isn’t a competitive sport. Does it matter if you miss a day or a few days because you’re sick? Or your phone died? Or, or, or… I mean no, it doesn’t. But if you’re like me, the type of kid who strove for perfect attendance and read the most summer reading club books, it’s a hard habit to break.
And I would do a month’s worth of meditation and it would be a nice round number like 30 and then I’d miss a day and when the little ticker went back to 1, I would feel like I’d let it down. I need to be better at this, I would think to myself, trying to organize my day around meditation which is fine in and of itself, but not the best when it came to this weird obsession.
But after a few months of starting over and watching the ticker go up and up, something shifted in me. I no longer cared. 195 days, 62 days, 12 days, whatever. I was showing up and meditating as often as I could, sometimes two or three times in a day, and that felt good. I started closing the app before I could see the total number of minutes meditated, the number of days in a row I had sat in silence. I started focusing only on allowing myself to breathe and giving myself what I needed in that moment. I began carving out time in my morning to practice instead of saying “oh god, must meditate so I don’t lose my streak!” I started incorporating a night time routine of winding down meditation as well, and I began to look forward to heading up to bed. Ok fine, I always look forward to heading up to bed, I love sleeping and I am SO good at it. But this routine with a half hour or so of reading followed by a wind down or a sleeping meditation became such a part of my day, and an important part of my routine.
And yesterday when I finished my morning meditation, I did see the little number tick over and the screen read “Run streak: 365 days.
A year. One entire year of daily meditations. It seemed almost impossible that I’d made it. I don’t remember saying on August 11, 2021, “Right, this is the time you don’t give up, this is the time you make it to a full year!” Because I didn’t say that. At all.
And I’m thrilled! A year of doing anything that is beneficial to your mind and/or body is a very good thing! But I also recognize that had I stopped for whatever reason at 360 days or 279 days, that also would have been ok too.
One of the founders of Headspace had this to say to a user on Twitter last year:
“Whether your run streak is 4 days, or almost 4 years, today is a good day to congratulate yourself…and to keep that same streak going.“
And I loved that. That is truly the crux of it. Showing up daily to meditate or walk or run or swim or whatever it is you do for your mental health is always a good thing, whether you’ve been at it for years or you’re just getting started. Whether you’re a creature of habit or you roll with the punches and the whims of the weather.
Will I keep the streak going and this time next year be celebrating two full years of daily meditation? Possibly! But there’s also a good chance there will be a morning when I will forget and then I’ll fall asleep before I’m able to do the nighttime routine and when I wake up the little ticker will have reset itself to 1. And I’ll probably grieve the loss of that streak, whatever it was (the Capricorn vibes are very strong, after all) but I’ll be ok. Because 1 is a start. And 1 is always better than nothing.