A Month of Daily Meditation

9min • 18 February 2024
100% human-written

The interest in meditation saw a huge spike in the western world just recently. I would even argue, mindfulness became not only a trend, but also a big market. There are tons of meditation apps out there and everyone seems to preach meditation these days.

And that is for good reasons, right? This ancient technique seems to be the magical antidote to what some experts refer to as the invisible mental health pandemic. Companies offer mindfulness sessions to their employees and many successful business leaders supposedly participate in multi-day retreats.

I too have been a strong believer ever since my late high school years. I've been meditating on and off for over 10 years, but unfortunately never really made a habit out of it. But, in 2024 I had a plan to change that. How? By meditating daily for a full month until it finally clicks. In this article, I want to share my expectations, learnings and advice for beginners. Additionally, we'll briefly look at the scientific evidence on the topic.

Incentive & Expectations

To be honest, I didn't really have high expectations to begin with. While meditating always felt great, it didn't really eradicate any of my issues. I would compare it to a massage. As much as I enjoy the feeling itself, it's not going to magically cure all my neck pain.

Nevertheless, I was hoping for improvements in my mood and general anxiety patterns. Maybe also calming my mind a bit and being more mindful in every day life.

Scientific Research

Before I share my experience, I want to take a brief look at the scientific research on the topic. In preparation for my challenge, I read Altered Traits (new tab) to get an understanding of what's actually scientifically proven and what's merely anecdotal or even made up.

Tip: If you're interested in in-depth reviews of all the books I read, consider subscribing to my newsletter (new tab) where I share those regularly!

Research on meditation is actually quite new. While basically non-existent 50 years ago, the number of well-designed scientific studies on meditation is ever increasing year by year.

Generally speaking, meditation transforms four main neural pathways: stress reaction and recovery, compassion and empathy, circuitry for attention and sense of self.

Note: There are several different forms of meditation and each affects different pathways and thus has different effects on each individual. The most popular ones are mindfulness and loving-kindness.

The studied effects can be roughly divided into two groups:

  • Long-term effects:
    • elevated gamma oscillation
    • lower cortisol levels
    • lower breathing rates
    • reduced grey matter in certain areas of the brain
    • slows shrinking of the brain as we age
    • overall younger brains compared to controls of the same age
  • Short-term effects:
    • improved working memory
    • reduced attentional blink
    • reduced pro-inflammatory cytokines (helps healing psoriasis)
    • reduced depression, anxiety and pain
    • improved well-being for trauma sufferers, especially PTSD

Some short-term effects already show after just one session, while others require at least a couple of weeks. Long-term effects on the other hand require everything from multiple thousands to many tens of thousands of hours.

My Experience

Being positively biased, I didn't really need a lot of motivation to embark on this challenge, but that didn't necessarily make it easier for me. I've always had issues sitting still and doing nothing. I feel unproductive and it can lead to a spiral of negative thoughts that fuels my anxiety and cause misery. Ironically, people would often describe me as a haven of tranquility. If only they knew what was going on inside me.

Yet, meditation for whatever reason fascinated me. It's different in the way that you're not doing nothing. I would even consider meditation a very active experience in itself.

On new year's day, with little preparation, I started my first meditation session for the challenge. I decided to do at least 30 minutes each day. Most of the days I would just go unguided, but occasionally I also used a very old app on my phone that you can't even download anymore, but I will talk more about apps and guided meditation later.

While meditation itself wasn't really new to me, doing 30 minutes sessions certainly was. It was harder than expected to sit still for more than 15 minutes and after a while my back, neck and belly would actually start feeling uncomfortable. During the first couple of days, I caught myself checking my watch to see how much time there was left. But, after about two weeks it got easier and easier and I was able to sustain the 30 minutes with ease.

That's not to say, that it was particularly easy to start the session in the first place. My days are usually very busy and sometimes I pushed the meditation to the end of the day which resulted in concentration issues.

My highlight definitely was a very special sensation or feeling that I experienced on day 22. I was in some kind of light trance where for some minutes my mind calmed down significally and my thoughts were super clear. It was a great feeling where everything was simple and good. I can't really describe it and it also only happened once and I haven't been able to reproduce it since.

Overall, I really enjoyed the challenge and definitely felt great after every session. I was on a SIBO (new tab) therapy in parallel that caused a lot of stomach and gut upsets and issues and with every meditation session, I could literally feel my bloating go away and my gut relaxing.

Insights & Learnings

Throughout the month, I had several learnings. Here are the five most important:

  1. It's not a magic pill: This one is probably obvious. Arguably everyone would be meditating daily if it really solved all problems. Neither did it magically cure my anxiety disorder nor did it make me feel very different. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't expecting any miracle effects to happen - especially not after just 30 days - but I still wanted to mention it since it's been advertised like that way too often. While it might not be the magical cure to all issues, I'm still surprised by its effects. I feel much more balanced, calm and relaxed which also positively effected both my mood and my stress resilience.
  2. 30 minutes is quite a lot to start with: Maybe my goal was too ambitious, but I thought 15 minutes would be too short to actually feel anything. While a longer session certainly is more beneficial, I would definitely consider shorter mindfulness breaks as well. Especially if the alternative is not doing it at all.
  3. It gets easier over time: I was sceptical about this one at first, but it definitely is true. During my first days, each session felt endless, but after just two weeks it got considerably easier and eventually the 30 minutes went by in a brief.
  4. The goal is not to stop thoughts: Lifetime yogis might be able to eradicate thoughts completely, but I doubt that a “normal” person could ever do that. The goal is not to stop your thoughts, but rather to notice the drift and actively bringing back your attention. Our mind will always continue to wander, but we can train it just like a muscle and it will get easier and easier.
  5. Meditation ≠ meditation: There is no universal form of meditation. Many cultures developed their very own meditation practices and - as mentioned above - different forms have different goals and effects. It's as if you would say “I practice sports” without specifying which one. You can meditate while walking! In western culture, we mostly refer to mindfulness practices when speaking about meditation.

Additionally, it also actually affected my physiological health. My resting heart rate trended downwards over the course of the month while my heart rate variability (HRV) went up slightly on average.

Advice for Beginners

I am by no means an expert of any sort, so don't take my advice for granted, but I thought it'd be nice to share some of my reflections and thoughts and what I'd do differently if I would do the challenge again.

  1. Take it easy: There's no reason to go all in. Chances are you overdo it and it negatively affects your overall relationship with meditation. Start by doing as little as 10 or even just 5 minutes of meditation and check how it feels. Change your position or stop completely if it feels uncomfortable.
  2. Try different practices: As mentioned before, there are many types of meditation. Maybe the standard mindfulness practice is not for you, but you really love loving-kindness? This is also true for guided meditations. There are thousands of apps and YouTube videos out there!

    Tip: Netflix and Headspace teamed up to create a beautifully animated documentary series (new tab) on different meditation practices.

  3. Find a routine: Try out different methods, but eventually stick to one and build a routine after a while. Most yogis practice the very same technique for years or even decades. Going back to the sports example, you wouldn't really get better if you'd do a different type of sport every day, right?

Try it out!

Eager to try it out immediately? How about doing a little loving-kindness exercise from Altered Traits (new tab)? Just follow these instructions:
First bring to mind someone you care about deeply and relish the feeling of compassion toward that person, then hold the same loving-kindness toward all beings, without thinking of anyone in particular.

Bonus: If you need some basic breathing guidance, I built a super simple breathing app (new tab) that provides visual cues for coherent breathing.


While some of the more radical claims are apparently not backed by science, there are numerous positive benefits of regular meditation. Especially in our modern, fast-paced environments, meditation can be a simple method to reduce stress and improve mental health and wellbeing - with little to no side effects.

In summary, I really enjoyed my meditation challenge in January. I probably won't stick to the 30 minutes daily, but I will definitely try to incorporate at least three meditation sessions each week and continue to explore more practices - particularly zen and walking meditations.

I can only encourage everyone to at least give it a try!

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