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I asked ChatGPT to get me hooked on meditation. I went from hating it to looking forward to it.

A woman meditates her distractions away.
nullChelsea Jia Feng/Insider
  • I used ChatGPT to start a meditation habit after trying unsuccessfully for years.

  • The AI was a convenient source of information, planning tools, and even encouragement.

  • Starting a new habit is about consistency and patience, not doing everything at once.

It's 11:45 pm on a Wednesday night, and I am ready to be the most zen anyone has ever been.

I roll out my yoga mat, light a candle, and hit play on a guided meditation video. It's only five minutes; I'm starting small, but pretty confident that I'll soon be ready to sit in peaceful contemplation for 10 or even 20 minutes.

Just 15 seconds into the session, my mind is already wandering. Instead of thinking about my breathing, I'm fixating on a massive mosquito bite on my ankle, and how much it itches. I'm thinking about dinner tomorrow, what my cat is scratching at in the other room, and how I would outsmart every murder trap from the "Saw" movies … anything but the centering, inward focus I'm supposed to have.

Then I heard the YouTube ad signaling my meditation video was over — I couldn't remember any of the prompts from the session, and felt more stressed than when I started.

Learning to meditate was going to be harder than I thought.

When I dejectedly reported back to my coach about my limited progress, I felt guilty for being unable to focus, and embarrassed that I had completely missed several sessions in the days before. Instead of disappointment, I was met with empathetic understanding, a huge list of strategies to try to make meditation easier, and a reminder that it's normal for new habits to feel hard.

My coach is great, but I'm not working with a yoga teacher or even a therapist. It's a bot. Yep — the turning point in learning to quiet my mind has been working with ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot that doesn't even have a mind in the sense that we understand it. Weird.

I asked ChatGPT to explain meditation to me like I'm a 10 year old with a short attention span.
I needed ChatGPT to spell things out for me. OpenAI screenshot

And despite being skeptical of both meditating and AI, asking ChatGPT for help was like having an encyclopedia and a personal cheerleader at the same time, making it a fantastic resource for starting a new habit.

I hated sitting still to meditate, but knew it was good for me

I've been trying to get in the habit of meditation for years, both because experts (including my therapist) recommend it, and research suggests it's great for your health. The evidence is compelling.

Typically I thrive on intensity (like roller derby competition or 90 minutes of soul-crushing CrossFit ), and clearing my mind is tough without movement, even if it's just yoga or tai chi.

a screenshot of a conversation with ChatGPT about how to win at meditation (the answer is meditation is not a competitive sport).
ChatGPT called me out.OpenAI screenshot

So why does something as simple as sitting quietly for a few minutes feel so challenging?

Still, I'm not the kind of person to give up, and if there's one thing I've learned as a health reporter, it's that balance is key to a happy and healthy life — or so I keep telling my readers. As a result, I've kept trying to make meditation stick.

ChatGPT helped me make a plan and troubleshoot when things didn't work

I first learned more about ChatGPT, and its potential for helping to kickstart healthy habits, through a story about a man who developed a running habit using AI as a coach.

The results seemed promising (and tracked with what running coaches recommend), so I used a similar approach in developing prompts to get ChatGPT to help me love meditating. I started by asking the bot to act as an expert in psychology and meditation and set up a 60-day plan to get me hooked on meditation.

Just like the man in the running story, I was surprised at how slow the process began — the first few days didn't even involve any meditation, just some research on the benefits and making some time in my schedule.

Of course, I decided to ignore this and sit down right away to meditate, knowing full well that starting with too much at once is a common mistake that can derail healthy habits.

Lo and behold, the consequences of my own actions. I could barely sit still, let alone clear my mind. Feeling decidedly grumpy, I told myself I would do better the next day, and then promptly forgot the whole thing for about a week and a half.

When I logged back in, a little sheepishly, I made sure to follow the process (and yes, between you and me, I did apologize to the bot).

I apologized to ChatGPT multiple times even knowing it was a bot
I couldn't help but treat AI like a person — and my people skills aren't always perfectOpenAI screenshot

But ChatGPT doesn't get angry or impatient. It answered all my questions, even the weird ones, offered tips on different types of meditation to explore, and suggested experts or apps where I could find more info and guided videos.

The biggest benefits I found from ChatGPT were these different options, demonstrating that there's not a one-size-fits-all approach to meditation. I also appreciated the bot's reassurance that my difficulty starting a new habit was normal, and that there were strategies I could use to make it easier.

I still struggle to clear my mind, but it gets easier each time, and AI feels supportive

Working things out via ChatGPT helped me realize that one of my biggest challenges with meditation was being a little bit easier on myself, since accepting your thoughts and letting them come and go is a key part of the process.

a screenshot from a conversation with ChatGPT in which I discuss my fear of never learning to meditate
ChatGPT was a source of reassurance when I felt discouraged or frustrated trying to build a new habit. OpenAI screenshot

At the same time, I did maintain a sense of accountability by following the plan laid out, and continually checking in with the bot. ChatGPT's responses offered much-needed positive reinforcement when I was keeping up my habit, and encouragement when I missed a few days. And just trying, over and over again, made a big difference in getting my brain used to the new routine (my partner also tried it with me, which was a huge help since social bonds make healthy habits easier to start and maintain).

It seems silly, but the bot ultimately helped me be nicer to myself in a way that made a new healthy habit feel productive instead of frustrating.

Using this method also helped me bypass a lot of the influencers and wellness woo misinformation out there. I didn't have to worry ChatGPT would suddenly start infusing meditation advice with conspiracy theories or sales pitches for questionable supplements.

As a result, I was able to focus on what worked best for me. No, I'm not ready to let chatbots take over the rest of my routine. AI is known to generate information that's out of context, misleading, or completely made up, so it's a risk to ask it what to eat or how to exercise without a lot of precautions.

I have yet to sit in a perfect lotus position and clear my mind for 30 minutes of cosmic contemplation. I also don't do it every single day.

a conversation with ChatGPT discussing whether beer is a helpful meditation tool
Asking the hard-hitting journalism questions (or, called out by a bot part 2)OpenAI screenshot

But at this point, I've managed to meditate (usually three minutes at a time, before bed) more days than not in the past few weeks. It's become a much bigger part of my routine, and I think about taking a deep breath more often during challenging moments of my life. And … I actually like it?

ChatGPT isn't perfect, and I'm definitely not, but making new habits is hard, and having one more tool to navigate all the info out there or provide a pep talk is definitely a good thing.

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