Alternative Ways to Meditate
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a practice of relaxed focus and awareness that has been practiced around the world for thousands of years. Although most people think you have to sit cross-legged with your eyes closed to meditate, there are many ways to achieve the meditative process if you feel too antsy sitting still. Meditation can be done anywhere and anytime throughout the day by simply taking note of your thoughts and feelings, being present in the moment, or focusing your mind on something specific.
Why Should I Meditate?
Today’s society can be summed up in two words: “sensory overload.” We are constantly inundated with access to information, news, technology, and social media. These nonstop distractions overwhelm our minds and cause us to be less focused, less patient, and more cynical. Fortunately, the concentration, focus, and awareness that comes from meditation can help us to achieve happier and healthier minds.
Health Benefits of Meditation
Meditation has also been found to improve the following health conditions:
Alternative Ways to Meditate
Spend time in nature
- Spending time in nature benefits your health in many ways. It has been found to reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, boost the immune system, improve sleep quality, and increase cognitive function.
- The next time you’re outside, focus on each of your senses: look for details in the branches of trees, touch the bark to feel its texture, listen to the wind rustling the leaves, and stop to smell a wildflower.
- Sit quietly or walk slowly, and leave your phone at home.
Go for a walk
- This is a great form of meditation for people who find peace in action rather than stillness.
- While walking, pay attention to any physical sensations: the ground beneath your feet, your arms swinging at your sides, or your breath moving in and out of your chest. Choose one physical sensation to focus on at a time.
- When you realize your mind has wandered, take note of the distraction and return your thoughts to whatever sensation you were focusing on before.
- Don’t forget to look up. It’s easy to get tunnel vision while walking; look up for a different perspective and pick out the details of the trees, buildings, or sky above you.
- If you enjoy yoga, try to incorporate a little meditation into your practice.
- Feel centered and grounded as you relax into poses, focus on your breath flowing in and out of your body, and set your intentions for the day.
- Notice how your yoga practice makes you feel and how it improves your mood.
- When you have finished, take five minutes to lie down in shavasana and appreciate the feeling of a clear mind, focused energy, and relaxed body. Shavasana is typically the final pose of a yoga session where one simply lies on their back and focuses on the breath and any sensations in the body.
- Regular journal writing can help to decrease stress, facilitate problem solving, improve the immune system, and reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- If something is worrying you, take a moment to write down what you are feeling. Do not try to censor your feelings. Let the emotion go on as long as it needs to, then let it go.
- This process can help you to expand your awareness and defuse any emotional tension that may be feeding the worry.
- Gratitude can be practiced at anytime and will help to ground you in the present moment.
- Take a quick moment to mentally appreciate anything that you are grateful for throughout the day: when you hit all green lights on your way to work, when you have exact change at the grocery store, or when a stranger shows you kindness. This can help you stay positive and present in the moment.
- Noticing all the times throughout the day when things go well will also help to minimize the importance of any moments when things don’t go your way.
Mindfulness while eating
- Being mindful while eating can increase satisfaction from food, improve eating habits, and promote weight management.
- Appreciate all your senses: admire the colors and presentation, savor the aroma before eating, feel any textures while chewing, and pick out as many different tastes as you can.
- Eat slowly, chew your food thoroughly, and put your utensil down between bites.
- Put away your phone, turn off the TV, and minimize distractions. Try to focus only on the enjoyment you get from a delicious meal.
Mindfulness while completing daily tasks
- Focus on being present while completing tasks where your mind may ordinarily wander.
- Pay attention to the physical sensations, movements, sights, and sounds of ordinary tasks.
- Focus your mind while folding laundry, washing the dishes, driving to work, chopping vegetables, taking a shower, or sweeping the porch.
Meditate from bed
- Meditating can help you to start your day in a mindful and relaxed state. It can also help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly.
- When your alarm goes off in the morning, prop yourself up on a couple pillows (so you don’t fall right back asleep), close your eyes, focus on your breath flowing in and out of your body, and set positive intentions for the day to come.
- When you lie down at night, think about what you are grateful for, feel your breath flowing in and out of your body, gently release any tensions you feel in your muscles, and drift peacefully off to sleep.
Final Thoughts Before You Begin
- Breathe. Focusing on your breath is an important aspect of meditation and an easy way to center yourself. Any time you feel anxious or frustrated, take a moment to close your eyes, take a slow breath, and relax your mind as you exhale. Also, when you want to practice one of the techniques above, you can start by focusing on your breath moving in and out of your body to relax and ground yourself.
- Be patient and kind with yourself. Notice any feelings, thoughts, or sensations that appear while meditating, but don’t judge yourself for getting distracted. Distractions are completely normal and part of the practice. The point is to just be present and appreciate how you are feeling in the moment without trying to change anything. Every time you realize your mind has wandered, don’t fret, just take note of the distraction and return to your practice.
- It’s okay if you think you’re too busy. You don’t need to spend much time meditating to reap the benefits. This might mean that you take two minutes away from your lunch break to breathe and center yourself, or five minutes to wind down before bed. As outlined above, you can even focus your mind on everyday tasks to achieve a meditative state without taking any extra time.
- Don’t jump straight back into your day. When you’ve finished your practice, take a moment to notice how you feel now compared to how you felt before meditating. Appreciate that you took this time out of your day to improve your health and happiness. The more you start to notice how good it makes you feel, the less it will seem like a chore.
• Enjoy the process. Meditation doesn’t need to be an intimidating prospect, and you don’t need to be perfect to benefit from the experience. Take a moment to notice your thoughts and surroundings throughout the day. Take a few deeps breaths and feel the inner peace that already exists within you. It doesn’t take much time or effort, but your mind and body will thank you.