Meditation’s benefits for health and well-being are now well-proven. Even simple mindfulness can do wonders for people’s happiness levels and overall life satisfaction. But for many of us, the benefits of meditation and mindfulness remain elusive. How can we possibly reap the benefits of meditation when it seems so impossible to quiet our minds?
While traditional meditation may involve sitting silently on the floor for 30 minutes, it’s not your only option. In fact, if you find meditation extremely challenging, jumping right into classical meditation can seem impossible, and you may quickly become discouraged and give up the practice altogether. Instead of setting yourself up for failure, give these meditation hacks a try.
Yoga wasn’t created just to give people toned bodies. In fact, the roots of yoga are based in meditation itself. Mindful movement is a great first step toward learning to meditate — and if yoga isn’t your thing, there are other ways to move mindfully.
Try sitting on the floor in a cross-legged position with your eyes closed. Take a few deep breaths, and begin to notice how everything in your body feels. Are your hands and feet tingling? Does your belly move in and out as your breathe?
Now, start to make neck circles. Really savor the feeling of stretching your muscles. Keeping your eyes closed as you move, start to bring movements into your wrists, then your hips. Coming on to all fours, curl your back up and then arch it. Make circles with your ankles. Simply move slowly and indulgently, paying close attention to how everything feels. Do what feels good for you. Believe it or not, you’re already meditating.
For many people, starting out with a guided meditation can be extremely helpful. Guided meditations can help you calm down and refocus your mind without requiring you to do the heavy lifting — you are simply guided through the meditation practice.
As a bonus, guided meditations often incorporate common meditation techniques, such as breath awareness and visualization. By listening to more and more of these guided practices, you’ll learn the techniques yourself and will eventually be able to simply perform them, rather than requiring guidance.
Apps like Headspace and Calm are a good place to start, though you can also find some great guided meditations on YouTube.
For many people, focusing on one thing is a lot less difficult than clearing the mind completely. Pick a sense, whether it is sight, sound, touch, smell, or taste, and focus intensely on that sense for the duration of your practice.
If you pick sight, choose an object to look at. This could be a flickering candle, a gorgeous crystal, or a flowering plant. Sound meditators can choose to listen to light instrumental music, the sounds of the ocean waves, or the gentle pitter-patter of rain. If you chose touch, hold an object in your hand — a smooth rock is a popular choice. For smell, sit outside and pay close attention to the fragrances that waft around you, and for taste, sit and savor a meal with your eyes closed, noticing every flavor and texture.
Between these three meditation hacks, you should be able to find one mindfulness practice that really clicks. Try them all on a rotating basis, or stick with one that works for you!