I used to think that in order to meditate, I needed to have absolute silence and sit in some pretzel-like pose for at least 2 hours to do it “right”.
Thankfully, this is just not the case! Even as a busy person, you absolutely have room in your life to meditate, even if you don’t think so. In this post, I want to break down some easy and simple ways to include meditation in your life as a part of your health journey.
Why Meditation is Beneficial
Why should you want to include meditation in your daily routine? Here are just a few reasons…
Strengthen your immunity
Decrease stress level
Slow the aging process
Believe it or not, these benefits are only a small portion of the research. The Eco Institute has collected information on all the benefits adding up to over 140 reasons to meditate!
Now that you are curious to find an EASY and DOABLE solution to get meditating into your life to reap those awesome health benefits, let’s start discussing how to do it.
Types of Meditation
First off, I think we need to address the myth that meditation is only one thing. If you can imagine it as a general umbrella term for lots of different methods that are designed to train and improve your mind, you will have a better understanding of how this can be implemented in your life.
There are 2 overarching “types” of meditation that is well supported by the research:
1) concentration meditation where you focus on a single point of reference in your environment (breathing, a word or mantra, etc)
2) mindfulness meditation where you are actively practicing awareness and presence both of your own mind and body as well as experiencing richly the environment around you
With these types in mind, let’s explore some strategies for implementing meditation into your busy life.
You need to hydrate daily anyways, right? And this is a brief moment when you are going to be pausing most activities for a few quick seconds anyhow.
You know you can’t speak and drink at the same time. And most people over the age of 8 will understand why you aren’t instantaneously responding to them.
So, take this time to breathe in deeply right as you are sipping. Savor the beverage whether it’s cold water or hot tea or whatever. Simply use this daily pattern as a way to center your mind and bring your mental state into the present moment.
Choose a Mantra
Some people might get finicky that I’m going all “new agey” here, but you can choose whatever word is meaningful to you.
Choose a word or phrase to refocus you in the midst of the crazy. You don’t have to spend hours meditating on it. Instead, when the kids are yelling, the house is a mess, and the dog somehow manages to vomit on the carpet less than a foot from the tile (why does that always happen?!), you can just take one slow deep breath and intentionally focus on your one word or phrase before digging in to deal with the mess of life.
Spend a little bit of time on the front end of this to find a word or phrase you feel will be calming to you in the crazy moments. You can decide to change out your word or phrase every month, every season or follow a year long pattern like the My One Word movement.
Take Pictures Intentionally
If you are a visual person, you might really enjoy this one!
You probably have a phone with a camera on you most of the time anyhow- start snapping pictures of things you are grateful for throughout your day. Aim for capturing at least 3 unique pictures a day.
The photography doesn’t have to be great – it’s a practice for you to increase your awareness and deepen your appreciation.
It is most effective if when you are capturing the picture, or even later as you are reviewing your pictures, that the image reminds you of one specific thing you are grateful for.
Here are a few examples from my own phone:
These pictures might not mean anything to you… and they aren’t really saved for that- they are saved to remind me of the moments of gratitude I have felt along the way.
To me, these moments capture my daughter’s love of “shoos” and all things girly, my weight loss progress now that my wedding rings fit on my middle finger (what?!), the moments I get to stop and smell the flowers… literally…, a great workout with my THM Workins, and a plate of food that is designed to fuel my body well.
Be picky with some of your pictures for this practice. Collect them somewhere that makes sense for you (maybe Google Photos or a specific IG account?) and review them when you need to remember you have a lot to be grateful for!
Over time, these will really start to add up. And as a side bonus, you might start noticing your photography getting more and more creative at capturing those little moments of everyday life!
Talk to Text
If you are like me, it’s much quicker and easier to push the text to speak button on my phone than to sit down with pen and paper.
You can use this to meditate! What? I thought you had to be silent to meditate! Not really… meditating is a focusing of your mind which often is quiet, but it doesn’t have to be.
My suggestion is to do this when you are alone for at least 5 minutes like when you are driving in the car somewhere. Set up the talk to text feature and as you are going, talk about what is good in your life right now, consider the bad stuff and how it could be a good thing, and overall talk about what you are still grateful for no matter your current life circumstances.
Does it sound crazy? Good thing you will be alone and you never have to show anyone the text file you just created… but you can save it to review later if you get a moment.
This can be a very easy “journaling” practice that can help you mindfully explore your feelings and intentions. It can challenge you to reframe your frustrations to be thankful for the journey and not just the end goal. Pretty powerful stuff for just talking to yourself for 5 minutes!
There’s an App for that…
The Five Minute Journal is a great app that takes just a few minutes in the morning and a few minutes in the evening to complete.
It’s a beautiful and very easy to use app. It has space for you to document one picture a day, and has a few basic questions to prompt your gratitude journaling.
If journaling daily has always been a chore for you but you want it to be a habit, this is a great tool to use.
Do Something You Enjoy Without a Screen
When you engage in activities in real time like cooking or gardening or crafting that allows your hands to be busy but your mind to engage with space to wander a bit, this can create a flow state in your brain. Do you remember a time when you were so engrossed in a favorite activity you didn’t realize time was passing until 3 hours later you were late for something else? Yep, flow state.
Obviously we can’t “induce” flow state every time we enjoy an activity, but when you are in the habit of engaging in these enjoyable and rewarding activities away from a screen, you increase your chances.
The reason I emphasize away from a screen is because even though flow can happen at a computer, often with screens we are in a consuming mode, not a creating mode and the creating mode is what is necessary to make this practice beneficial.
Okay, if you are busy, you probably don’t have time for extreme indulgences, but you probably have time for one or two.
Do something everyday that you do because you know it’s good for you and make it something that feels super indulgent. Personally, I make the time to get up before the rest of the family so I can cook a delicious breakfast only for me. Of course I help get the kids breakfasts later, but they aren’t going to have the egg and veggie scramble I made earlier.
When you do something that in your mind is somewhat indulgent, you tend to appreciate it more. For example, when you pay for a fancy spa treatment- you probably enjoy every second of it. Same idea applies here. When you go out of your way to include something “indulgent” in your routine, you will naturally slow down and appreciate it more.
Do an Infinity Walk
Perhaps you have heard of labyrinth walking, the meditative practice of walking through an intricately designed path like the picture. If you haven’t tried it, you should try it if you get a chance, super cool and very relaxing!
But since the overwhelming majority don’t have one of them available to us (or the roughly 30-60 minutes it can take to do it meaningfully), we need to consider an alternative for more regular practice.
Enter the Infinity Walk.
The Infinity Walk was made popular initially by Dr. Deborah Sunbeck in the mid-1980s. It’s not a highly technical approach. Anyone can walk in a “infinity” or “figure 8” pattern.
It was originally thought of as an intervention for clinical psychotherapy. Since then it has been adopted by a number of healthcare professionals to address a growing number of issues.
So what makes the infinity walk a good fit for a daily meditation habit?
- It can be done in 5-10 minutes and still be effective
- You can do it in your house without equipment. At first if you want to place some painters tape down to remind you of the path pattern or place some objects in the middle of each circle as a visual guide that’s fine. But this is optional!
- Your mind in motion is more creative and therefore more likely to achieve and maintain meditative brain states
- The consistent movement of walking combined with the regular changes in directions keeps your brain active and supports a general improvement of overall coordination of right and left sides of the body and movements of arms and legs to achieve effective movement patterns which improves balance and several other underlying skills necessary for optimal movement patterns.
- Movement like this supports connectedness in your brain which can help support memory, novel idea generation, calm nerves and anxiety, and perhaps even increase the rate at which you are able to learn and remember new information.
Overall, the infinity walk is a super easy, affordable and low risk way to add meditation into your life. Even if you aren’t convinced of the meditative benefits, try it for your memory and balance!
Pause at Meal Times
There is all kinds of research that has come out in the last 5-10 years on how our attitude and mindset when we sit down to a meal influences the amount of nutrition we absorb from that meal. On the forefront of this research is The Institute for the Psychology of Eating. Their website is filled with all the benefits of slowing down and becoming a more intentional eater, but one I want to highlight for our purposes is this quote from their article on The PsychoBiology of Chewing:
“Chewing is a “pacesetter”. Whatever speed and number of times we chew sets in motion a rhythm that our entire body adopts. By chewing rapidly and insufficiently, we initiate an unsettled frame of mind that is reflected in the body as uncomfortable sensations in the digestive system. Chewing at a moderate to slow rate promotes a relaxed, grounded demeanor and for many, a noticeably stronger metabolism.”
How powerful is that?
Even if you are super busy, I would imagine you probably have a few extra minutes to just slow down at meal times to more actively choose the pace you are setting for your body.
Allow Silence in Your Life
Even if you can’t just sit still because you have piles of laundry and other work that has to be done, choose to turn off all the extra noise. Those of you with little kids, you can do this before they wake up or after bedtime. Even just 10 minutes of silence during a task can help your body de-stress and allow you to have a complete thought other than just the revolving to-do list swirling through your mind.
What do you think?
Ready to try one or two of these? Do you already have a meditation practice? Let me know in the comments below!