Our lives are busy, there’s no question about that. Between work, family and social obligations, meal prepping, and maintaining our fitness goals, we’re constantly being pulled in a hundred different directions. It can feel overwhelming to juggle it all, which is why it’s important to find ways to calm the mind and body so we can keep being productive without completely losing it. One of the best ways to do that is with meditation.
“Meditation helps us come back to ourselves, come back to the present moment, and reclaim our attention,” says Cassandra Carlopio, licensed psychologist, meditation expert, and collaborative partner at The Breathe Institute. “The benefits from a regular meditation practice are well established, including improved focus, greater ability to handle stress, improved mood, better sleep, and a sense of well-being.”
However, many of us resist meditation because the thought of sitting still in silence for thirty minutes makes our skin crawl. Luckily, meditation can come in many forms. “In order to call something a meditation, we generally mean a practice that has an internal focus and sense of inquiry into the nature of the mind,” says Carlopio.
6 Ways to Meditate That Don’t Involve Sitting In Silence
While this kind of “internal focus activity” doesn’t include things like scrolling though Instagram, it does include a whole bunch of other actions you probably engage in every day. Here are some of the best alternatives to traditional sitting meditation and how you can seamlessly work them into your life to get those relaxing, calming benefits.
Turn your daily walk around the block into a focused meditation session. “Focus your attention on the body, feeling the contact your foot makes with the ground with each step,” explains Carlopio. “Focus on the sights around you. Focus on the sounds and smells. And really feel each step. Each time your attention wanders off into thoughts, into the past or future, keep bringing it back to where you are and the next step.”
While it’s normal for your mind to wander, bringing your attention back again and again to each step you take will train your mind to be present and focused on the task at hand… er, foot…
2. Mindful Eating
Mindful eating involves using all your senses to be fully present and engaged in the act of eating. Focus on the smells, colors, textures, and flavors of your food. Even noticing the sounds and movements in your environment are ways to bring your attention to the present moment.
“To really use mindful eating as a meditation, notice each time your attention wanders away from the meal and away from the present, and keep returning to the sensory experience of the meal,” Carlopio says. “Pay attention to how the food feels and tastes in the mouth, and how the body feels as the meal progresses.”
And as an added bonus to this meditative culinary experience, mindful eating is also a great way to stop yourself from overeating, as you’ll be more tuned into your fullness cues!
Showering is an excellent form of meditation since it touches on every one of your senses. Every time your mind wanders, bring your attention back to a sensory experience: the feeling of the water against your skin, the sensation of massaging shampoo on your scalp, the smell of soap. Not only can this help calm your mind for a relaxing start or end to your day, it will also turn your shower into a full-blown luxury retreat!
4. Washing Dishes
Often monotonous tasks can lead to the worst bouts of overthinking, since they don’t require too much mental attention. Break up this pattern by setting an intention to be fully present for a dishwashing session.
Notice the sensory experience of the sponge in your hand, the sound of the water against the plates. If there’s a window above your sink, observe some of the sights outside: a child playing out front, a flowering tree, a dog looking for food. Every time your thoughts begin to take you away from the experience, gently bring your focus back to the present moment.
This chore is another excellent opportunity to turn a mundane task into a meditative experience. Notice the sensations as you fold your laundry, for example: Are the clothes warm from the dryer? What does the cotton feel like in your hand? Is there a repetitive rhythm to folding? These observations will help you stay present and mindful on what’s in front of you, calming your mind one clothing item at a time.
If you suffer from daily doses of road rage as you drive to work through traffic, meditative driving might be just what you need. Yes, multitasking — watching the road, driving defensively — is important when you’re behind the wheel, but that doesn’t mean you need to let your emotions control you, so let go of the guy who just cut you off. “Pay attention to the road, to the driving process, to your hands on the steering wheel,” Carlopio says.
If you notice your thoughts drifting back to the bad behavior of those around you, shift your focus to the feeling of your foot on the pedal, the sound of the air conditioning system, and the sensation of the bumps on the road. Not only will you get in a great meditation session, you’ll also become a much safer and observant driver!