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Meditation has become the holy grail of stress management. The idea that you have to sit quietly for 10-20-30 minutes and meditate has been sold to us as the ONLY way to reduce overwhelm and stress. But what if the idea of meditation causes you more stress, or what if you have tried to meditate and it hasn’t worked for you? Are you doomed to a life of stress and overwhelm? Absolutely not.
Meditation IS a wonderful practice. It DOES help decrease anxiety and increase health. AND it isn’t for everyone. If you struggle with meditation, it doesn’t mean you are doomed to live a life of anxiety and self-hatred. It just means meditation isn’t for you. It’s ok.
The goal of traditional meditation is to bring you out of your head and back into your body. The more you can get out of the chatter in your head the more you can live in a place of kindness and self-compassion.
So if the idea of sitting in silence for any period is anxiety inducing, check out these other possibilities.
Write/Journal: Studies have shown that just writing without editing what you are thinking and feeling moves the stress out of our body.
Take a walk: The Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh talks about walking meditation (even wrote a book about it), which is simply slowly walking and coordinating your breath with your steps. You can walk on the street, on a labyrinth or in your living room.
Light a candle: I engage in this meditation in my office. Light a candle and focus on the flame. As you focus on the flame, notice your breath and your body. Simply pay attention.
Laugh: Watch a silly Youtube video, have lunch with a friend who makes you laugh, do something silly.
Eat: With each bite of food, you take remind yourself to slow down and pay attention. Slowly chew, slowly swallow, slowly taste. What flavors do you taste? How does the food feel in your mouth?
Find your Crayons: You don’t have to be a child to color. Coloring naturally narrows your focus and slows your breathing. Using crayons, colored pencils or markers, grab your favorite coloring book and start coloring.
5 senses: This is another one of my favorites. Wherever you are (in the car, at the grocery store, at work) take a breath and do an inventory of your 5 senses. In the moment, what do you see? What do you feel?What do you hear? What do you taste? What do you smell? This meditation brings you immediately in the present moment. I practice this in the car, in the store, and in my office.
Move your Body: Have a dance party in your office or kitchen, go for a walk, go to the gym. Get out of you head and into your body.
Use your Breath: One of my favorites is simple 3 deep breaths. You can also do inhale to a 4 count, hold for 7 and exhale to a count of 8 and repeat 4 times.
You don’t have to do these practices for 20-30 minutes to get the benefits. It is easier for me to do a few of these throughout the day for short periods of time rather than one for 20-30 minutes (think in seconds, not minutes).You can experiment with what works best for you. Remember the practice is about bring more room for kindness and compassion in your life so be kind, be curious and be mindful.