For many of us, meditation can seem so out of reach. Where in these busy lives we lead can we find 20 minutes, two times a day to sit in complete stillness?! In fact, HOW do we even do that? The good news is, there are so many techniques and ways to meditate that don’t involve carving out a huge chunk of time from your day.
Mindfulness and meditation
Meditation can really be as simple as bringing attention, awareness and mindfulness to your day, your surroundings and your movements. So for you, this could look like, taking a minute to look and appreciate the leafy green trees on your walk, or perhaps really taking a conversation in without using your phone or thinking about what’s for dinner.
Studies show that mindfulness and meditation has an ability to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain. Further research published in the Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience journal has also shown that mindfulness meditation, in contrast to just focusing on the breath only, can reduce cases of anxiety. The research found that these cases seem to be mediated through the brain regions associated with those self-referential (‘me-centric’ thoughts).
I loved this article in The Guardian, which talks about a fantastic program for children to encourage daily mindfulness and meditation practice. Every morning at school they sit for just two minutes and focus on the breath. Teachers have noticed a vast improvement in the children’s mood, focus, and energy levels. So simple but truly groundbreaking for our little humans.
How ‘breath’ fits into mindfulness and meditation
While breath is not the only part of mediation – it is an amazing starting point. You see, as part of our autonomic nervous (the one that controls bodily functions, breath, heartbeat and digestive processes) we have the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.
The sympathetic nervous system is activated in that ‘fight or flight response’. You know the one – where you might feel like you’re not safe on a dark street or you have a big presentation, and so, your body starts preparing to fight the fear or run from it. Unfortunately, we seem to be in this state too often these days, and for the wrong reasons.
The parasympathetic nervous system is our ‘rest and digest’ system. It conserves energy as it slows the heart rate, increases intestinal and gland activity, and relaxes muscles in the gastrointestinal tract. We want to be in this space as much as possible!
So how do we get there? The simple answer. Deep belly breathing. Yep, we take a big deep breath down to the depths of our gut and then we release slowly. A loud sigh helps with this. Your body can’t be in two systems at once. So when you catch yourself taking short, sharp, shallow breaths then you can bring yourself back to a state of calm with some DEEP breaths.
So on that note, let’s run through some of the easiest ways to bring mindfulness and breath to your day. You don’t need fancy fan-dangle contraptions and more ‘things’ to do this. Just one minute here and there will add to your daily recommendation of 10-15 minutes. It’s that simple!
How to Meditate in One Minute, 15 Different ways.
- Stirring a risotto: I love this one. Really it’s the opportunity to be mindful for 30 or so minutes. But if you can do just one minute where you stay present as you stir then you’re onto something good. While you’re here, you might like to check out my Pumpkin Spinach and Brown Rice Risotto.
- Washing your dishes by hand: For some, this is a nightmare task but I think Mr Miyaki from The Karate Kid was onto something with his whole ‘wax on’, ‘wax off’ analogy. If washing the dishes is a daily task for you then get your zen on and start taking deep belly breaths as you go.
- Showering: We can often jump in and out of the shower in a mad rush. Try instead standing under the running water and focusing on the sounds of the water, the feeling of it on your skin. Take deep breaths for just one minute. That’s all you need.
- Sitting in stillness: Ahh this old chestnut. But really. How often do you just sit? No laptop, no phone, no TV, no sound. Try it, this simple act of stillness can bring you right back to the present moment. You can even do it at the traffic lights, on an aeroplane or while you’re waiting in the checkout line. My challenge to you is to try to be so zoned out that someone gives you a little nudge forward!
- Reading: This is a great past time for me because you really can’t do anything else but sit in quiet, breath and take in the pages of a beautiful book. One of my faves is The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking, a great read to remind us to enjoy life’s pleasures. Check out my podcast with Meik here.
- Box breath: For anyone new to meditation this is the perfect starter. Simply sit where you are, take a deep breath in for 4 counts, hold the breath for 4 counts, release the breath for 4 counts and hold again for 4 counts. Do this 3 times and notice how much calmer you feel.
- Walking: This could be standing up from your desk and pacing up and down the hallway, or better yet, walking around the block, taking the rubbish to the bins, walking to the bus stop, getting the washing off the hills hoist. Whatever you do and wherever you walk, aim to do it mindfully.
- Child’s Pose: This is a beautiful yoga pose that can be done by virtually anyone. If working from home (or even in your office at work – you may want to explain it though!) make your way to the floor. Neel on your back feet, rest your head on the ground and your hands by your legs. Sit in this pose for one minute. This pose is famed for its calming effect and ability to bring back child-like relaxation.
- Cleaning: Not only can cleaning be meditative, it’s also a great way to shift negative or stagnant energy. To avoid overwhelming yourself, pick one small task at a time and do a quick spot clean.
- Journalling: This could be as simple as starting your day with five things you’re grateful for. According to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences, people who practice gratitude may experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than others who don’t.
- Have your morning coffee in silence: How often do you do this? I mean REALLY sit in silence? If you’re like me you might make/buy your morning coffee and then churn through emails. Instead, let’s try just sitting and enjoy those first few delicious sips.
- Listen to a song the whole way through without doing anything else: Pick your favourite song and just sit there. Enjoy, Soak it up, and look if you want to dance, I’m open to that as well!
- Stand in the grass or the ocean: Place your feet firmly in the grass and ground yourself. This concept of ‘earthing’ is so important for us humans. We spend our days living through technology, but how often do you truly sit with nature?
- Stretch: this is a great one if you work behind a desk. The act of stretching is great from a physical perspective as well. Set yourself a timer and every 25 minutes, stand for 1 minute – stretch your shoulders, back and legs. Take deep breaths, re-calibrate and then get back to it.
- Dance: When was the last time you popped on an absolute banging tune and went for it? My favourite is anything from Michael Jackson. Having a boogie with my little man or even alone instantly brings me back to a child-like state. I challenge you to dance like no one’s watching once a week and notice the incredible endorphin rush you get!
Want to learn more about mindfulness and meditation? I’ve got a bunch of awesome podcasts on the topic!
- Show #82: I talk to Dr. Elise Bialylew on Mindfulness.
- Show #69: Meditation expert, Tom Cronin talks about how to find stillness in a busy world.
- Show #79: Dr. Stephen Sinatra explains how to achieve High Vibration Living.
- Show #74: Dr. Karen Phillips talks about the power of mindfulness in hypnotherapy.
Did any of these techniques resonate with you? Let me know in the comments below!