Mini Meditations You Can Do Anywhere
When many people think about mindfulness and meditation, they might think they have to clear room in the schedule, find a comfortable cushion, and camp out for a while. That might work occasionally, especially with ample free time, but those with hectic schedules (a.k.a. everybody) will likely push meditation far down on a to-list instead, despite plenty of research about its benefits.
Fortunately, it’s often much more effective to take short breaks from a busy day — even just one or two minutes can help — and pepper the day with meditation moments instead. Here are some mini-meditations worth fitting in:
1. Try Alternate Nostril Breathing
Deep breathing is often a part of a meditation or yoga practice, but some people find that trying to focus on breath just brings up more distracting thoughts. This is a shortcut to getting in your happy place.
First, exhale completely, then inhale deeply. On your next exhale, gently place an index finger against your right nostril to close it off. Inhale, then release that nostril and close off the left. Exhale, then inhale, through that side. Repeat for 15 rounds.
Focusing on the technique can help to calm a harried mind, and also prompts deep breathing, which has been shown to engage the parasympathetic nervous system — your body’s natural de-stress response.
2. Taste One Single Bite
In the land of drive-thru's and protein bars, it’s pretty easy to inhale your food as a way to fuel up quickly, and to check your email while you’re at it. But bringing more mindfulness into your meals and snacks can yield tremendous benefits, including a deeper appreciation for the taste and texture of your food.
You don’t need to become a Zen master at every meal — just start with your next bite. For example, it might be an almond. Pop it in your mouth and notice the tiny ridges along the surface, and the way it breaks apart when you crunch it. As you chew, focus on the taste, and close your eyes to fully experience that flavor.
Chew for longer than you normally would, which could help you get in the habit of eating slower and chewing more thoroughly — strategies that aid digestion, and make you feel full faster.
3. Listen to Those Birds
An amazing thing happens when you’re outside and become fully conscious of the sounds around you — birds usually start singing at that exact moment. At least, that’s what it feels like, because so often, our thoughts are too loud to fully take in the sounds around us.
Take a listening break instead. Whether you’re in the fresh air or stuck in a meeting, take a deep inhale, exhale, and then listen to the sounds around you as if they’re part of a radio show. Inside, you may hear heating vents kicking on, pens clicking, or people chatting down the hallway. Outside, it could be the way the wind is passing through the trees or insects buzzing just out of sight.
Listening connects us to what’s around, and may actually make us better communicators because we’re more engaged and present during conversations.
4. Do a Body Scan
Many times, people hold tension in certain parts of their bodies without being fully aware of that tightness. After time, symptoms like a headache, shoulder pain, or pinched neck become a chronic issue. Head off that progression by regularly “checking in” with your body to see where strain might be developing.
As with other mindfulness practices, kick off your mini-meditation with a deep inhale and exhale. Then, begin to feel each part of your body and consciously relax them along the way. For example, start at your toes — bend and flex them, then think of a word that helps the relaxation process like “soften” or “rest.” Continue to your feet, then your ankles, and so on.
This technique is especially good to do on very stressful days, so you can feel more fully where you’re holding tension. You may discover that your hips feel like a cement block, or that your lower back is more frozen than you thought. Gently, “invite” those areas to soften and relax.
In general, any moment of awareness can be incredibly helpful for slowing down a busy brain and reducing stress. Whether you try a few of these tactics each day, or just focus on doing one regularly, gentle practice can make the mini-meditations into a beneficial habit rather than one more to-do item.