I’ve accepted that meditation is hard for me. I’m not great at sitting still and letting my mind clear and only focusing on my breath. I’ll continue to practice and hope that my three minute meditations can eventually, with practice, turn into 20 minute meditations. In the meantime, I’ve embraced there are plenty of ways to clear my mind from all the daily chaos and letting it truly rest. If you struggle with meditation but are looking for ways to rest your mind, here are some alternative methods to try:
Fiction reading is meditative because it truly allows your mind to escape to a different reality. The plot and characters consume you and you leave your world and enter a brand new one each time you pick up the book. This allows your mind to take a break from your own thoughts, problems, stresses. You will find the act of sitting still, slowing down and quieting yourself truly restorative.
Yoga can be meditative. When you focus on your breath while holding a pose, it’s impossible to think about anything else. The mind is present and clear. Running is similar–the focus is completely on your breath, your pace, your strides. All exercise (team sports too!) truly allows your mind to focus on movement, coordination & anticipation–allowing it to truly rest from any stress and brain chatter.
Figure something out or solve a problem. When tinkering with a new gadget, app, tool or game, the mind truly clears. You completely focus on that tinkering process and commit to figuring out the solution. Try to find something that helps you enter a zone of problem solving where you are more focused on finding the solution than consumed with your thoughts or stresses. Ideas to try: assemble furniture, edit photos in Photoshop, try a brain game app, fix something that’s broken, finish a crossword puzzle, or reorganize a space.
Work With Your Hands
Coloring, painting, beading, knitting, woodworking, crafting, scrapbooking, playing music–it’s all meditative. Doing these kinds of things allows you to truly zone out. The repetitive nature of working with your hands allows your mind to focus on what you’re creating, not on the clutter of your thoughts. Hours can pass and it can feel like minutes. I call it entering the “Creative Zone” which is so important for reasons I explain in this post.
Spend Time with an Animal
Animals are the best at being in the present moment, and being around that is contagious. Spend time with an animal–the energy animals give off is peaceful and healing. Try to lay quiet with your pet and feel the soothing energy the two of you create together.
It’s impossible to actually think about anything when you’re in the midst of belting out your favorite tune. It’s a true escape–and hard to feel anything other than euphoric while singing. According to scientists, singing is great for your mental health. There’s evidence that endorphins and oxytocin are two chemicals released from singing and when combined together, they can bring pleasure and alleviate stress, according to TIME. So go ahead and sing your entire favorite tune–even better join a singing group. Stacy Horn, author of Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing With Others writes:
Group singing is cheaper than therapy, healthier than drinking, and certainly more fun than working out. It is the one thing in life where feeling better is pretty much guaranteed. Even if you walked into rehearsal exhausted and depressed, by the end of the night you’ll walk out high as a kite on endorphins and good will.
Go for a walk–without your phone. Slow down, this is not a race. Focus on your posture, your feet connecting to the ground, the rhythm of your stride, your arms swaying. Be aware of your body and the way it moves and feels. Find a pace that feels comfortable and relaxing. Focus your attention on your breath while counting your steps or repeating a mantra.
Go to the Movies
This option is specifically different from watching Netflix at home. When you go to the cinema, you physically put yourself in space where you commit to entering an alternative reality. The surround sound, the darkness, the big screen, all help you escape and allow your mind to check out. When you watch a movie at home it’s possible to still distract yourself with your phone, laptop, laundry that needs to be done, and more. So GO! to the movies and allow yourself to get lost in the another world. Don’t forget the popcorn.
Sit in the Grass
Sit in a quiet shady spot in the grass and lay on your back. Watch the clouds go by. Look for shapes like you did when you were a kid. Watch how the wind moves the trees’ leaves. Listen to the singing birds, feel the temperature of the day. When your mind starts to chatter again, make it stop and refocus on the subtleties of your surroundings. Each time your mind wanders, bring it right back to what is happening around you.
Visualize Your Life
When it’s difficult to meditate by only focusing on your breath, try meditating on specific moments you wish to manifest in your life. If you wish to find love, visualize yourself walking down the street with a future partner, imagine the way he/she smells, envision the way you will laugh together and how you will feel with him/her at your side. Whatever stresses might exist in your life, visualize it no longer being an issue. For example, if it’s car trouble, visualize yourself driving a new, beautiful, problem-free car; imagine placing your groceries in the trunk and sitting behind the wheel while driving off to your destination without issue.
We all experience endless mind-racing and the need for our brains to take a real break. Alternatives to meditation can benefit us all, and lead to a more mindful existence, better health and overall happiness. Try one of the above ideas, and write in the comments your favorite way to let your mind rest.
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