Admit it…you’ve tried meditating a time or two. After so many magazines and TV programs have touted the benefits of meditation, you figured it wouldn’t hurt to turn down the lights, cross your legs and take a few deep breaths. Maybe you’ve even chanted Ommmm because it seemed like that’s what you were supposed to do. Perhaps you were even able to achieve a brief moment of relaxation before you fell asleep, your back tightened, your kids needed you or you just got too bored to keep going.
The benefits of meditation and relaxation are many, but sitting with your legs crossed and chanting may just not be for you. That’s okay, don’t give up! There are many ways to achieve many of the perks of meditation while engaging in other activities. Here are six ways to meditate without saying Om.
Walking, running, or cross country skiing are all great ways to engage in a form of meditation. While your body is engaged in a steady form of movement, you can concentrate on your breath and placing one foot in front of the other. During the first few minutes of your walk, you may find your brain circling around the same old worries and events of the day, but as you sink deeper into the movement and notice your breath as you move, you can begin to quiet your mind and relax. Two or three times a week is a great start and as you begin to achieve relaxation, you may find that you want to do it more!
Keeping Your Hands Busy
Monks have been known to make mandalas, beautiful pieces of circular art made traditionally out of sand. Working for hours on a mandala, only to allow the wind to blow it away when finished helps remind them of the impermanence of life and the beauty inherent in things that are temporary. Don’t worry if you don’t have a sandbox handy – you can engage in other activities to achieve the same benefits. Jigsaw puzzles help keep your mind distracted with finding the next piece while the rest of you can relax into the simple task and quiet all distracting thoughts. Other activities can include knitting, crocheting and even getting out a coloring book and coloring for a bit. All of these activities encourage contemplation and relaxation.
Believe it or not, many types of housework can become a form of meditation. Washing the dishes by hand, scrubbing floors and polishing silverware are all repetitive tasks that help quiet the unnecessary chatter in your mind and allow you to sink into the job before you. If you can think of these chores as meditation instead of a burden the next time you do them, you may come to enjoy these moments of quiet.
While it is doubtful that Buddhist monks use the Xbox to achieve a meditative state, some studies have shown that games focusing upon rhythm and repetition can actually induce a state of mind similar to meditation. Classic games like Tetris and Pong can accomplish this, as well as racing games. While these games may help induce a trance-like state, it is important to take regular breaks so as not to induce eye strain.
Taking your dog for a walk and petting your cat have both been shown to lower heart rate and cortisol levels in individuals. Individuals who have pets generally live longer than those who do not, and having a furry companion also has been shown to make people happier in general. If it’s not possible to have a pet in your home, volunteering at a shelter can have similar effects.
We couldn’t wrap this article up without mentioning the relaxation benefits of inverting on a Teeter Hang Ups! A few minutes of inversion at a gentle angle (between 40 and 60 degrees) can stimulate blood flow, give your body a nice stretch and help you relax at the end of a busy day. You can even incorporate a gentle rocking motion as you invert which can feel great.