Not Meditating? Try these simple alternatives to meditation for all the health and wellbeing benefits without sitting still
I love the idea of meditation and mindfulness. I see how much they benefit others and I try, really hard. But I am just not good at sitting still. The minute I try to pause my mind springs into action. It comes up with a huge list of things I simply must attend to. Inaction is impossible. I’m defeated before I have started! And I know I’m not the only one. I have spoken to many people who would love to meditate. But they struggle to find the time and the peace and quiet, not to mention the calm personality that would make it possible. This is why I started the blog Not Meditating.
While meditating is great, it’s not for everyone. I frequently experience anxiety, which is sometimes made worse by my attempts to meditate. I know people who even experience panic attacks when they. However, because I know meditating is good for me, I sometimes feel guilty for not meditating.
This is why I began a search for ways to receive all the benefits of meditation while not meditating. I found that there are many ways to access a calmer, quieter mind and a sense of inner peace that don’t involve sitting still.
So, if you would like a practice that suits you as an alternative to meditation, or a compliment to your current meditation practice, read on for some ideas.
Many studies have concluded that being in nature has many health benefits. Dr. Miles Richardson, head of psychology at the University of Derby, has found that spending time in nature has a range of health benefits including:
- Reducing hypertension
- Increasing vitality
- Boosting mood
- Reducing anxiety
- Improving mental fatigue
- Increasing life satisfaction and happiness
A Stanford-led study also found that walking in nature provided better relief from depression than walking in an urban environment.
So consider spending a little time each day in a natural environment wherever possible. This could be hiking somewhere beautiful or eating lunch in a park. Even taking in a natural view can help.
Play is, of course, enjoyable, but it can also have benefits to our health and wellbeing. In his book, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, Stuart Brown states, “I don’t think it is too much to say that play can save your life…Life without play is a grinding, mechanical existence organized around doing the things necessary for survival. Play is the… basis of all art, games, books, sports, movies, fashion, fun, and wonder—in short, the basis of what we think of as civilization. Play is the vital essence of life. ‘
Brown mentions dozens of benefits of playing in his book. Play can enhance all areas of our lives from our well-being to our success and our personal relationships. Given that play is beneficial and fun you would think we would all be doing a lot of it. However, in our society, we seem to have been taught that playing, as an adult, is unproductive or lazy. This makes us feel guilty if we play. It’s time to let go of this guilt. Playing is good for us and is one of the things that makes life worth living. Therefore, we should add it to our list of priorities.
So, instead of feeling bad for not meditating consider taking some time to play. Get out the games or sign up for some fun activities and enjoy some playtime.
Whenever we lose ourselves in an absorbing activity our mental activity slows and we forget our worries for a while. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls this state ‘flow’.
We can find this flow state in any absorbing activity or hobby providing that we are doing it for the sake of the activity rather than for some external reward. To find the right hobby or activity for you, focus on finding something you love to do. As long as it absorbs you then it will be a great alternative to meditating.
Exercise is brilliant for our physical and mental well-being. As animals, we are designed to be active so this makes sense. However, for many of us, our modern lives can be a little sedentary.
It is thought that exercise relieves depression because it causes our brains to release feel-good hormones such as endorphins. Exercise can also improve confidence and self-esteem. Getting more exercise doesn’t necessarily mean pounding the pavement or hitting the gym. Simply making an effort to be a little more active is enough. Exercise can be combined with the first two suggestions in this article to double the effect. So take a walk in nature or get outside and play. Alternatively, take part in an active hobby such as conservation or gardening. Be imaginative in the way you exercise so that it becomes something you look forward to rather than a chore.
A lot has been written about the power of gratitude recently and for good reason. Studies suggest that gratitude can benefit us in many ways, from strengthening our immune systems to making us more compassionate to increasing our happiness. Gratitude forces us to think of all the good in our lives and switches our attention away from our problems.
Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D. is a professor of psychology at the University of California and studies and writes about gratitude. He says the practice helps in two ways. Firstly, by making us aware of all that is good in our lives and secondly, by reminding us that a lot of this good comes from other people. This helps us to appreciate others.
Building a gratitude practice is possibly one of the simplest ways to improve our happiness. All you have to do is write down five things you are grateful for every day. You can buy a special notebook to use as a gratitude journal if you choose.
Using our senses
Often when we are stressed and worried we spend a lot of time in our own heads. Meditation helps us to be aware of our thinking and be less attached to our thoughts. An alternative to this is to focus on our senses. This brings us out of our heads and back into our bodies. Many mindfulness practices focus on the sensations we experience doing everyday tasks and this can be really helpful.
Simple practices might include:
- Engaging our sense of hearing by stopping to listen to the birds or focusing on a beautiful piece of music.
- Focusing on our sense of taste whenever we eat or drink.
- Indulging our sense of touch by asking someone for a hug, stroking a pet or even giving ourselves a massage. Other options include taking a hot shower or indulgent bath, paddling in the sea or getting outside and paying attention to the sensations of the sun, wind, rain or snow.
- Focusing on our sense of smell by baking a cake, making a fresh pot of coffee, lighting a scented candle, or spraying our favorite perfume
- Deepening our sense of sight by simply taking a moment to pause sometimes and really look at what is around us.
In our busy lives, we can often neglect our health and wellbeing. Making time to take good care of ourselves can really help us to feel more calm and grounded. Eating well, getting enough sleep and taking time out for pleasurable activities are the cornerstones of good physical and emotional health. What we eat affects our mood as well as our physical bodies. Running on empty, or on caffeine and sugar can play havoc with our psychological health. Being sleep deprived can also negatively affect our mood.
Having a good routine can also enhance our well-being. Rushing around in the morning, or at any time, releases adrenaline into our bodies. Being organized can make us calmer and improve our confidence and self-esteem.
In addition, we should take time to nourish our bodies with warm bubble baths and massages or perhaps a nap. We can also make time for the things that make us feel more confident such as personal grooming and dressing our best.
When our minds’ are full of worries and stress journaling can be an effective way of calming them. Research shows that writing down our worries can help us put them in perspective and also increases our ability to problem solve – both of which reduce stress. Keeping a journal or diary can be a great way of recording our thoughts, feelings, and ideas. Something about the process of writing also seems to help us think more clearly. Keeping a diary can also help us track our moods, which can shed light on what aspects of our lives are causing us stress
Again this is a simple technique. All you need is a notebook and pen and somewhere to keep your journal away from prying eyes. If you are struggling with problems that you are worried about writing down in case anyone sees, you could consider throwing away or burning your writing. This can be a very cathartic process.
Many studies have indicated that yoga is good for physical and emotional health. It has been shown to reduce depression and stress. Yoga is also quite a simple activity to try at home. Even a few minutes a day doing simple poses can help calm the mind. Doing some yoga in the morning can help us wake up and energize us for the day, while an evening yoga routine can prepare us for sleep. There are of course may books, apps and online resources to help you start a yoga practice. There are some great beginners poses available at www.doyouyoga.com. You could also try a class and benefit from having a new social activity, too.
While meditation is often hard for busy minded types, relaxation techniques are easier. Focusing on relaxing our bodies can distract us from unwanted thoughts. Progressive relaxation practices usually involve working through all the parts of the body relaxing each section as you go. A relaxation CD or track can be a great way to wind down at the end of the day. Many people find this leads to better sleep.
Surprisingly, scientists have studied the benefits of prayer. Their conclusions suggest that the practice can improve our self-control, make us nicer, more forgiving and increase trust. More importantly for creating a calmer mind, prayer can offset the negative effects of stress. This is only true if we pray for others, though. So, if you happen to have an inclination towards religion and spirituality, by all means, make praying for others part of your practice.
Other Not meditating Ideas
In conclusion, then there are many ways we can achieve the benefits of meditating by not meditating. We can choose other practices to support our peace, joy, and happiness. We don’t need to feel guilty for not meditating anymore.
There are plenty more alternatives to meditating at the Not Mediating website and in my book. Not Meditating: Finding Peace, Joy and Happiness without Sitting Still
I’d love to hear what makes you feel calm and happy. Please share your techniques in the comments below.
Happy Not Meditating 🙂