Most of us have heard about the health benefits of practicing meditation – it helps reduce anxiety, increase self-awareness, practice kindness, and even improve tolerance around physical pain. But how do you meditate when you hate meditating?
Well, you’re in luck! Because what many people don’t realize is that there are plenty of ways to meditate. You just have to figure out which versions are best for you.
Meditation is simply doing something that encourages a heightened state of awareness or consciousness. There are both formal and informal ways to do this.
A more formal example is what comes to mind when many of us think of meditation: sitting cross-legged on a beach, eyes closed, breathing deeply and emptying all of the thoughts in your mind.
But it doesn’t always have to be this way.
You can bring the mental health benefits of meditation into your life by engaging in other mindful activities that may be better suited for you.
Move More Slowly on Purpose
Many of us are constantly busy, always in a rush, always working to cross the next item off of our to do list so we can move onto the next item.
We rarely take the time to slow down, because we think we don’t have the time.
But we do.
The next time you’re walking to work, purposefully move more slowly. Put one foot in front of the other more intentionally, and challenge yourself to take your time.
Or try it while washing the dishes. Listen to the water running from the sink, smell the bubbles from the soap, feel them on your fingers, and move through the experience more slowly. See what it brings up for you.
Integrate mindfulness into activities you already do
You can choose to “meditate,” or deepen your sense of awareness in any moment. For example, we all have to eat.
The next time you sit down for a meal, pay close attention to all of your senses, and become more aware of the different aspects of your experience.
Before you put the food in your mouth, think about where it came from, how it got to your plate, and all of the energy it took to get from a seed, or across the world, or the ocean, to where you are in that moment.
And take a closer look. What are the colors of your dish? The different textures you see? Maybe light is reflecting on your food in a way that you wouldn’t have noticed before.
Then, when you eat, How does it feel when it’s in your mouth? What does the food sound like as you chew it? And as you swallow? Pay attention to your body and the ways in which it changes as you continue eating.
Listen to a guided meditation
This is one of my favorite ways to meditate, because it’s so accessible, and also very effective.
All you have to do is search for whatever kind of guided meditation you’re looking for on spotify or youtube. Just type in “guided meditation” with another keyword, such as “anxiety” or “self esteem,” and there is a plethora to choose from. Here are a few of my favorites:
And, there are plenty of apps that offer a variety of guided meditations, like Calm or even the Peloton app.
The key word here is guided. When many people think of meditation, they assume you have to eliminate your thoughts and empty your mind. However, I have found that having some kind of imagery to guide you through is more effective, and frankly, more enjoyable.
Focus on your Breathing
We hear this so much, and for good reason – focusing on your breath is a great way to get out of your mind (AKA the nonstop chatter of thoughts) and into your body.
When we breathe, we are automatically engaging in the present moment.
And, we are always breathing, so every moment is an opportunity to meditate on our breath, simply by focusing on the way it feels inside our bodies.
Count to 5 as you breathe in, then count to 5 as you breathe out. That’s all it takes to start to focus on your breathing.
Try out a class
Maybe you’ve tried meditating on your own, and you’re intrigued. If you want to try and delve a little deeper, signing up for a meditation class is a great place to start. There is something about the energy of others around you that heightens the experience. And having the accountability helps too!
Before Covid, the Rubin Museum of Art held meditation classes every Wednesday; they are currently hosting online meditation classes.
There are endless ways to practice meditation and mindfulness. If what you tried hasn’t worked, try something else!
The more you practice, the more you will strengthen your meditation muscle, and the easier it gets.