There are few things as simple and as powerful as meditation when it comes to improving your life in dramatic ways. Studies have found that a regular meditative practice can help you deal with stress and anxiety, cultivate compassion, and can even help you live longer. Whatever difficulties arise in your life — whether physical, emotional, or spiritual — meditation can help you to work through and overcome them.
Establishing your own meditative practice may seem intimidating, but it’s as easy as breathing. Here are seven ways to fit meditation into your daily life.
1. Focus on Your Breathing
One of the easiest ways to bring meditation into your daily life is to do breathing practices. This can be done anywhere and anytime. You don’t need any tools; you’re breathing already, so the only thing you’re doing differently is paying attention to your body. Pay attention to the way it feels as your lungs expand and contract. Breathe deeply into your belly. Count each breath until you reach ten and then begin again. When you notice your mind has wandered to other topics, gently return to your breath. Doing this for just a few minutes each day has been proven to have immensely positive effects on your health.
2. Schedule a Time for Your Practice
The best way to build a habit is by incorporating it into your daily routine. Once you’ve committed to meditating even for just a few minutes each day, choose a time. The more you do it, the easier it becomes to stick to your schedule until it’s simply a part of your routine and you don’t even have to think about it. If your daily routine is in flux and choosing an exact time doesn’t work for you, don’t stress. Zen Habits says it’s just as effective to choose a trigger that tells you it’s time to meditate. Waking up or getting ready for bed could be your trigger. The important thing is to build time to meditate into your day, like all of the other parts of your daily routine.
3. Start Small and Grow
You don’t have to start your meditation practice with hour long sessions that leave you feeling more frustrated than you began. It’s better to start with short sessions, under five minutes in the beginning. With time your practice may grow to longer sessions, and that’s great. Just keep in mind that it’s also okay for your meditative practice to take place in short bursts. There are so many different approaches you can take to your meditative practice. You can focus on your breathing, like above, or focus on an object or abstract quality you’d like to improve in yourself. Loving-kindness meditations are especially useful for cultivating your own sense of compassion towards yourself and others.
4. Turn Mindless Tasks into Mindfulness Meditation
Zen monks in Japan use simple tasks as a way to focus their meditative practice. Instead of dreading activities like doing the dishes or sweeping the floors, think of them as an expression of your desire for a harmonious environment. Be present with it. Most of us let our minds wander all over the place when we’re doing tasks that don’t require our full and active attention. Try focusing on the actions you’re doing. When you’re washing dishes, feel the water running over your hands, the texture of the soap and of the dishes themselves. When your mind moves to other things — your crush, your favorite TV show, or tomorrow’s meeting at the office — just bring it back to the task at hand.
5. Take a Wellness Walk in Nature
Spending time outdoors has many benefits for your health, and you can compound this by going for meditative wellness walks. It’s easy to do and can be done in ten minutes or less. You can turn your walk to work or to lunch into a meditative walk by following a few simple steps:
- Turn your phone on silent and put it away so it doesn’t disturb you.
- Tune into your breathing to center yourself as you’re walking.
- Notice your physical sensations: the way the sun feels on your skin, or the way the breeze moves in your hair.
- Listen to the sounds around you: birds singing, the rustling of leaves, or whatever other sounds your location has to share with you.
By taking in your environment instead of ignoring it and keeping yourself pent up in your own mental space, you’ll feel much more relaxed by the time you get to where you’re going! If you want something a little bit more structured, you can try this walking meditation from Berkeley.
6. Practice Gratitude
Gratitude meditations give you the opportunity to reflect on the positive things in your life and, in doing so, help you to reduce toxic emotions and improve wellbeing. The simple act of thinking about three positive things that happened in your day as you get ready for bed can shift your perspective over time, making it easier to let go of negative experiences. A popular approach is to keep a gratitude journal. Even writing in your journal just three times a week is proven to improve outlook and reduce negativity in most people. In addition to giving you time to reflect on the blessings in your life, it also gives you a physical record of all the good things that have happened for you to look back at.
7. Use an App
We live in a time of unprecedented access to tools that can augment and improve our meditative practices. While there’s something to be said for the occasional digital detox, there are a whole variety of apps that can help you to create healthy meditative practices. Don’t be afraid to try them. Whether you need daily reminders, guided meditations, or want help sleeping at night, there is an app that can help you to deepen your meditative process.