Read any blog or article on wellness these days and there will surely be a reference or recommendation to meditate. It’s for good reason. There are plenty of proven benefits related to mental health and wellness — reduced stress and anxiety, better sleep, even altered grey matter and improved memory.
I’m not here to talk about the benefits of mediation though, or even to teach you how to meditate (though I’ve attempted that before).
I’m here because I have a confession: despite talking about the benefits and evening encouraging others to mediate, I have always struggled to maintain a practice myself. Sure, I’ve gone a few weeks here and there and always felt some benefit, but most days I just don’t take the initiative to give myself the time.
Maybe you’re like me: well-aware of the benefits of meditation, regularly exposed to positive remarks about its life-changing impacts, and yet unable to maintain a solid practice.
I’m not here to say that any of these suggestions can completely make up for the lack of meditating, but having some sort of meditative practice has definitely levelled up my own experience.
So, let’s get into a few suggestions for alternatives to meditation if you just can’t get into meditation yourself.
Starting out with something that is not far off from and often incorporates meditation. However, combining the physical aspect (the asanas) can make it easier to keep up with the more meditative parts.
My real leap forward with yoga came when I really began to see it more as a mental than physical practice. Sure, you can certainly get fit from yoga, but slower-paced and more relaxing sessions with repetitive motions can really have the biggest impact.
Of course exercise is good for your mental health, but I find that running (or walking) gives me a chance to zone out and let my mind go empty. I’ll add a couple of caveats: 1. Safety is a priority of course, and if you’re running in highly trafficked areas you need to remain aware and conscious of what’s happening around you; and 2. I don’t necessarily find hard training days to be meditative — this is something I mainly get from slower-paced rest days.
Running may not be for you, and you might find another form of physical activity allows you to really zone out. I find the repetitive action of running is what works for me, but focus on finding what works for you.
Learning to empty your mind and let racing thoughts go is a tough thing. This is where journalling can have a huge impact. A daily brain dump on paper can get things out of your head and let them live somewhere else.
Something I’ve gotten more into recently is journalling in an audio format through recording voice memos on my phone. I generally go for a walk and talk into my headphone mic for 10-15 minutes to get my thoughts out. This adds a different element to journalling in that filtering your words is a bit tougher while speaking than while writing (something I find difficult to avoid).
4. Drawing/Painting/Colouring/Knitting — something with your hands.
The theme here is not creating something, but rather working with your hands, allowing yourself to zone out, and just letting go. This is why adult colouring books are so popular these days. This builds on the theme of using some physical action that requires little thought or attention to help clear the mind.
5. Breathing Exercises
This may fall into the realm of meditation, but it’s something you may find easier to incorporate into your life. You can start off simple with counting out and holding deep breaths or move onto something a bit more defined, such as alternate nostril breathing.
Breathing exercises can help calm you in moments of anxiety or help you get back on track when your day gets off course. Taking the time to breathe deeply on a regular basis will help you recognize shallow breathing habits — something many of us are guilty of.