Meditation isn’t the only way to practice mindfulness so if meditation isn’t your thing, you can take your pick from these three.
Disclaimer: Posts may contain affiliate links. We earn commissions if you shop through the links on this page. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. For more info, read our disclosure policy.
Mindfulness is supremely important to mental health but meditation isn’t the only way to practice mindfulness if it isn’t your cup of tea. Jay Shifman writes about three other things you can do if you want to inject more mindfulness in your life.
“So, you must love meditating.”
I understand why people ask me that when they find out what I do, and what I’m passionate about. Meditation, once popular only in hippie circles and Indian ashrams, has gained buzzword status in this era of more conscious living we currently find ourselves.
Meditation is so trendy, it’s become synonymous with mindfulness. But much like the mathematical principal that all squares are rectangles yet not all rectangles are squares, so too is the relationship between meditation and mindfulness.
Meditation is a wonderful way to practice mindfulness for those who can do so effectively. But it’s not the only way. And between you and me, I actually don’t enjoy meditation at all.
Meditation is difficult! Countless people each day struggle with achieving a beneficial state of meditation. Even for some of those who do, mediation doesn’t accomplish the degree of mindfulness they’re hoping for. And too many of those folks end up throwing in the towel, believing that mindfulness simply isn’t for them. I know, because I used to be one of them.
For a long time, I didn’t practice mindfulness at all. I can meditate, that was never the problem, I just didn’t enjoy it. I’d often find myself nodding off before I achieved a beneficial level of consciousness and calm. And I didn’t get from it what I’ve since found in other forms of mindfulness.
So if you’ve tried meditation and it isn’t what you want it to be, or if you’re just looking for a way to mix it up a bit, here are a few suggestions of other mindfulness exercises to try.
Daily Check Ins
This is the easiest one to do but one of the more challenging ones to do well. The tasks are simple enough.
Step 1: Pull out a pen and a piece of paper or open a note on your phone.
Step 2: Write “I feel”.
Step 3: Complete the sentence.
Step 4: Repeat until you can no longer finish the sentence.
The idea behind this is pretty simple. Countless emotions flood our brain each day: happy, sad, scared, surprised.
Some emotions are expected, some stay with us for years, and others come without much notice at all. Like a train passing an empty countryside, a vast majority of our daily thoughts are processed instantly and forgotten. Others, however, lodge deep in either our conscious awareness or subconscious psyche.
If this proverbial garden is left unattended, some of these thoughts can blossom into beautiful flowers while others grow into thorny vines. Without taking stock of what’s growing, it’s impossible to keep the roses and dispense with the weeds.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite as easy as it sounds.
It’s important to push through your natural initial reluctance when embarking on this exercise.
You may feel silly, or hesitant to admit some of your base-level thoughts even when you know no one else will read them. But the more you practice doing so, the deeper you’ll be able to dip into your psyche. The more you practice this simple exercise, your list will grow longer and, when done correctly, you’ll find thoughts and emotions coming to you that you weren’t aware of. You’ll begin to scrape the bottom of that well, so to speak, which is your subconscious.
Some of what comes up may surprise you. Some may even upset you. But when exposed, you can address them whether by yourself or with the help of a therapist. But you can’t do so if you don’t know that these thoughts and feelings are there.
Another alternative to meditation as a practice of mindfulness is to conduct daily reviews.
There are only two steps to this one, but like the last exercise, this one too is tougher than it sounds.
Step 1: When you climb into bed for the day, take out your phone or a notebook.
Step 2: Walk back through your day, acknowledging the highs, the lows, and everything in between. When you’re done, give your day a rating. You can choose a 1-10 scale or a 1-5 scale. But be consistent!
Our moods are not permanent, but it’s easy to feel like they are. Stuck in a funk, our despair blinds us. We believe the lies of depression and mania alike in that way: we tell ourselves it will always be this way. And in doing so we lose track of the moments that disagree with that narrative and squander the ability to be present in our lives.
Even the best days have brief moments of unhappiness just as the worst have moments of joy. But without radical honesty, a mindfulness term that implies authentic reality beyond our preconceptions and revisions, we overlook those moments, often without even noticing it. Our brains prefer to work on linear paths. Anything that diverts from the story we tell ourselves is left out for cleanliness. Our minds love uncluttered narrative and, like a good editor, will smooth over the pieces that clutter that chronicle.
Daily reviews help with this. They keep us grounded in reality. Our stories aren’t as clean as our brains want them to be. Instead they are more like the Hot Wheels tracks we all built as kids. They twist and turn and double back on themselves before lurching forward again. It’s too easy to get caught up in our narrative instead of staying present in our lives and accepting the moments as they come.
Naturally, the goal is to work toward a level of mindfulness that enables us to stay present and experience each moment in time. But we can’t move forward toward that goal without first reviewing our past.
Finally, having a daily rating can serve as the proof we need on those days we start to believe the forever lies of extreme moods. As the saying goes, numbers don’t lie. One look at our reviews can be the reminder we need that our moods are not forever and by focusing on our Mental Health we can return to the comfortable state of stability.
Deep Breathing (Aka. Breathing Reset)
Focusing on our breath can interrupt our thoughts and press the proverbial reset button.
Step 1: Sit in a comfortable position.
Step 2: Close your eyes.
Step 3: Take a deep breath down into your belly equal to roughly fifty percent of your breathing capacity.
Step 4: Hold it for seven to ten seconds.
Step 5: Let it out.
Step 6: Repeat this exercise to roughly seventy-five percent of your capacity.
Step 7: Repeat the exercise again to roughly ninety-five percent of your capacity.
Step 8: After letting out this last breath and finding your focus is now solely on your breathing, allow your thoughts to return and be cognizant of what does.
Scientific studies have found benefits of deep breathing including pain reduction, lowering blood pressure, and stress elimination. Individuals suffering through a panic attack are often instructed to focus on their breathing and attempt deep breathing exercises. But for our mindfulness practices, the most important benefit is its ability to interrupt our thoughts.
Most, if not all, meditation practices include breath work, so this tip does blur the line a bit. But while in those exercises the breathing is a means toward the end, here it is that end.
When undertaking this exercise, the focus is the pause; the white page that allows you to begin again. With that in mind, try this particular exercise when you feel overwhelmed and simply need to press pause.
Disclaimer: If you have breathing problems or medical issues, consult your doctor before undertaking any breathing exercises and discontinue doing this exercise if you feel any shortness of breath or discomfort.
None of these are easy right off the bat. The first two will challenge you mentally; the third will do so physically as well. But the advantages to doing it right are numerous.
Mindfulness will make you feel lighter, more capable of happiness, imbue clarity in your life, and make you decidedly less tense. Practicing mindfulness has allowed me to better handle anxiety, depression and OCD. I believe in it strongly and recommend it to all my clients.
I want to hear from you! Do you engage in meditation to practice mindfulness? Or do you do something else?
Reach out! You can learn more about me at https://campsite.bio/cys_jay.