When it comes down to healthy habits, there’s no doubt that food and exercise are the big ones. They’re the cornerstones of good health, but once we have those in place, it becomes quite evident that there’s more work to do.
Food and exercise tend to address the physical aspects of vibrancy, energy, and good health both short-term and long-term, but in order to really cultivate what makes up the aspects of our best health ever, we have to dig into the mind a little bit.
After all, the brain is a muscle, and in order to keep those muscles strong, we’ve got to practice a little mental fitness!
Meditation is a fabulous way to tap into this. This form of “brain training” boasts a huge list of benefits, and you’re going to notice it pretty quickly if you get into a solid, consistent practice.
We practically dedicate an entire week to it during our 30-day Happy Body Formula program. At the end of the day, these few minutes we set aside offer us great perspective, calm, and the ability to focus on what is positive in our lives.
1. Mindful music listening
Put on your headphones and pump up the jams. One of most fun ways to tap into your mindful prowess is to listen! Music is often thought of as “background noise.” Perhaps it’s entirely passive.
If you simply turn on the radio and leave it up to someone else what you listen to, you’re robbing yourself of a perfectly good meditative practice.
Do you know the lyrics to the song you’ve now heard 20 times? Have you noticed the progression in which the instruments enter the song? If not, it’s time to listen a little harder.
A good quality pair of headphones will aid you in noticing the smaller details to the song. Listen to an entire album actively if you’re feeling up to it. You could even take a mindful walk as you listen to deepen the experience.
In any case, the goal is to listen like you mean it, especially if most of your listening IS passive. Revisit old favorites or take it yet another step further and put some effort into discovering some new tunes.
2. Do some yoga
Yoga is a simple, accessible way to practice guided meditation. Not only will it exercise your body, but it will exercise your mind! One of the most common hurdles with practicing meditation is the self-discipline it requires.
With yoga, meditation isn’t the primary focus, but mindfulness is. You’ll realize that breathing is the most important part of your movement, and better yet, you’ll have an instructor to keep reminding you of it.
At the beginning of your session, you can set your intention and come back to it throughout to remain mindful. At the end of yoga, you’ll be able to reflect on your practice.
This is a great way to set aside that time with a bit of guidance. Look into free YouTube yoga classes, or sign up with a new student discount at a local studio.
It’s also helpful to look into community classes which are generally free or very affordable. Yoga can be for all fitness levels and budgets.
3. Just breathe
Yeah, it’s simple enough. We really like the two-minute rule, where you just take two to breathe and not do much else. This can be easily used as an intervention method.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, or even when you’re facing a serious sugar craving, the two-minute rule can easily be implemented at any time or any place.
Set a timer so your breathing is pronounced; this moment deserves a punctuated start and end time. 120 seconds feels insignificant and it is in the grand scheme of your 24-hour day, but it is significant.
It’s also hard to make an excuse not to do it, because let’s face it – we’ve all got two minutes. Take this time to let your mind wander as you please, but come back to counting your breaths.
Breathe as deeply as you comfortable can, and feel the pressure wash away.
4. Take a walk
Maybe you’ve already made a daily habit of walking. It’s fantastic for the body and mind. From forest bathing to power walking around the neighborhood, any which way you move is great exercise.
The thing is, we’re pretty distracted walkers. You probably know this if you walk around enough people; take a look at how many pedestrians are staring into the screen instead of what’s in front of them.
Like listening to music, it’s all about how you do it. Leave your phone and any other distractions at home. Take a walk in a place you’re not too familiar with and observe your new surroundings.
During a mindful walk, you’ll see colors more vividly, hear more distinct sounds, and clear your head more efficiently.
You should start in a quiet neighborhood or on a trail, but your mindfulness practice should eventually grant you the ability to even be at peace in a noisy, crowded city. At least, that is the goal!
5. Do your chores
Mundane tasks are overlooked as a valid form of mindfulness, but they are a fantastic opportunity to tap into your inner zen a bit.
These are the times when we are most prone to letting our minds wander which is fine, but once again, a swift shift in the way we approach the mundane can turn something ordinary into something extraordinary.
Cleaning the house, for example, is a great way to just focus on the task at hand. After all, multi-tasking is a myth!
While you’re cleaning up the house, try to tap into the present moment more. Quit thinking about what comes next or your to-do list.
Getting into the habit of doing just ONE thing at a time will bleed into other, less mundane aspects of your life over time, offering you a better ability to be mindful in everything from eating meals to listening to a friend talk.
6. Just meditate
Okay, I know we’re talking alternative methods here, but depending on what’s holding you back, maybe it’s just a matter of shifting perspective and learning to meditate in a new way.
One of the most helpful tools that I’ve used is the Headspace app. It builds you up in three 10-day periods where you’ll learn the basics of meditation beyond “shutting off the brain.” Spoiler alert: that isn’t the point!
The meditations are all guided, and once you move past the beginner sessions, you will have access to more streamlined meditations whether you want to address anxiety, use meditation as a way to sleep better, or meditate while you take a walk.
Many people attempt to meditate with too little prior knowledge and experience, leaving them feeling discouraged by the inability to “not think.” We have to take all the help we can get, and true mindfulness takes a LOT of practice.
That is why consistency is so vital. Headspace will also send you convenient notifications at your preferred time, and that’s one of the main tips I have to offer. If you plan to do something everyday, plan to do it at the same time.
We hope this article has shed some more light on alternative methods of meditation, and how being mindful truly is an exercise that we get stronger at over time!
By finding those quiet spaces in our day, we truly do train our brains and our attention. If you liked this, you might want to check out our feature with stress and mindfulness expert Alessandra Wall who believes in “the art of doing nothing.”
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