If you’re feeling stressed out, a little meditation may be just what you need. It doesn’t take hours or tons of practice to start gaining the benefits of this calming exercise. You can reap all the mind-soothing rewards in as little as five minutes, says David Denis, a Toronto-based naturopathic doctor, psychotherapist and mediation expert. And perhaps most surprising? Meditating doesn’t always mean sitting somewhere quiet with your eyes closed.
What you’re doing when you meditate, in whatever form, is stepping out of your day long enough to reorient your mind and body, says Denis. “This allows you to return with renewed perspective, focus and energy, instead of just being stuck in a cycle of stress.”
Here, Denis offers three simple ways to add some meditative time to your day.
Take stock. At day’s end, write down everything you did: brushing your teeth, making school lunches, commuting, meetings, the gym, phone calls. Next to each, write whether the activity was replenishing, depleting or neutral. Some things will be obvious, while moments that nourish may surprise you—such as the sight of that neatly packed lunch or the daily hellos you exchange at the coffee shop. The goal is to insert more nourishing moments into your days, while turning depleting ones around (you can’t avoid the commute, but you can make it more calming by swapping talk radio for a book on tape or a podcast).
Schedule a mini meditation. Get comfortable wherever you are (sitting in your office chair or standing in your kitchen, for instance), and check in with your mental state. What thoughts or emotions are present right now? Next, check in with your body, head to toe. Where are you feeling tension? Try to release it. Finally, focus on your breath. Doing so “disrupts your mind and allows you to shift perspective,” says Denis. When you’re done, give yourself a moment to answer these questions: “What do I need right now, and how can I integrate it into my day?” It might just give you the boost you need to tackle the next meeting, the trip home, or whatever else is next on your agenda.
Get out of your head and onto your feet. For many of us, the day is spent more in our heads than it is in touch with our physical bodies. One way to get out of your head is to be aware of your feet on the ground (either at your desk or while taking a walk). “Your feet are farthest from your head, so actually try to feel the pressure of the different parts of your feet on the ground,” says Denis. If you’re walking, take notice of how your weight shifts from foot to foot. Match your breath to your steps or movements.