Feeling frazzled and overwhelmed by the demands of work life, home life and motherhood? Do you barely have any time for yourself? If this sounds all-to-familiar, then it’s time to give meditation a try.
We know what you’re thinking: “Me? Meditate?” But you don’t need to devote hours to meditation—even brief, 1- to 10-minute sessions can help you build greater mind-body awareness, improve health and create happiness. So the next time your kids are driving you up the wall, give yourself permission to hit the pause button and engage in one of these 43 mini-meditations.
1) Focus on your breath: Sit in a comfortable seated position, close your eyes, and simply pay attention to breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. If your mind starts to wander, tell yourself, “With every breath I breathe I am falling deeper and deeper into meditation.”
2) Take a tune-out, 10-minute walk. Do not bring a cell phone, music player or any other electronic device with you—just unplug. Listen to the sounds of nature and freely take in the sensations around you.
3) Repeat a “sacred word” such as “joy,” “love” or “peace,” suggests Dr. David Dillard Wright. Do this for 10 minutes while bringing awareness to your breath. Try not to let your thoughts wander—stay focused on your sacred word and the rhythms of your breath.
4) Do a journal-writing session. Whenever times get frazzled, grab a pen and pencil and jot down how you’re feeling. Putting emotions into words or phrases can give you more clarity in moments of stress.
5) Shower away stress. Identify a situation that is bothering you and envision that annoyance as dirt on your body. As the water pours down on you, imagine your anxieties and annoyances being washed away down the drain.
6) Think green: Put a flower or small green plant in your workplace. Absorb the quiet beauty of plants and reflect on their comforting stillness.
7) Create something. Allot a certain amount of time every day for enjoyable creative tasks—writing poetry, painting, etc. Let your imagination run free, and try not to focus on external realities.
8) Try “listening with your eyes,” suggests Wright, in his book Mindful Solutions for Your Modern Life. Sit in nature and quietly observe your surroundings with all of the senses. “Allow the scene to become more intense and wash over you, as though you were a matchstick in a flood.”
9) Go through a few sun salutations. Focus on the power of your breath as you move through the postures.
10) Try finger painting. Don’t take the exercise too seriously—work intuitively and banish judgment. Enjoy the sensation of the paint on your fingertips.
11) Meditate on your heart center. Sit very quietly and try to sense your heart beating in your chest. Bring consciousness to the pulse in your neck, and visualize the rush of blood in your veins and arteries.
12) Visualize your grandmother’s kitchen. For many people, grandparents symbolize nurturing, unconditional love. If that’s you, close your eyes and try to vividly envision your grandmother’s kitchen. What details come to mind? What smells, sights and sounds can you remember? Focus on the power of your grandmother’s unconditional love and allow it to soothe you.
13) Mindfully listen to music. Put your earbuds in and listen to your favorite song. Try to focus only on the sensations of the lyrics and notes; do not allow your mind to wander. Practice this exercise until it becomes easier for you to concentrate solely on the music.
14) Slow down your dinner. Make a home-cooked meal for yourself and eat it at a table with no laptop or TV to distract you. Chew every bite slowly and notice the colors, textures and tastes.
15) Ground yourself. In a quiet room, lie flat on the floor. With each breath, envision gravity pulling you deeper into the floor and sucking away all noxious thoughts. Pretend that you are becoming one with the floor and try to completely erase any outside distractions.
16) Download a guided meditation tape on iTunes, such as The Meditation Podcast by Jesse and Jeane Sterne. Suitable for beginners, this 23-episode free podcast leads you through a number of meditative practices and helps you cultivate greater mind-body awareness.
17) Close your eyes, take a few cleansing breaths, and repeat the phrase “I am bliss,” advises Wright. As you repeat this affirmation, imagine yourself as one with the center of the universe, and then expand your viewpoint to include the entire cosmos. “Think of the revolutions of the planets and the infinite reaches of space,” Wright suggests. “You will emerge feeling a part of something much greater than yourself.”
18) Decorate your desk with pictures of loved ones and blissful places. Reflecting on happy memories can provide instant anxiety relief in moments of stress.
19) Try micro-tasking instead of multi-tasking. Break down your larger project into smaller, more manageable units instead of overwhelming yourself with too many projects.
20) Take a lavender bath. Spend about 15 to 20 minutes soaking in a bathtub filled with warm water and few drops of lavender; focus on the fragrant scent of the lavender and the sensations of warmth on your body.
21) Study a tree. Sit beneath a tree and gaze at its features—the texture of its bark, the shape of its branches, the pattern of its roots. Listen to the sound of the wind rustling in the leaves. Try to sense the tree’s energy and feel a connection between you and the tree. Imagine yourself drawing wisdom and strength from the tree.
22) Say “yes,” suggests neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson. Say yes to things you do like, and things you don’t like. Say “yes” to your child’s temper tantrum, “yes” to the fact you miscarried, “yes” to your divorce. Try to feel some acceptance in your yes, and honor the things that have happened in your life, good or bad. “Instead of futilely hoping that things be other than what they are, or painfully struggling with them, you are opening in to presence with them,” explains Hanson.
23) Slow down. Take a routine activity and try doing it more slowly than usual. For example, sip your coffee mindfully, leisurely lifting the mug to your lips, paying attention to the soothing sensations.
24) Observe your hands. Every time you complete a task or caress a fabric, bring awareness into your hands and the sensations they’re feeling. “Appreciating your hands makes you appreciate living,” explains Hanson. “And being mindful of your hands—paying attention to what they are feeling and doing—is a wonderfully simple and always available way to drop down into a more sensual, in-the-body connection with the world.”
25) Whenever you feel upset, annoyed or dissatisfied with someone, say “Namaste.” Namaste is a Sanskrit word that can be translated into, “I honor the divine light within you.” Closing your eyes, imagine the person with whom you are displeased and allow yourself to experience all of the negative emotions you feel towards them. Next, repeat the word “Namaste” followed by the person’s name until your negative emotions dissipate. Allow yourself to look beyond the person’s behavior and see their inner goodness.
26) Gaze up at the clouds. Observe them as they drift across the sky. What do they remind you of? Try to empty your mind of distractions and open your mind to creativity.
27) Take a few minutes to sit near a river, lake, stream or ocean and absorb the rejuvenating energy—known in Chinese medicine as qi or chi —that exists in the water. Close your eyes and listen to the sound of the water rushing.
28) Chant. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and take a deep breath. As you exhale, intone the sound of “om,” and hold the note as long as possible until you run out of breath. Feel the note’s vibration ripple throughout your body. Repeat the exercise a few times.
29) Isolate a noise you find bothersome and close your eyes. Imagine reaching out and grasping a large, round dial. Adjust the dial as though you are turning the volume down and sense yourself detaching from the noise. Continue to turn the dial until the noise becomes tolerable.
30) Try the 4-7-8 breathing exercise: Inhale quietly through your nose for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale audibly through your mouth, making a whooshing sound for a count of 8. Then repeat the cycle four times for a total of four breaths.
31) Try a technique called progressive muscle relaxation. In a quiet room, lie down flat on the floor with your feet shoulder-width apart. Closing your eyes, begin systematically relaxing every part of your body, beginning with the tongue in the roof of your mouth and traveling down, body part-by-body part, until you reach your toes. Notice areas where you feel the most tension, and breathe deeply into these body parts.
32) Find a crossword puzzle or Sudoku puzzle and engage yourself fully in the task. Try to silence any mental chatter and see how long it takes you to complete the puzzle. Practice every week until your concentration improves.
33) When faced with a difficult or pesky task—such as folding laundry or vacuuming the house—commit to what Wright calls the “10-minute rule”: force yourself to work on the unpleasant task for a minimum of 10 minutes. “It’s hard to commit to an hour or two, but it’s easier to commit to 10 minutes,” David says. “Ten minutes is enough to get you started and maybe, just maybe, you’ll keep working when the 10 minutes is up.”
34) Try this walking meditation exercise: Bring to mind a worrisome thought, anxiety or worry that has been nagging you. Start walking at a medium-slow pace, counting each step until you reach the number 20. Analyze what happened to your initial thought. Did it evaporate from your mind? Practice repeating the exercise until you achieve greater mindfulness.
35) In times of great stress or emotion, engage in this mental meditation exercise: Sitting comfortably, close your eyes and bring to mind an image of the ocean in as much sensory detail as possible. Then, imagine you are floating on the surface of the ocean, riding the crest of the waves. Relax and let the waves carry you. The waves symbolize life’s experiences and events, rolling up and down in a cyclical pattern. Pay attention to the ways in which you resist either the upward motion or downward motion of the waves. Float until you feel completely comfortable and at one with the ocean. When you’re ready, allow the waves to carry you to shore.
36) When powerful emotions arise, engage in what Dr. Martin Hart and Skye Alexander refer to as “detoxifying” your rage and grief. Find an isolated place and close your eyes. Allow the difficult emotion to surge over you. Don’t suppress the feeling; let it go, however you’d like—wail, cry, scream, curse loudly. “When the grief and rage are fully out of your system, you’ll sense a wonderful lightness and serenity,” Hart and Alexander write.
37) The “3-2-1” squeeze and release technique is one of the fastest, simplest ways to achieve a more relaxed state. Closing your eyes, inhale deeply and hold it in. Still holding your breath, tense up your entire body until it is almost trembling. Then, release the tension as you exhale.
38) Take a moment and appreciate all of the blessings in your life. Sitting in a comfortable position, close your eyes and vividly imagine all of the things you are grateful for—your home, your clothes, your loved ones, etc. Most importantly, feel gratitude for yourself.
39) Color can have a very tranquil effect on the mind. Closing your eyes, count backwards from 7. With each color, envision a different color of the rainbow, moving sequentially through the color spectrum: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. Once you’ve progressed through all of the colors, imagine all of the colors merging together in a continuous rainbow. Envision wrapping yourself up in the rainbow as you would a blanket.
40) Breathing slowly and rhythmically, imagine there is a radiant white light above you. Imagine that you are breathing the light in; see it travel down your body and shoot out through your toes. Continue to breathe in more of the light, imagining it gradually filling the entirety of your body, like water pouring into a glass jar. Feel the light pulsating inside of you, making you feel alive.
41) Dab some lavender oil on your wrists and breathe in the smell in moments of anxiety. Essential lavender oil is effective in stress reduction.
42) Pick a mantra. It could be a feeling or emotion you want to achieve—“calm,” “peaceful,” “grounded.” Drawing awareness to your breath, repeat the mantra to yourself as you exhale slowly. Continue to concentrate on the mantra and your rhythmic breath for a total of ten counts.
43) For better sleep at night, try this guided imagery technique. Take a deep abdominal breath and let your entire body relax. Count backwards from 20, exhaling with each number. You might imagine yourself walking down a staircase, approaching the bottom of the staircase as you count backwards.