I know a lot of people who can duck out of life’s stresses by meditating.
They look all peaceful, with colors floating all around them. Kind of like this picture.
Me? I can’t do it.
That’s not for lack of trying. In my travels to various spas – one of my very favorite ways to relax and learn about what’s new in exercise, diet and healthy living – I’ve come upon, and experimented with, many classes on meditation.
Two things happen: Either I fall asleep (and that’s not because I’m meditating, it’s because I’m
bored jet-lagged) or I try so hard that I get myself all worked up and do anything but meditate. Instead of helping my stress, it sometimes causes it. I’m sure some of you can identify with this: you start thinking about the strangest and most inconsequential things, like how you really should have smiled at that woman on line behind you at the grocery store, or if your hair looks better right after you wash it or the day after that.
I officially give up. Yet I don’t want to totally give up, since a growing body of evidence points to many health benefits of meditating. And aside from that, who doesn’t need to break the crazy momentum of their day and get back a little bit of themselves?
So instead, just so I don’t continue to frustrate myself (and others in classes who might be sitting near me and get annoyed that I’m
snoringnot in the zone), I’ve decided to find other ways – little ways – to relax and decompress, if only for a few moments. (But what precious moments those are!)
Instead of meditation – per se – how about just spending more time in silence? No, I don’t mean going away to a silent retreat, although many welcome this type of oasis where you don’t talk to another soul for days on end. Come to think of it, depending on the person you’re keeping company with, you might want to consider it…
Shut off the sound/ringer on your cell phone and/or computer. Did you know that each time you hear the “ping” of an incoming email, the dopamine level in your brain fires? Translation: This chemical gives you a feeling of euphoria that controls your behavior (stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamines act directly on the dopamine system. No, I’m not suggesting you use these). What’s wrong with that? It feels so good that checking email becomes an addiction in no time…which leads you to crave more, and eventually it just plain saps your energy. And there virtually is no silence when your brain is constantly checking in with other people.
Get out of your environment. There’s something about being in a different space that can lead to reflection and the feeling of getting away. Often it opens up your mind and helps it run free. Hopefully you can even get back in touch with the things you care about most.
Turn off the TV or radio. It can become a habit – and so many times you’re not even watching or listening. Instead, it’s just background noise. And that kind of noise can make you anxious, preoccupied, unsettled.
Drive in silence. Try it – it’s really calming not to have the radio on (see above). And it increases self-awareness, another goal of meditation.
Exercise. The repetitive actions of things like jogging, walking or swimming can be meditative, much like the way, in meditation, you repeat a mantra to relax and focus yourself.
Stop multitasking. Then you can pay full attention to what you’re doing and not add all that stimulation. (And isn’t that another goal of meditation?)
Don’t pick up the phone on the first ring (that is, if you didn’t take suggestion #1 and silence it). Breathe three times – and then pick it up. It teaches you to breathe and not react right away. There’s something downright powerful in not reacting right away (at least there is to me).