I don’t like meditation…is there something else I can do ?

Disliking meditation is common and something psychologists hear a lot – many people find the concept of sitting still (often stereotypically cross legged and on a yoga mat) and trying to have a blank mind boring, difficult, and sometimes brings more frustration than calm.

Meditation is intended to reduce anxiety and put you into a mental calmness where you can enhance attention, compassion, and self-insight. In essence it is intended to improve your overall wellbeing. Many people swear by mediation and speak about how this habit can be life changing. But what if you don’t like it or find it difficult?

The good news is that there are alternatives to meditation which offer similar benefits. Mindfulness is one of these.

Before I lose your interest I want to clear up some misconceptions about mindfulness. Mindfulness is very different to meditation – you do not to be still or have a clear mind to be engaging in mindfulness.

 

Mindfulness at its core is the state of being fully present, aware, and non- judgemental. Most people have experienced this state but may be unaware that what they are doing is mindfulness. Have you ever been in “the zone”, maybe working on a hobby or reading a book and feel fully absorbed by this activity, sometimes even losing track of time? This is mindfulness – and it is actually a state of mindfulness call flow.

Mindfulness brings similar benefits to meditation, such as reducing anxiety, slowing down, improving sleep, and reducing depression. However, unlike meditation, mindfulness can be done anywhere, anytime, and many people find it more engaging.

A tip in turning any activity into mindfulness practice is to focus on your senses; sight, taste, smell, touch, hearing – when you focus your attention onto one of these or all of these you are being present, aware, and with some practice nonjudgmental.

These are some ways we can practice mindfulness that are less common:

 

1. Eating: Put down the phone and focus on the activity of eating; fully engage your senses and savor the food. Take a pause to notice the look, texture, smell, and taste, and take your time to enjoy the activity.

2. Movement: Pay attention to how your body feels when you are moving (walking, stretching your arms in the morning, at the gym). Notice what your feet feel like on the ground, where you feel tension, pay attention to how it feels to move.

3. Breathing: focus your attention on your breath. Notice what it is like to inhale and exhale, how your chest rises and falls.

4. Paint, draw, make pottery: as long as you are focused on what you are doing – noticing how the clay changes, what it feels like to put pen to paper, or how the colours mix on a canvas – you are practicing mindfulness.

5. Mindfulness of thoughts: allow yourself to notice your thoughts as if from a 3rd person perspective or like someone watching clouds pass in the sky. Notice these thoughts, don’t push them away and accept them as what they are – a thought you are having at this moment.

A common difficulty people find with mindfulness activities is that is it hard to be present, our minds often wander off and we find ourselves thinking about other things. This is okay and completely expected, especially if we are feeling rushed or anxious. The good thing about mindfulness is that when this happens all we need to do is notice our thoughts have drifted without judgement and refocus them – this awareness is a part of the practice.

It is okay to dislike meditation, or even mindfulness, there are many other ways to find the benefits these practices offer and something that is worth exploring with yourself or your psychologist 🙂