If meditation brings moments of calm amid your busy day, keep it handy in your stress management toolkit. But this practice isn’t for everyone. And according to a study cited on the idea forum TED, meditation can actually cause adverse effects like fear, pain, dizziness and paranoia.
If you’re someone who feels stressed by the mere thought of meditating, put it aside and take a calming breath. The following activities can offer similar mental health benefits, including reduced stress, increased focus and greater peace of mind.
- Writing or coloring
- Listening to music
Writing or coloring
Tapping into your creativity, letting your mind wander toward the abstract and using your hands can all help calm your mind.
If you prefer text to imagery, try writing. But do it the old-fashioned way. No laptop, no smartphone — just pen and paper. Before diving into your workday, write a paragraph, write a page or fill a small notebook. Three pages is ideal, according to the book The Artist’s Way. Regardless of length, the point is to write without edits or critiques. Simply let your ideas flow freely.
If your words inspire you to further action, apply them to your day or save them for future use. But even if you produce gibberish and just want to slide the paper directly into the recycling bin, you’ve still gained from the experience. The act of writing without interruption can help clear mental obstacles and reset and refresh your mind for the day ahead.
The benefits of coloring are similar. Research published in Art Therapy suggests that coloring patterns can reduce anxiety and increase focus. Grab a coloring book, pick out some crayons or markers, and allow yourself to get lost in this activity for 10 to 15 minutes. You can do it at the beginning of the day or whenever you need to de-stress.
Both writing and coloring involve using your hands to engage in a single-minded activity. According to Psychology Today, this practice can enhance your mood and allow new ideas to percolate in the back of your mind.
Listening to music
There’s a difference between having music on and really listening to music. To gain the benefits of mindfulness, focus your full attention on the song.
Nod along to the beat, see if you can pick out different instruments, write down the lyrics and ponder multiple meanings. This level of attention will force you to set your worries aside, increasing your sense of calm and helping you feel recharged when the music stops.
When it comes to mental health, walking is a faithful friend. Since it can be done almost anywhere and doesn’t cost much beyond comfortable clothes and shoes, you can always turn to a good walk for mindfulness benefits.
Walking helps combat stress, decrease the effects of depression and improve memory, according to research by Harvard Medical School.
If space or physical limitations prevent you from walking, try looking out the window and contemplating the sky — day or night. Allow your mind to turn clouds into various shapes as they move across the sky, count the stars or study the shadows on the moon.
This one may be a hard sell, but cleaning is another activity that requires you to use your hands and focus on one task at a time. Washing a pile of dishes or scrubbing a dirty floor may not be your first choice for calming your mind. But don’t toss the idea into the trash — unless, of course, taking out the trash is part of your cleaning routine.
To use cleaning as a way to declutter your mind, focus on your chosen activity. If you’re doing laundry, for example, don’t think about tomorrow’s to-do list or a work meeting that went awry. Instead, pay attention to the warmth of the clothes straight from the dryer, your sorting and folding techniques or memories related to your favorite shirts.
Find the activity that’s right for you
Meditation may not be right for everyone, but everyone can benefit from slowing down and focusing on a specific action. Trying one of the activities above could be your key to unlocking the benefits of mindfulness and gaining peace of mind.
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