Meditation is often advised as a method of becoming more present or soothing anxiety, but in its traditional form, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes, sitting down, closing your eyes and trying to silence your thoughts can be too challenging. Or perhaps you find it boring. Whatever the reason, you don’t have to despair if you want the benefits of meditation, but can’t bring yourself to do it. There are many ways to meditate without actually meditating.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is a practice that an individual can engage in to achieve a sense of calm, focus or awareness. While there is no correct way of meditating, the practice generally involves sitting or laying in a comfortable position within surroundings that are calm and peaceful, and attempting to clear or focus one’s thoughts.
Some people meditate when they are going through difficult life events as a way to improve their mental wellbeing, while others may meditate as a part of their daily routine.
The benefits of meditation include:
- Stress and anxiety reduction
- Increased mindfulness and ability to be present
- Improved self awareness
- Increased attention span
- Better memory
- Lowered blood pressure
Meditation has roots in the religions of Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, where followers have engaged in this practice for many centuries. The 19th century saw the adoption of Asian meditation techniques by Westerners, and today the practice is touted by prominent business people and celebrities, such as Toni Colette and Halle Berry, as a way of coping with the stress of their careers.
While some people can easily engage in meditation in the traditional sense, there are those who will find it challenging to sit or lie still for long periods, or try to silence their thoughts while essentially doing nothing. With this in mind, we explore some alternative meditation options.
7 Methods Of Meditation That Don’t Involve Meditating
1. Forest bathing
Hailing from Japan, forest bathing, also known as shinrin-yoku, is a practice that involves spending quality time in nature (not just walking to and from work while scrolling through your social media feeds!). When forest bathing, you should focus on what you can see, smell, hear and perhaps touch, and connect mentally or emotionally with the greenery around you. This is a low-impact activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities.
There is a growing body of research that suggests that forest bathing can have a number of benefits for mental and physical health. For example, one study found that forest bathing significantly reduced stress levels in the short term. Another study found that forest bathing improved heart rate and blood pressure functions.
This activity can be a practical alternative to meditation for people who find it challenging to focus for extended periods of time, or who have difficulty sitting still. It can also be a good option for people who want to experience the many benefits of nature but do not have the time or energy for a long hike.
Interested in trying forest bathing? First, find a forest or other green area that you enjoy. Once you have found a location, take some time to simply relax and be present in the moment. Pay attention to your senses. You may also want to try some simple exercises, such as deep breathing or mindful walking (being present and self aware while walking).
There is no right or wrong way to forest bathe. The most important thing is to find a way to connect with nature and to allow yourself to relax and be present in the moment.
Some additional tips for forest bathing include:
- Choose a location that is quiet and peaceful, such as a large wooded area with little footfall (it may help to visit during a weekday, if you can)
- Wear non-restrictive clothing and comfortable walking shoes
- Bring a water bottle and snacks (make sure not to drop any litter)
- Allow yourself time to wander and explore
- Be mindful of your surroundings and respectful of the forest
- Enjoy the experience!
2. Mindful drawing
Unlike drawing for a purpose, such as creating a piece of art to hang on your wall, mindful drawing involves drawing without judgement or a particular goal, other than to improve your mental wellbeing. Some people doodle as a method of mindful drawing, while others might find ‘mindful colouring’ books helpful.
Mindful drawing can be done almost anywhere – all you need is paper and a pencil – so it is ideal for those who experience anxiety or stress whether in the home, at work or out running errands.
Some ideas for what you can draw include:
- Things you can see, such as objects or landscapes that are in front of you
- Things you imagine
- Translating sounds or feelings into shapes and colours
- Recurring patterns and motifs
You don’t need to worry about your drawing looking perfect, and there is no requirement to show your drawings to anyone else. Think of them as your personal visual diary!
Talking of diaries, journaling is an excellent way to meditate while writing. Doing so for just 10 minutes per day can help to improve mental wellbeing by allowing you to process your thoughts and emotions at your own pace.
Journaling is often helpful for those going through stressful periods in their lives, but it can also be a part of your daily routine as an exercise in meditation and self-reflection.
When journaling, pick a time and place when you can be undisturbed while writing, as this will help you note down your thoughts fully and cohesively. You can write as much or as little as you wish, about whatever comes to mind at the time.
If your journal contains thoughts that you wouldn’t want others to read, store it somewhere safe and out of sight.
This ancient mind and body practice involves moving through different postures with controlled breathing, and includes elements of meditation and relaxation, making it an ideal activity for those who want to meditate while being physically active.
Suitable for any age and ability, yoga and its poses can be tailored to suit the individual. Even if you suffer from lower back issues or other physical impairments, you may still be able to fit yoga into your daily meditation routine.
As yoga is a form of exercise, its positive effect on anxiety, depression and stress states is backed up by evidence. Benefits particular to yoga include:
- Increased self-awareness
- Improved sleep
- Reduced muscle pain and aches
- Boosted energy
- Improved cognitive function
- Increased self-esteem
Those looking to try yoga should start with a beginner class at a yoga studio or gym, or find beginner tutorials online. Once you have learned the basics and are comfortable with the poses, you can move up to intermediate and then advanced classes. However, there is no need to push yourself if you don’t want to. As any yoga teacher will tell you, it is your practice, and you can spend it doing what is comfortable for you.
Daydreaming can occur at any time of day, but it mostly happens during a period of boredom or relaxation. It involves using your imagination to picture fanciful scenarios, and while it might seem like a form of procrastination to some, it carries a number of mental health benefits as an alternative to meditation.
This practice can serve as a temporary break from stressful thoughts and worries, while at the same time, providing the daydream presents a positive scenario, it can release endorphins, which have mood boosting effects. Not only that, but daydreaming can boost creativity and problem solving skills, by providing the conditions for thinking about potentially complex problems in a relaxed, indirect way.
While maladaptive daydreaming (MD), a condition where a person spends excessive time daydreaming, can hinder productivity and have negative mental health effects, a little bit of time spent daydreaming per day could unlock the same benefits as meditation.
Many people feel relaxed when they are undergoing a massage performed by a trusted friend, partner or a professional. However, whereas it’s not always possible to engage another person’s time and effort for your benefit, it is possible to self-massage at any time and reap similar rewards.
Self-massage has physical benefits including muscle relaxation, pain reduction and improved circulation. Depending on whether you use lubricants such as oils or lotion during your massage, you may also see an improvement in the texture of your skin.
In addition, self-massage has mental health benefits including improved mood brought on by a boost in endorphins; increased self-awareness and confidence through becoming familiar with one’s body; and reduced stress and anxiety through the promotion of relaxation.
Try massaging your hands and arms, head, and feet and legs to feel more relaxed. If you’re struggling to know how to massage yourself, try looking for online tutorials to begin with, until you get a feel for what you enjoy.
7. Listen to a guided meditation
If the reason why you can’t meditate is because you often wander away with your thoughts, guided meditations may help you achieve a more focused meditative state.
Guided meditations feature a voiceover that takes you on a relaxing journey. The voice may give you prompts on how to breathe during the meditation, and provide visual imagery to help you relax.
There are many free guided meditations available on YouTube, and music or podcast streaming platforms. You could also try a dedicated app like Calm or Headspace.
Ready to meditate without actually meditating?
Regardless of how you do it, it’s important to carve time out of your day for mental self care, and one way to do that is by trying meditation or something similar.
We hope these suggestions have provided you with some ideas to make meditation more accessible!