9 Ways To Reap The Benefits Of Meditation Without Meditating

Raise your hand if one, or more, of the below has ever happened to you while meditating:

 ✓ Fallen asleep;

 ✓ Got frustrated;

 ✓ Got lost in thought;

 ✓ Got bored;

 ✓ Thought at least once that meditation is not for you;

I get it! Even though I am a fan of meditation, I understand that it is not for everyone. While for some people meditation comes naturally, many of us have to peel layers of discomfort to get to the good stuff. If you recognise yourself in the second group, it is no surprise you sometimes question whether the effort is worth it. 

However, the fact you even tried meditation means you are aware of its benefits. Managing stress, being able to stay present and aware of your inner world, decreased anxiety and impatience and an overall increase of your wellbeing – these are all amazing advantages of practising this meditation. However, if the struggle seems unbearable, there must be another way, right? Yes, there is. As long as you wish to reap the benefits so you can enhance your everyday life and are not looking to reach spiritual enlightenment (if that is the case, there is no shortcut), you can swap meditation with a few different practices.

Foster a greater connection with your body

When you are meditating, you learn to connect to your body through observation. You train yourself to recognise what you are feeling physically but also what emotions you are carrying in different areas of your body. The good news is that you can learn this skill without sitting cross-legged and still for fifteen minutes every day. Instead, you can move mindfully.

One of the activities you can try is walking meditation. There are many ways you can practise it. A popular one is to imagine a line on the ground and slowly and mindfully walk along with it. Focus on the foot you bring forward. How does it feel to lift it? How does it feel to step on the ground? Then transfer your attention to the transition and repeat with the other foot. The more you practice the more details you will start noticing. While in the beginning, you will have just a general image of how you walk, later on, you will start feeling different parts of your feet, the shoes, socks, the ground and every other thing that comes your way. I also suggest you start with putting a timer. Five minutes every day is more than enough to begin with. If you enjoy the walking meditation, you can start slowly increasing the time.

While walking meditation is a great way to connect to your body, and to the world, you can take its philosophy and apply it to any movement. For example, you can approach yoga in the same manner. Transition from asana to asana slowly and mindfully. Pay attention to your breath. Feel the comfort, or lack of, in every pose. Acknowledge the touch of different surfaces and clothes. If you get distracted or lost in thought, bring your mind back and connect to your body again.

Learn to focus on the task at hand

One of the biggest gifts of meditation is learning to focus. Imagine you are focusing on your breathing and the next thing you know you have reviewed all the items there are in the fridge. Most people think they have failed once they realise they were distracted. This is what a lot of people get wrong because learning to focus is nothing more than quickly catching yourself when you are distracted and returning back to the task at hand. It takes an insane amount of training to never get distracted, and you can take the first step today by taking this principle and applying it to an easy, everyday task such as cooking or cleaning.

The next time you are preparing a meal focus only on what you are doing at the moment. If you are chopping veggies, point all of your attention to the cutting board and the movements you make. If you are putting water in a pan, focus your mind on the water filling in the dish. It sounds easy – just as “simply sitting” sounds easy, but you will discover that when doing such mundane tasks your brain takes you on a lot of side trips. Your only task is to catch yourself when you are distracted and re-focus on the task.

Start enjoying your own company

If the COVID pandemic has opened my eyes about one thing is it that many more people than I could have imagined are unable to be alone with themselves. Can you blame them, or yourself, if you are one of them? Of course, not! The modern world is designed to distract us, to make sure we are never satisfied, to make us crave something all of the time. After all, if we all felt comfortable with ourselves, just the way we are and with what we have, what will happen to the current market economy? This is why the next lesson of meditation – being able to be alone with ourselves, is such an important one.

I have noticed that being alone without being lonely is more difficult for extroverted people, who recharge by being around others. Therefore, the easiest way to start enjoying your own company is to find a hobby that ultimately depends only on you. This could be something active – running, bouldering or snowboarding. These activities can be done in groups, but also alone. You are bound to end up practising by yourself some of the time. If you are not into active hobbies, journaling, reading or cross-stitching can be a wonderful way to spend time with yourself. I often hear friends refer to these as “meditative” activities. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you enjoy it. This way you will cultivate a more wholesome connection with yourself and you will start enjoying your alone time.

Explore your inner world

One of the benefits of meditation is achieving a better clarity of what is happening inside of you. This is achieved by noticing the thoughts and feelings that arise in your mind and body and by doing so without judgment. This is an important process that luckily can be stimulated in other ways, such as journaling.

Journaling is a wonderful practice for exploring your inner world. It provides a safe space for exploring your emotions and thoughts where you can be who you are without anyone’s judgement. If writing comes to you easily, you will only need a pen and paper and quiet time a few times per week (or month) to start. If, however, you need more help to get on track, you can check this article with journaling ideas for enhancing your wellbeing. I am sure that you will find at least one journaling method that will be interesting to you and that will be worth your time.

Manage stress with breathing exercises

Meditation and breathing exercises often go together and sometimes we forget that they can be practised separately. You can and, if you tend to feel stress and anxiety, you should. Breathing exercises are a wonderful way to lower your stress levels and to balance your mind and body. Just like any other type of exercise you might need time to master it but do not worry, it is not boring and the benefits are immediate.

My favourite exercise is called “box breathing”. I like it because it is easy to remember, not difficult to implement and works miracles every time. Here is how to practise it: start by sitting comfortably and relaxing your body. Take in a few deep breathes and let them out completely through the mouth. This will help relax your body even more. Once you are ready, close your eyes. Breathe in through the nose while slowly counting to four. Hold your breath for four seconds. Slowly breathe out again counting to four. Hold your breath for the same duration. This is one box – in, hold, out, hold – all for four seconds. Repeat for as long as you can or need to relax. With time you can start increasing the count. This exercise is also very useful for self-help in stressful situations. You can do it before speaking in front of a crowd or while waiting for your next job interview.

Practise gratitude every day

Undoubtedly the best moment of meditation comes when you open your eyes at the end and look around you. Even after ten minutes of meditating the world looks a little bit different, a little bit better. Your energy and mood have shifted and you are now calm and present, almost happier. This feeling is not happiness, it is a mix of presence and appreciation. “The Power Of Now” is a whole book written about the benefits of this state of mind.

Learning to accept what we have by being grateful for it is a way to reap some of these benefits without meditating. The practice that can help you is simple: pick up a pen and paper and list 5 to 10 things that you are grateful for every day. You can start with simple things such as appreciating your home or your health. It is helpful if you write down why you are grateful for this specific thing. The structure that I follow is “I am grateful for XXX because XXX.” For example, I am grateful for my laptop because it allows me to type and share this post with the world”. The other important thing is to always write in the present tense.

For those of you who are not into journaling, you can try a gratitude app such as One Day Journal or Gratitude. These apps will allow you to capture your appreciation on a daily basis and will provide you with a look back upon what you were grateful for in the past, which is always interesting to read.

Create more pauses in your daily routine

Most people start meditating because of the endless list of benefits but many make a habit out of it because of one thing – their meditation becomes their daily breather, the time when they can press “pause” of everything else. It does not sound like a lot but think about it – in the busy world that we live in, how often do we stop and allow ourselves to just be? 

The good news is that we can create pockets of stillness not only through meditation. In fact, there are many ways in which we can pause life every day and allow ourselves a few minutes of peace and quiet. Here are a few suggestions: make your morning cup of coffee or tea this quiet time, dedicate ten minutes to journaling in the morning or half an hour for reading in the afternoon. Additionally, going for a walk without listening to music or podcasts (best if you leave your phone at home, really) can hold the space you need in your day to detach from the business of modern life.

Discover your flow state

Do you know the feeling which you get when you are fully immersed in what you are doing? As if time slows down and it feels like you can keep on doing what you are doing forever, effortlessly, with focus and joy? There is a name for this state: flow.

Doing anything in the flow state feels like a wonderful meditation because it involves being relaxed, joyful and extremely focused. However, getting into it is not so simple. To begin tapping into your flow, pick up a task that is challenging but not too difficult. Aim to stimulate your brain but do not make it impossible to succeed. Then, start eliminating external distractions. To enter flow, you need to be focused for at least fifteen minutes and it helps if the TV is off and your phone is far from your reach. Next, remove internal distractions such as mind chatter and doubt to the best of your abilities. A few other tricks you can try are listening to the *right kind of* music and choosing to engage with the task during your personal peak time. Oh, and avoid multitasking. It kills flow.

Spend time in nature

It is said that if you want to feel closer to God / The Source / Life (call it as you wish) you should spend time in nature. I would say if you want to reap the benefits of meditation without meditating, just spend time in nature. However, leave your phone behind. Forget your headphones and your camera. Go somewhere far from the city. Lose yourself in the forest, in the mountain, on the beach. Be fully where you are. Take in all of the wonder and awe that nature so freely shares with us every minute of every day. Pause to appreciate the beauty that you are a part of. Breathe in the air and feel the earth under your feet. Hug a tree. Dip your toes in the sea. Let the sand run through your fingers. Smell the forest flowers. Stare at the sky. Soak in the sunshine.

Do all of these things and then ask yourself what was it that was troubling you. Chances are you won’t even remember. The beauty and purity of nature quietly put in balance that which we work so hard to upset with our worries, wanting and needing. Spend enough time in nature and you might not need to meditate at all.

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