What comes to mind when you think of meditating? Buddhist monks tucked away in their monastery? Your friend who's obsessed with yoga and always trying to get you to come because "Savasana is just SO restorative"?
And maybe that's not your style. Maybe the thought of sitting still and quiet without letting your thoughts stray to what you're going to have for lunch just sounds... mind-numbingly boring. Don't worry; you're not alone.
But that doesn't mean you can't get the benefits of meditation or a mindfulness practice. Here are some of the reasons you should give it a try as well as some ways to modify traditional meditation so that you're not bored out of your mind (because no one benefits from that).
Benefits of Meditation and Mindfulness
You may have already heard a lot of the benefits of meditation touted by Oprah or other modern-day gurus, but let's put it all out there so you can judge for yourself if it's worth spending just five minutes a day in silence (OK, we're biased, because we totally think it is).
- Reduces stress: Who doesn't want a little less stress in their daily life? But this benefit is also backed by science. A 2014 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine affirms the calming effect of meditation.
- Calms anxiety: Stress and anxiety often go hand in hand. And guess what? Meditation helps ease anxiety, too, according to a 2012 study published in the journal Depression and Anxiety.
- Increases attention span: For those days when you just can't focus, stop, breathe and reset. A 2007 study in Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience found that a regular meditation practice can help you focus better for longer.
- Improves sleep quality: In a 2015 study from Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine, participants who meditated were able to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer than those who didn't meditate. Yes, please!
- Lowers blood pressure: Several studies, including a 2014 study from Hormone Molecular Biology and Clinical Investigation, have confirmed the link between meditation and lowered blood pressure. So meditate — your heart with thank you.
- Lessens pain: It's not that meditation takes away all sensation of pain, but a 2011 study from the Journal of Neuroscience found that it can help you deal with pain and even lessen your sensitivity to the pain in some instances.
- Helps fight addiction: That's right, meditation has been used as a tool to help recovering drug and alcohol addicts.
Creative Ways to Be Mindful Throughout Your Day
Alright, alright, so you don't want to sit in silence or chant "OM" for five minutes straight. And that's fine! Those are only two ways to be mindful when you opens are nearly limitless. Here are some others:
- Take a meditative walk: Go for a walk just for the sake of walking and soaking up nature. You don't need a particular destination or end point. Just walk and pay attention to details — the feel of the ambient air on your skin, the sounds of birds or cars, the weight of your feet hitting the ground.
- Soak in the bath: Draw a bath and just sit there, enjoying the feel of the water. You can play some soft music or simply focus on the sound of your hand rippling through the water.
- Eat mindfully: It's easy to rush through lunch when you know you have to get back to work, but every once in a while, set aside time to really enjoy your food. Maybe you go on a solo date to your favorite restaurant and order your favorite meal. Notice how every bite tastes and feels.
- Do a workout meditation: Instead of putting your headphones on and zoning out at the gym, trying lifting weight meditatively. Feel how heavy the weight is, notice what your muscles do in reaction to support the extra weight. Bonus: Slower reps mean more time under tension and added strength-building benefits.
- Wait and meditate: Stuck at a red light or in an endless line at the post office? Use that time to slow your breathing and focus on the moment. Breathe in for four counts and out for four counts.
- Try an app: Guided meditation apps (like Stop, Breathe and Think or Simple Habit) can ease you into a meditation practice. Pick one of the meditations that appeals to you and go from there.
- Start short and build: Don't have time to meditate? Do you have one minute? Just 60 seconds is all it takes to start a meditation practice. Surely you have one minute each day to stop, close your eyes, breathe deeply and let go. Once you start there, you may find you want to build to five or even 10 minutes a day.
Read more: 8 Easy Mindful-Meditation Techniques
More on Mindfulness and Meditation
Hungry for more tips and advice on how to get started with meditation or how to adapt it to your busy life? Here are some great places to start:
How to Join the Get Strong in 2019 Challenge
Are you a part of the Get Strong in 2019 Challenge yet? If not, here are four easy steps to make sure you're on your way to getting stronger this year.
1. Sign Up for Daily Emails
There are two main places this challenge is taking place online — your inbox and our Facebook group (more on that in a second). So first, make sure you've entered your email to sign up for the Get Strong in 2019 Challenge. (Yep, even if you're already signed up for our regular daily newsletter.)
Every day, we'll be sending you your daily workout and a healthy recipe to try, along with fun extras like workout playlists, motivational quotes, self-care tips and other fitness and nutrition information to make 2019 your best (and healthiest) year ever!
2. Print Out Your Calendars
Isn't it so satisfying to check things off of your to-do list? Each day during the Get Strong in 2019 Challenge, you're accountable for two main things: working out and eating healthy.
To help keep you on track for the entire month, we created two calendars — one with each day's workouts listed and another with each week's nutrition goal and healthy recipes. Print them out and check off each workout and day of healthy eating as you complete it.
3. Join Our Challenge Facebook Group
For daily support, motivation and camaraderie with LIVESTRONG.COM team members, join our Facebook Group for the Get Strong in 2019 Challenge. We'll share recipes, tips, motivations, pictures and more! Plus, we'll answer all your questions.
4. Share Your Journey on Social Media
Are you on Instagram or Twitter? So are we! And we'd love to see photos and updates of your progress. When you post to social media, be sure to use the hashtag #GetStrongChallenge. That way, you can also connect with other Get Strong challengers!