11 ways to meditate in under a minute
For many of us, meditation takes a back step as soon as things get busy — even though we might love it (or not but know we “should” do it). How about when we do try it and make a good habit before life takes over and then two years have passed and we’re wondering why we’re the opposite of calm — or is that just me that happened to?
In the absence of wanting or being able to prioritise 20 minutes once or twice a day as “actual meditation practice”, what I’ve found over time as a daily rule is that there are many things I like to do and many little pockets of time I can take that form my daily meditations. Just like my hot beverage order at the cafe, I really mix it up and hardly ever do the same things twice in one week. Once I realised I could write my own rules and it was the act of finding stillness, breathing deeply and tuning in to my mind/body connection, I finally felt positive towards meditation. No more “have to”.
Mindfulness and meditation
Why should we prioritise a form of meditative, mindfulness practice, remind me again? Studies show that mindfulness and meditation have an ability to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and pain — there’s a lot of that going around these days, right? Further research published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience has shown that mindfulness meditation, in contrast to focusing only on the breath, can reduce anxiety. The research found that these cases seem to be mediated through the brain regions associated with self-referential (“me-centric” thoughts).
In a school where students sit for just two minutes in the morning and focus on the breath, the teachers noticed a vast improvement in the children’s mood, focus and energy levels. It’s painfully simple in its approach and massively positive in the return on investment of time.
How “breath” fits into mindfulness and meditation
While breath is not the only part of mediation, it is an amazing starting point. As part of your autonomic nervous (the one that controls bodily functions, breath, heartbeat and digestive processes), you have a sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.
The sympathetic nervous system is activated in the “fight or flight response”. You know the one — where you might feel like you’re not safe on a dark street or you have a big presentation, and so, your body starts preparing to fight the fear or run from it. Unfortunately, we seem to be in this state too often these days, and for the wrong reasons.
The parasympathetic nervous system is your “rest and digest” system. It conserves energy as it slows your heart rate, increases intestinal and gland activity and relaxes muscles in the gastrointestinal tract. You want to be in this space as much as possible!
So how do you get there? Deep belly breathing. Yep, take a big deep breath down to the depths of your belly and then release the breath slowly. A loud sigh helps with this. Your body can’t be in two systems at once — try as you might to multitask. So when you catch yourself taking short, sharp, shallow breaths, you can bring yourself back to a state of calm with some deep breaths.
How to meditate in one minute, 11 different ways
- Stirring a risotto I love this one and heard kitchen goddess Nigella Lawson share this one in a talk.
- Showering We can often jump in and out of the shower in a mad rush. Try instead standing under the running water and focusing on the sounds of the water and the feeling of it on your skin. Breathe deeply for just one minute.
- Sitting in stillness How often do you just sit? No laptop, no phone, no TV, no sound. This simple act of stillness can bring you right back to the present moment. You can even do it at the traffic lights (please do NOT close your eyes!), on an aeroplane or while you’re waiting in the checkout line.
- Box breathing For anyone new to meditation, this is the perfect starter. Simply sit where you are, take a deep breath in for 4 counts, hold the breath for 4 counts, release the breath for 4 counts and then hold again for 4 counts. Do this 3 times and take note of how you feel.
- Walking This could be standing up from your desk and pacing around the office, or better yet, walking around the block, taking out the rubbish, walking to the bus stop, getting the washing off the clothesline. Whatever you do and wherever you walk, aim to do it mindfully, with measured, slow breaths.
- Child’s pose This yoga pose is accessible to virtually anyone. Begin on your hands and knees, lower your hips to the heels and work your forehead towards the floor. Spread your knees as wide as it feels comfortable while keeping your feet touching. Arms can be overhead with the palms on the floor or arms can be placed alongside your body, palms facing up. This pose is famed for its calming effect and ability to bring you back into child-like relaxation.
- Journaling This could be as simple as starting your day with five things you’re grateful for. According to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences, people who practice gratitude may experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than others who don’t. gratitude!
- Have your morning coffee in silence How often do you do this? I mean really sit in silence? If you’re like me you might make/buy your morning coffee and then churn through emails. Instead, let’s try just sitting and enjoying those first few delicious sips. Breathing in … and breathing out deeply.
- Listen to a song the whole way through Pick your favourite song and just sit there, without doing anything else. Enjoy, soak it up, and, look if you want to dance, I’m open to that as well!
- Stand in the grass or the ocean Place your feet firmly in the grass and ground yourself. This concept of “earthing” is so important for humans. We spend our days living through technology, but how often do you truly sit with nature?
- Stretch this is a valuable one if you work behind a desk. Set yourself a timer and every 25 minutes, stand for 1 minute — stretch your shoulders, back and legs. Take deep breaths, re-calibrate and then get back to it.
So you see, it’s not linear. There’s no set way to meditate and you can very much write your own rules on this. We all need some form of meditative practice in our day. It keeps you checked in with your ability to access calm and relaxation, which in turn supports your sleep and overall health and wellbeing. I encourage you to have a think about those days when you can’t “meditate” — what else could you be doing that allows you to make space for some deep breaths, focusing on going within and finding a little calm and stillness in your day?