6 Meditation Alternatives for People With Busy Minds


As a meditation teacher, a lot of people say to me, "Oh I'd love to meditate. I just can't. My mind won't let me." The purpose of meditation is to get control of your mind, because what you think and the way you think have direct impacts on the quality of your life. You are your thoughts. Change your mind and you change everything.

I completely understand my reluctant students, because I was one of them for most of my life. Then I did my first yoga teacher training, and I was required as part of my program to sit for 18 minutes a day. It was grueling. I never knew 18 minutes could last so long. I literally had to force myself to do it, and at first, I hated it. Over time, it changed me. That focused, disciplined practice is a staple of my life now, nearly a decade later.

Over this decade, I've also come to realize that a sitting meditation isn't always the right method for all people all the time. Luckily, there are a number of other ways to bring that peace to our minds and bodies. (See also: 6 Ways Meditation Can Make You a Money Master)

1. Open monitoring

Let's turn meditation on its head right from the start, shall we? Sit or lie down, and just let your mind do its thing. Maybe it will be a whirling dervish. Maybe you'll run through your grocery list or to-do items. Maybe every fear and anxiety you've had for the past 10 years will rush right in to take up space. Let it all happen. Take five minutes to consciously deepen your breath, and then spend the next 25 minutes just giving your mind as much rope as it needs. Many people who use this method find that they feel more empowered because they confront whatever it is that's bothering them. They also often have bursts of creativity when the 30-minute session is finished.

2. Focused physical activity

Pick any physical activity — walking, running, swimming, biking, jumping rope — and focus on your actions. How's your breath? What does each part of your body feel like as you move, all the way from the tips of your toes to the very top of your head. Concentrate on each area of the body, one at a time, as you're remaining active. Once you finish, consciously sit for a few moments and just observe how you feel, physically, mentally, and emotionally. That heightened awareness of your body and mind, and how they work together, can help you find your way to peace. (See also: 10 Surprising, Non-Physical Benefits of Exercise)

3. Legs up the wall

Marita La Monica runs the online group The Mindful Rebels. She's bringing new ideas to yoga, meditation, and overall health through her writing, teaching, and activities. All of her posts are filled with inspiring ways to help us find our way to physical and mental health, no matter what starting point we're at. One of her recent posts reminded me of the great benefits of putting our legs up a wall. Lie down on the floor, couch, or bed, and put your legs up the wall while your torso lies flat, effectively making an L-shape with your body with the help and support of the wall. Physically, this posture calms the nervous system, which over time helps to calm the mind. (See also: These 7 Exercises Are Scientifically Proven to Increase Happiness)

4. Conscious eating

How many times have you made or bought a quick dinner and sat down in front of the television while eating it? I'm as guilty of this as anyone, and still do this on occasion. (No one's perfect.) What I try to do as often as I can, though, is sit down with my meal wherever I am and focus on the food with no distractions. How does it taste? What's the texture? How do I feel as I eat it? How do I feel when I'm done? And during the meal, I also actively practice gratitude for the food I'm eating. Like the focused physical activity, this practice helps me become aware of the connection between my mind and my body.

5. A point of focus

Closing the eyes during meditation can trigger many emotional responses. My take is that if you feel uncomfortable closing your eyes, then don't do it. Instead, choose something to visually focus your attention. Some people like gazing into the flame of a candle. Others prefer looking at a piece of art, or even just a block of color. Even gazing at the floor or ceiling works for some people. The idea is to keep the gaze soft. You don't want to squint or intensely focus the eye muscles. You just want to give them something to look at that helps the mind settle.

6. Go outside

Nature is a very powerful moderator for our minds. I'm immensely fortunate that I live near Central Park in New York City. I'm there every day exploring its nooks and crannies. Sometimes I'm alone. Often, I'm with my dog or friends. That connection to the natural world, be it in your local park, the mountains, the woods, or on a lake, has a euphoric effect. Whenever I need to bring a sense of calm to my mind and body, I get as deep into nature as I can, breathe, and remind myself that we are all in this world together to make it the best place it can be for all living beings. (See also: 5 Natural Wonders You Can See For Free)

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