I have a lot of trouble meditating. Despite all the crazy and scientifically proven benefits of it, I just find it tough to sit there to do and think, well, nothing. I like having a busy mind. I like feeling productive. I like multitasking. Audiobooks for the win.
But man, the benefits are supposed to be so good.
I once heard Tim Ferriss describe the idea of having a great mind without meditation is like using a sharp knife with no handle—it can be effective, but dangerous.
So, after several attempts and dozens of hours listening to podcast interviewees share their tricks I've picked up several habits that get me close to mediating—at least in a style that works for me.
And although these don't fall into the classic definition of meditation there is science behind why these things work. One note before we dig in. Even if you don't plan on practicing meditation on a regular basis, I strongly recommend that you learn the basics of meditation by using an app like Headspace. Knowing the fundamentals of meditation and how to do the real thing will actually make all the things in this list make more sense. Point is, if you haven't tried real meditation before jumping to this list, try that first. And that goes double if you're experiencing any kind of chronic pain. We have an article on mindfulness and pain that you should check out too.
Ok. Without further adieu, here are at least 90 minutes in your everyday routine that you can use to "meditate."
Make and Drink Coffee
When The Feel Good Lab first opened an office up in a small mountain town in California, we set up shop in a hip co-working space. Of course, there was no Keurig coffee maker here. That just wouldn't be cool, folks. And you know what? Respect. Instead, I had to learn the technique of making my own pour over coffee using locally roasted beans.
Here's the exact video from Stumptown Coffee Roasters that I learned from:
First off, how much more relaxing can you get? Well played, Stumptown.
But the point is, this coffee ritual has become a daily moment of Zen for me. If you go in thinking this is time you'll consciously use to relax I think you'll feel the same. No checking your phone. Maybe a little music in the background. But enjoy the process. Oh, and bonus, you get the reward of a killer cup of coffee at the end.
For an extra mental detox take your cup outside in the morning while still avoiding your phone. Exposure to natural light will kickstart your body and tell it to get ready for the day.
Brush and Floss
I know what you're thinking. Lame. But this is another one that has become a daily ritual for me that is meditative.
I recently went to a new dentist and the hygienist there was the first to tell me the logic behind why flossing prevents your teeth from falling out. She said that if you don't stimulate your gums they'll slowly move downward. Ever hear the phrase, "long in the tooth?" When your gums move downward, the bone in your jaw does the same. Eventually, the bone gets so low that it can't hold your teeth anymore. I'm a logic guy, so I've be brushing and flossing like crazy since hearing that. And it's become a very calming experience sans emails, Slack messages, or texts.
I use a Sonicare electric toothbrush. The nice thing about it is that it uses a timer and pulses the brush every 30 seconds for 2 minutes, letting you know when to hit the 4 quadrants of your mouth.
This 2 minutes every morning when paired with the flossing is a good 4-5 minutes of just me and my thoughts.
Again, I think this one is all about consciously using the time as meditation. Try it.
Ever wonder why you have creative epiphanies in the shower? It's because your brain is hardwired for it to happen.
Research has shown that the part of the brain responsible for these "Aha!" moments is able to be tapped into better when other areas are distracted, namely the parts that control routine motor functions. After thousands of showers, you don't even think about it any more. You're on autopilot. And that's when the ideas happen.
But that's why I think shower time is such a powerful tool for mental health. Let's just agree, something special is going on. And this is another 3-5 minutes that you can use to clear your thoughts, or better yet, crack into the really good ones.
The Cold Shower
Want to ramp it up? The benefits of cold showers is crazy—like, boosting you immune system, detoxing your brain, and kicking your metabolism into high gear. But you'll need to conquer your mind in order to take advantage. Enter meditation. Google, "Wim Hof" to learn all about cold therapy and how to do it.
Listen to a Favorite Song
One simple and fun way to practice real mediation is to listen to your favorite song. But you've got to really listen. Sit there with no distractions. Just you and the song. Intently focus on every note, every lyric. This concentration is a form of simple meditation. Plus, it really makes you appreciate the music. I recommend using a good pair of headphones in a quiet room in the morning. And it doesn't need to be a slow, calm song. I often go with Don't Stop Me Now by Queen.
For the same reasons that a shower can unlock special thinking, driving to a well-known destination can do the same. Try driving to work in silence and see what happens. Or, try pairing the drive with your favorite song on repeat.
Bonus tip: taking a different route to work can be beneficial too. It's not meditative, but research has shown that breaking out of the daily groove can have a dramatic impact on your level of happiness. Try taking a different way to work in the morning for a little boost of positivity.
Let's not even dive into all the great things that happen within your body and mind when you exercise. But know this, routine exercise is one of the best ways to escape from all the screens in your life and focus on your thoughts, or lack thereof. If you're exercising on a regular basis, try sprinkling in a few times without any music. Or consider sitting in the sauna or even just the locker room for a minute or two after a tough training session.
Do the Dishes
Doing the dishes can be more than a chore. This time can be used for a few minutes of calm thought or rather no thought at all. The more of routine you get into doing them, the better the mental benefits.
Pat Flynn, a successful entrepreneur, has mentioned on several occasions that he loves doing the dishes for those very reasons.
Bonus, everyone in your house will love you.
Meditate to Fall Asleep
Many experts will say that meditation and falling asleep should be separate. I get it. Part of the challenge of meditation is clearing your mind, but staying in control of your body. But I'm sorry, I see no better use of meditation.
Like I mentioned at the beginning, I used the Headspace app to learn the fundamentals of meditation. They have a fantastic free 10-day program that teaches you the basics. Again, even if you're not planning on becoming a diehard meditator, I highly recommend it.
It gave me a great technique for falling asleep at night. Anytime I find myself restless and unable to fall asleep I just use the exact techniques they teach in the 10-course program and I'm out in like 5 minutes. Every time.
Bonus. If you ever find yourself in a stressful situation you'll have the secret weapon of at least knowing how to meditate. I had to get blood drawn recently. I do not do well with this. So, I'm sure glad that I could go to my "happy place," using meditation. It's a skill worth knowing even if you don't use it all the time.
What would you add to this list? Share this post on social media and let us know.