I’ve mentioned meditation before as a possible part of your wellness routine. The thing is, how do you make meditation work for you?
I’m not gonna lie—every time I try to sit still and meditate, I can’t turn off my brain. And I don’t have ADHD. So, maybe the sitting still kind of meditation isn’t your path. There are many different types of meditation, and I’m going to talk you through some today.
The following are a few simple modern meditative practices that you can easily incorporate into your daily schedule. Keep in mind that you don’t have to pretend to be a Buddhist monk and meditate for hours on end. You can still reap the benefits from a ten- or fifteen-minute session.
Some people stick with a strictly morning meditation routine to start their day, but others use it at night to clear their minds before bed. It’s up to you to decide when the best time is for meditation. It might be after lunch if you have a stressful job, or maybe after dinner so you’re calm and relaxed for getting kids ready for bed. If one time doesn’t seem to work, switch it up.
The following exercises are appropriate for anyone, even beginners. Choose one or two methods that interest you and try them out to find the method that’s best for you.
Deep Breathing or Breath Focus:
- Involves closing your eyes and focusing all of your attention on the process of breathing.
Most meditation uses deep breathing as one of the core tenets. This is also the easiest to start with if you are new to meditation.
Begin by finding a quiet, comfortable area. Turn off your phone, TV, radio, computer—anything that is a distraction. Sit comfortably, back straight, cross-legged if that works for you. Focus all of your attention on your breathing.
Pay attention to the sound of your inhale and how your body feels as your lungs fill with air. Continue to focus on the breath leaving your lungs and how it feels. Take slow, deep breaths. If something pulls your thoughts away from your breaths, slowly turn it back. Your only task is to breathe. Be quiet and listen to your breaths. Continue until you feel relaxed and rejuvenated.
- Involves listening to soothing sounds of instrumental music or nature while focusing on your breathing.
Find a quiet, comfortable place, free from distractions where you can listen to music. You might find that headphones are the way to go here. Choose some instrumental music. It’s important to use instrumental music or nature sounds because lyrics will be a distraction. If you’re not sure where to look, you can search on Spotify or Apple Music to find something, or check out Zenradio.com. Zen Radio will allow you to mark your favorite channels with a free account, so you can try them without subscribing to anything.
Once you have your music, sit in a meditative posture and focus on deep breathing. Relax your body and clear your mind of worries and thoughts. Focus on the music and allow it to affect you. If your thoughts start to wander, slowly turn them back to the music, breathing slowly and deeply.
- Entails focusing on a positive statement that will help you feel good or accomplish your goals.
Go somewhere you feel safe and can be uninterrupted. Sit comfortably and breathe deeply until you feel relaxed. Clear your mind of worries and fears. Think about your positive affirmation. Focus only on that. It might help to say it aloud repeatedly. This isn’t something you should mumble to yourself. The point here is to say it, believe it, own it. That’s the only way it will really work. Envision how it will impact your life.
Here are some examples of positive affirmations, or create your own.
My uniqueness is magical.
I have a kind soul and strong heart.
I radiate beauty and sunshine.
I am worthy of great success and wealth.
I am resourceful.
I continue to learn and achieve success.
I love and appreciate money.
My potential for wealth is infinite.
My passions bring forth wealth and success.
My dreams are within my grasp.
I visualize the life I want to live.
I have the power within me to live my best life.
I experience no fear, but courage to tackle anything.
My mental health does not define me.
My mind is free of anxiety and worries.
- Involves repeating a word, syllable, or phrase many times, either in your mind or out loud. Can also be a positive affirmation.
Select a mantra that means something to you, something you want more of in your life, or something you hope to achieve. It can be a word, sound, phrase, or scripture that you will focus on. It might be a quality like peace or forgiveness. Or, you might choose a favorite quote or scripture that has personal meaning.
Once you have your mantra, go to a quiet, comfortable place. Remove distractions and sit in a meditative posture. Start with deep breaths. Once you are relaxed, say your word or phrase mentally or aloud. Repeat your mantra slowly several times. Think about the meaning and impact of the mantra.
- Involves paying attention to different parts of your body in sequence, tensing and relaxing each part, paying attention to how it feels during the process.
Choose a quiet, comfortable place and remove distractions. If at all possible, lie down on your back with your arms and legs straight. Elongate your neck and spine. Start with slow, deep breaths.
First, pay attention to the parts of your body in contact with the floor, mat, or mattress. Focus on relaxing these areas. Notice whether your hips or your head feel pressure.
Next, decide to accept every feeling in your body, whether it is pain or relaxation. Starting at your toes, focus on individual parts of your body. Part by part, pay attention to how you feel. Give each part of your body individual attention. Tense the muscles and then relax them. Notice the sensations: warmth, tension, pain, relaxation. Work your way up your body from your toes to your head.
Once you have made it up your entire body, focus on how your body feels as a whole. You might want to gently stretch or massage areas of your body that need to be relieved of tension at the end of your session.
- Entails closing your eyes and imagining a peaceful place to focus on.
Choose a quiet, comfortable place and remove distractions. Sit in a meditative posture. Focus on deep breathing to relax. Once relaxed, imagine a peaceful place, real or imaginary. Consider a place that you find calming, such as a beach, the mountains or a forest. If you prefer fantasy, visualize a place with imaginary creatures like unicorns, aliens, or fairies.
Imagine sitting in this place. Focus on your five senses. How does the place look? Focus on each visual detail. Then do the same for each of the senses.
- Involves listening to a pre-recorded track to guide you through the meditation
Choose a pre-recorded guided imagery track. There are plenty to choose from on YouTube or music streaming services. Sit in a meditative posture and begin with deep breathing. Listen to the instructions of the recording, visualizing each detail.
- Involves focusing attention on the feeling of movement.
This versatile practice can be done almost anywhere you can walk: in the hall at work, on the sidewalk, or out in nature.
Choose a place to walk where you feel safe and comfortable. In many ways, this type of meditation is similar to the body scan because you’re not using walking as a means of fitness (although that is a side benefit).
While you walk, focus on the movement and how your body feels. Feel the soles of your feet press into the ground. Walk slowly enough that you can focus on the individual movements of your legs, arms, and torso. Allow thoughts to pass through your mind without focusing on them, judging them, or holding onto them. Let them through and let them leave without giving them time. Return your focus to the feeling of walking.
Walking meditation is excellent for beginners who have a hard time sitting still and clearing their minds.
- Involves focusing on a sense of centeredness and then on how your body feels as it moves in various ways.
This type of meditation is very similar to walking meditation in that you are focusing on the movements of your body and how it feels. If you are a fidgety person, this meditation might feed your need to move while still getting the benefits of meditation.
Choose a place where you are comfortable and free from distractions. You can do this in silence or with calm music.
Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Align your head, shoulders, and hips. Elongate your spine and open your shoulders and chest.
Let your arms rest at your sides or press your palms together in front of you with elbows bent. Start with deep breathing and clear your mind. Continue to breathe deeply as you center yourself.
When you are ready, move your body slowly. Move any way you want, stretch upward to the sky or bend and sway or crouch down and then move up like a blossoming flower. If you prefer to imagine yourself as an animal, stalk, preen, or prowl like that animal. If you are listening to music, you can let the rhythm sway your movements.
It is important to not judge your movements. Accept how your body wants to move. This is a great way to learn self-acceptance and let go of judgment and perfectionism, but it takes practice.
If you prefer something a little more structured for movement meditation, consider these:
• Yoga: Each movement is carried out slowly and methodically, and you focus on the breath and energy in the body. You can learn some simple poses to create your own routine, or you can look for videos of classes to follow along. YouTube has free stuff to watch or you can join a monthly subscription to something like YogaDownload which has over 2400 videos.
• T’ai Chi: You’ve probably seen this portrayed on TV and in movies. It’s usually a bunch of senior citizens in a park doing martial arts in slow motion. This is actually a form of meditative martial arts. You focus on the inner energy flowing through your body as you move. Finding a local class might be a good way for you to meet new people. But you can always find some videos for free online.
• Qi Gong: Combines relaxation, meditation, movement, and breathing exercises to restore and maintain balance. This focuses on mindfulness and movement. Where Tai Chi has a series of movements, Qi gong is a specific repeated movement.
Reading Reflection or Quiet Time:
- Involves reading a poem, sacred text, or scripture and reflecting upon its meaning or personal impact.
Select something to read: a poem, scripture, or sacred text. Choose a quiet, comfortable place, free of distractions. Take out your text and read it several times. Read it through entirely once. Then focus on each phrase and reflect on the meaning.
You might want to consider journaling at this time, as you reflect on what the text means. As you write, don’t judge your thoughts. Another possibility is to simply copy the text into your journal as a means to concentrate and possibly memorize the text.
- Involves focusing your attention on the energy that flows through you and finding a sense of being centered. May also involve the use of chakras or centers of energy as dictated in Hindu traditions.
Okay, you know me, and I’m not all that woo-woo but lots of people are. I’m not saying that it doesn’t work—I just don’t understand enough about it, but I’ve done some research to get the basics.
As with all meditation, choose a quiet place free of distractions. Sit in a meditative posture. Start with deep breathing.
Focus on centering yourself. This means pulling your thoughts and attention back to yourself. Focus on the energy core of your body. In addition, you can focus on the 7 chakras, simplified here:
o The Crown Chakra – at the top of the head, this chakra is associated with spiritual connectedness, understanding, will, and the color violet or purple.
o The Third Eye Chakra – slightly above the center of the eyes, this chakra is associated with intuition, psychic knowledge, and the color indigo.
o The Throat Chakra – at the center of the throat near the collar bones, this chakra is associated with communication and the color blue.
o The Heart Chakra – at the breast bone, this chakra is associated with matters of the heart, love, and emotions as well as the color green.
o The Solar Plexus Chakra – at the diaphragm, between the breast bone and navel, this chakra is associated with intellect, cleansing, life force, wisdom, and the color yellow.
o The Splenic Chakra – at the belly button, this chakra is associated with creativity and the color orange.
o The Root Chakra – at the pelvic region, this chakra is associated with the earth, sexuality, and the color red.
- A variation of the Breath Focus technique, where you focus on an object instead of closing your eyes.
Choose an object on which to focus. It can be something meaningful to you, such as a religious picture or a photo of something in nature, or a statue or object you like. Settle in a quiet location, free from distractions. Place the object in front of you, just below eye level. Sit in a meditative posture, close your eyes, and breathe deeply to clear your mind.
Now, open your eyes and focus your gaze upon your object. Keep your eyes open without blinking for as long as you can. When you need to blink, close your eyes, but imagine the object in your mind. Think about the nature and meaning of your object. Let it capture your full attention. Let thoughts flow past, without holding on to them.
If you start to lose focus, open your eyes again and gaze at the object. Repeat the process.
A variation of this exercise uses colored candles, with each color representing different qualities. Choose the color of the quality you would like to focus on. Light the candle and gaze into the flame. Make sure there is no breeze that will blow out your candle. If lighting it in the location you are meditating doesn’t work, you can gaze upon the candle itself, focusing on the color and the quality it represents.
o White – clarity, wholeness, purity, innocence, and simplicity
o Gold – wealth, prosperity, abundance, spirituality, higher ideals
o Silver – clairvoyance, personal transformation, the subconscious mind
o Purple – commitment, reverence, connecting with the divine, spiritual development, and higher consciousness
o Indigo – intuition, insight, wisdom, imagination, and clarity of thought
o Blue – communication, self-expression, inspiration, creativity, relaxation, trust, and devotion
o Turquoise – healing, independence, and protection
o Green – love, forgiveness, compassion, inspiration, hope, dedication, and freedom
o Yellow – generosity, ethics, confidence, self-esteem, discipline, ambition, courage, inner power, and self-respect
o Orange – sexual energy, sensuality, happiness, friendship, the ability to survive loss, and optimism
o Red – survival, safety, connection to the physical world, courage, family relationships, physical strength, and vitality
o Pink – loyalty, warmth, and empathy
Although meditation has been around and practiced for centuries, it’s becoming more commonplace as people begin to understand all of its benefits. As someone who is trying to improve their executive functioning, a clear, relaxed mind is a great place to start. Often, when executive dysfunction is at play, your life can feel out of control and hectic. Allowing yourself time to relax and focus.