When most people think of meditation, they imagine sitting crosslegged with their eyes closed for long periods of time. However, research shows that other types of meditation can also be effective, maybe even just as effective.
Sitting quietly for 20 or more minutes is often labeled “formal meditation”.
“Informal meditation”, however, can be practiced almost anywhere and anytime. During informal meditation, you just spend a few minutes bringing your focus to some aspect of your physical experience and away from your thoughts.
- Sitting at your desk or in your car, become aware of your breath moving in and out rhythmically.
- While walking, notice the soles of your feet, how they feel, the force of gravity, or other aspects of moving through space.
- When eating, slowly savor a single bite of food, bringing your attention to all aspects of the experience, including taste, texture, temperature, salivation, etc.
- While folding laundry or other repetitive task, focus on your breathing and the rhythm of the task.
When your mind wanders and a thought intrudes, gently bring your attention back to the physical experience.
The key to effectiveness is:
- your intention to choose this mindful activity
- refocusing of your attention when your attention wanders
These intentional choices train your brain to be aware of your experience in the present moment, also known as mindfulness. When practiced regularly, mindfulness can help you remain emotionally aware and present even during stressful experiences. It allows you to retain cognitive control of your emotions during distressing or frightening situations, which reduces stress hormones and neurochemicals in your body.
You can see how easy it is to integrate informal meditation or mindfulness into your daily life. Even a few minutes a day can help improve your emotional, physical and mental health.