How to Meditate When You Don’t Have Time

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Meditation is one of those tools people often think would be helpful to their overall health if they had the time. The emotional and physical benefits of meditation have been researched for years. People who meditate regularly are better able to cope with stress and to focus their minds.

Those who practice meditation swear by it. However, for some people, meditation may be kind of like taking vitamins - you know they’re good for you but you don’t always make the time. This may be because there are a lot of false assumptions about meditation that get in the way of trying it, such as thinking it takes a lot of time, thinking it’s more complicated, or that it’s all about sitting still.

In practice meditation is as simple as you make it. It can take different forms depending on your lifestyle. In this blog, you will learn some simple techniques to get you started that take as little as 5 minutes!

Setting Realistic Goals

The biggest misconception about meditation is that you’re supposed to empty your mind. Many people become discouraged with this goal when they find that they stop the flow of thoughts completely. Silencing thought processes often takes years of practice. For many it never happens but that doesn't mean mediation doesn’t work.

Our minds are always active and are rarely quiet: we naturally process information every minute of every day. Even when we’re asleep, we are still processing information by dreaming. This is why trying to control our thoughts is a set-up for failure.

We can set a more realistic goal for meditation by focusing on bringing ourselves into the present moment. This practice has also been referred to as mindfulness. We direct our minds to experience the moment - to “be here now” as an easy yet effective way to start meditation. It can be just that simple.

Meditation Isn’t Just Sitting Still

Sitting quietly is the most common form of mediation: many people believe that this is the only way it can be practiced. Others find sitting mediation uncomfortable or can create feelings of anxiety.

How can sitting still make you feel anxious?

As a whole, most of us aren’t taught the value of slowing down and attending to our inner experience. Society encourages us to be outwardly focused on success, keeping commitments, and doing what we need to do to get through the day. When obligations pile up, meditation can feel like another chore instead of a nurturing activity to cultivate.

Meditation Doesn’t Have to Take Long

Not having enough time is the number one reason most people don’t meditate. We think that meditation will take time that we don’t really have to spare. But you can start mediating for as little as 5 minutes. The duration is not as important as making consistent time to be still.

Here are some simple ways to get started.

Sitting Meditation:

In order to meditate while sitting, choose a quiet space while focusing on your breathe. This is a simple way to start because it helps to pick something to focus your attention - and your thoughts on. For instance, you might focus on other sensations like parts of the body that hold tension or soothing smells. You can use anything as a focal point. Just remember you don’t have to empty your mind.

Meditation in Motion:

Mediation is a practice of sitting with yourself - but remember that you don’t have to sit! You can find a quiet place to walk as well while focusing on your breathe or the steps you take.

Meditation Alternatives

There is no right way to meditate. Any activity that makes you feel centered, calm, and in the moment can work. The only exception is using substances that hinder us from being fully in the moment. It takes a sober mind and body for meditation to be effective.

Some alternatives to traditional sitting meditations include: 

  • Walking meditations - You could take a silent walk or listen to your favorite music.  

  • Sitting in a safe space - You could be in nature, or cozy up with a warm blanket in your home.

  • Creating a spiritual altar - You might find solace in setting up a space at home with prayer books, candles, meaningful objects, etc.

  • Listening to a guided meditation - For example, you might find effective recordings on YouTube.

  • Visualizing yourself in a safe, nurturing place - You can use a real or imagined place that feels calming to you as a focus.

  • Emotional Freedom Technique - (EFT) - You can perform a series of tapping on different parts of your body which helps the body soothe itself. Click here to learn more from Nick Ortner.

The Benefits of Mediation

A great article by The Mayo Clinic, Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress lists several benefits to practicing regular meditation that include:

  • Feeling more relaxed throughout the day

  • Providing a new perspective on difficult situations

  • Increasing self-awareness

  • Reducing negative or painful emotions

  • Promoting patience and tolerance

  • Improves stress-related illnesses such as anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and other physical disorders

Final Thoughts

When establishing a new habit of mediation, carving out time each day will help your mediation practice to grow. For some, doing it first thing in the morning works, while others resist a formal schedule. Do what feels right for you. Even five minutes of meditation is beneficial.

Remember that starting a new behavior is the hardest part. Once you form a new, positive habit such as mediation and experience the benefits, the motivation will come!