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8 Unconventional Meditations For A Busy Lifestyle

8 Unconventional Meditations For A Busy Lifestyle

You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” – Old Zen adage

What’s the most common excuse you make as to why you don’t meditate? If you’re like most people, it’s time.

Meditation takes time – precious minutes that most of us perceive ourselves not to have. However, this is only an issue if you perceive meditation in a super-traditional sense. For example, you must meditate for an hour each day, in complete silence, in a sitting position. We think of ancient sages sitting cross-legged, eyes closed, serenely zoning out beneath an old beautiful tree. Who has time for that? This idealized image is certainly discouraging, considering the pace of our modern day-to-day life.

But if we were to suspend all preconceived notions about what meditation is, and what a “successful” meditator looks like, we could break through that stale barrier of “not enough time.” Here are a few unconventional meditations for a busy lifestyle.

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1. The Board Meeting Meditation

We don’t often associate meditation with productivity, but a Japanese study suggests that we may want to start. The findings of the study, conducted by the Kyoto Convention Bureau, showed that 10-minute meditations before work meetings led to better concentration and an increased ability to absorb new information. So plowing right through your meeting may not actually be the best way to get things done. Doing a brief meditation in your office, or even a collective meditation at the beginning of a meeting will ensure information is

So plowing right through your meeting may not actually be the best way to get things done. Doing a brief meditation in your office, or even a collective meditation at the beginning of a meeting will ensure information is
better understood and remembered.

2. The Lunchtime Leisure Meditation

Do you ever find yourself talking or worrying about work on your lunch breaks? This can barely be considered a true break. Instead of working straight through lunch or rushing out to meet a friend for gossip, try eating your lunch more mindfully.

Turn off your phone, sit somewhere with a decent view, and simply eat – or adopt a mindful journaling practice during this time. While your mind may wander, simply returning to the taste of your food and the scenery around you can serve as a rejuvenating meditation.

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3. The Laughing Meditation

We’ve all heard that laughter is the best medicine, but this is not just an anecdote. When you laugh, your body’s level of the stress hormone, cortisol is reduced. The key to laughter meditation is not to hold back, to allow yourself to laugh out loud and without guilt. Whether you are simply recounting humorous events of the day or watching a funny video, try to remain present and aware of your body during the process. Don’t allow the subject to draw you in so much that you completely lose yourself in the story. The Daily OM offers a

Whether you are simply recounting humorous events of the day or watching a funny video, try to remain present and aware of your body during the process. Don’t allow the subject to draw you in so much that you completely lose yourself in the story. The Daily OM offers a three-staged guide to laughter meditation.

4. The Driving Meditation

Many people who commute to work see their travel time as lost time, especially if they spend it in traffic. However, an uninterrupted period of time in your car is actually the perfect excuse for a longer, more focused meditation. You don’t need to close your eyes or lose focus of the road. In fact, that is the meditation. So often when we drive, we are texting, worrying, yelling at other drivers, or planning what we’ll do when we arrive at our destination. The simple act of focusing on your hands gripping the wheel, the car in front of you, or the sound

You don’t need to close your eyes or lose focus of the road. In fact, that is the meditation. So often when we drive, we are texting, worrying, yelling at other drivers, or planning what we’ll do when we arrive at our destination. The simple act of focusing on your hands gripping the wheel, the car in front of you, or the sound of the engine is a kind of meditation few recognize and practice.

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5. The Clean Sweep Meditation

Much like in the case of driving, cleaning is an activity that we sometimes dread and take for granted. It’s not a whole lot of fun, and cleaning jobs seem to constantly pile up around the house – the yard, the dishes, the laundry, etc. While it may seem less glamorous than that idealized image of a zen meditator, cleaning is a meditation used by some of the greats. Spiritual leader and Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh once spoke of “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.” Thus a meditation opportunity hides in every cluttered corner of your home. It’s also worth noting that external order and cleanliness can often seep in, leading to feelings of inner peace and clarity.

Spiritual leader and Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh once spoke of “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.” Thus a meditation opportunity hides in every cluttered corner of your home. It’s also worth noting that external order and cleanliness can often seep in, leading to feelings of inner peace and clarity.

6. The Neutral Listening Meditation

Many of us would be quite surprised to recognize the calming effect of just listening. Typically chaotic and stressful environments can be transformed with this detachment trick. This is especially useful for those who hate their work or home environment, which may be filled with loud voices, traffic noises, or other sounds that continuously unground us.

However, even if you are listening to a conversation between two coworkers, there is an option to detach. Instead of frequently looking for the meaning in each sound in your environment, simply practice hearing. For the first time, you may recognize birds chirping outside. Maybe the shrill sound of a car horn honking won’t be as troublesome as it usually is. This is a powerful way to solidify a habit of meditation, as it requires nothing but the recognition of sounds around you.

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7. The Traveller’s Meditation

You don’t need a pile of cash and a plane ticket to practice this style of meditation. It simply rests on the belief that in nature, we can more easily find ourselves. The hum of a stream or the simple sound of silence on the front porch can serve as a reset – an experience that takes us out of ingrained habits and puts us back in alignment with nature. Your version of

Your version of traveling meditation might be taking a new route home from work, taking your lunch break at the park, or even just taking a walk to a new store. You don’t need to travel around the world to receive the benefits of the outdoors.

8. The Gazing Meditation

This meditation is specially designed for busy folks and requires nothing but your eyes and a focal point. It has been reported that staring into the flame of a candle – or even better – the eyes of another person can have radically beneficial effects. However, even if you are stuck at your desk, simply choosing a focal point and softening your eyelids can help quiet a tensed nervous system and bring you back to a sense of peace.

Another recommended gazing technique involves closing your eyes and looking up at the third eye, or the middle of your forehead. While scientists are still uncertain about the true function of the third eye, many have experienced its transformative effects. A third eye gazing meditation can help you generate new ideas and move through challenging problems during the work day.

As we know from research studies, meditation is associated with a shift in brain wave activity. Thus anything that can reduce stress and bring about a content level of focus is beneficial, and technically a kind of meditation. Use your imagination to begin implementing these and other creative meditative techniques for grounding and clarity.

Featured photo credit: grandrapidscenterformindfulness.com via grandrapidscenterformindfulness.com

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Published on July 7, 2020

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Exercise isn’t just for your body. Just as important is keeping your mind strong by training your brain with fun mental workouts.

Think of your mental and physical fitness the same way: you don’t need to be an Olympian, but you do need to stay in shape if you want to live well. A few cognitive workouts per week can make a major difference in your life.

The Skinny on Mental Workouts

Physical fitness boosts your stamina and increases your muscular strength. The benefits of working up a mental sweat and brain training, however, might not be so obvious.

Research suggests that cognitive training has short- and long-term benefits, including:

1. Improved Memory

After eight weeks of cognitive training, 19 arithmetic students showed a larger and more active hippocampus than their peers.[1] The hippocampus is associated with learning and memory.

2. Reduced Stress Levels

Mastering new tasks more quickly makes the work of learning less stressful. A stronger memory can call information to mind with less effort.

3. Improved Work Performance

Learning quickly and remembering key details can lead to a better career. Employers are increasingly hiring for soft skills, such as trainability and attention to detail.

4. Delayed Cognitive Decline

As we age, we experience cognitive decline. A study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that 10 one-hour sessions of cognitive training boosted reasoning and information processing speed in adults between the ages of 65 and 94.[2]

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Just like in physical exercise, what’s important isn’t the specific workout. To be sustainable, cognitive workouts need to be easy and fun. Otherwise, it’s too easy to throw in the towel.

Fun Brain Training Exercises for Everyone

The best about fun mental workouts? There’s no need to head to a gym. Feel free to mix and match the following activities for daily brain training:

1. Brainstorming

One of the simplest, easiest ways to engage your brain? Coming up with solutions to a challenge you’re facing.

If you aren’t good at solo ideation, ask a partner to join you. When I’m struggling to come up with topics to write about, I call up my editors to bat ideas around. Friends or co-workers are usually happy to help.

2. Dancing

Isn’t dancing a physical workout? Yes, but the coordination it requires is also great for training your brain. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

Studies suggest that dance boosts multiple cognitive skills.[3] Planning, memorizing, organizing, and creativity all seem to benefit from a few fancy steps.

3. Learning a New Language

Learning a new language takes time. But if you split it up into small, daily lessons, it’s easier than you might think.

With language learning, every lesson builds on the last. When I was learning Spanish, I used a tool called Guru for knowledge management.[4] Every time I’d learn a verb tense, I’d create a new card to give me a quick refresh before moving on.

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4. Developing a Hobby

Like languages, hobbies take time to develop. But that’s the fun of them: you get a little better—both at the hobby and in terms of brain function—each time you do them.

If you’re trying to train your brain and improve a certain cognitive skill, choose a hobby that aligns with it.

For example:

  • Attention to detail: Pick a hobby that requires you to work patiently with small features. Woodworking, model-building, sketching, and painting are all good choices.
  • Learning and memory: Choose an activity that requires you to remember lots of details. Your best bets are hobbies that require lots of categorization, such as collecting stamps or coins.
  • Motor function: For this brain function, physical activities can double as fun mental workouts. Sports like soccer and basketball build gross motor functions. Fine motor functions are better trained through activities like table tennis or even playing video games.
  • Problem-solving: Most hobbies require you to problem-solve in one way or another. The ones that test your problem-solving skills the most, however, take some investigation.

Geocaching is a good example: Using a combination of clues and GPS readings, geocaching involves finding and re-hiding containers. Typically done in a wooded area, geocaching is a fun way to put your problem-solving skills to the test.

5. Board Games

Playing a board game might not be much of a physical workout, but it does make for a fun mental workout. With that said, not all board games work equally well for cognitive training.

Avoid “no brainer” board games, like Candy Land. Opt for strategy-focused ones, such as Risk or Settlers of Catan. Remember to ask other players for their input.

6. Card Games

Card games build cognitive skills in much the same way board games do. They have a few extra advantages, though, that make them worthy of special attention.

A deck of cards is inexpensive and can be played anywhere, from a kitchen to an airplane. More importantly, a deck of cards opens the door to dozens of different games. Challenge yourself to learn a few in an afternoon.

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7. Puzzles

Puzzles are great tools for building a specific cognitive skill: visuospatial function. Visuospatial function is important to train because it’s one of the first abilities to slip in people struggling with cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s.[5]

Choose a puzzle you’ll stick with. There’s no shame in starting with a 500-piece puzzle or choosing one that makes a childish image.

8. Playing Music

Listening to music is a great way to unwind. But playing music goes one step further. On top of entertaining you, it makes for a fun mental workout.

Again, choose an instrument you know you’ll stick with. If you’ve always wanted to learn the violin, don’t get a guitar because it’s less expensive or easier to pick up.

What if you can’t afford an instrument? Sing. Learning to control your voice is every bit as challenging as making a set of keys or strings sound good.

9. Meditating

Not all cognitive exercises are loud, in-your-face activities. Some of the most fun mental workouts, in fact, are quiet, solo activities. Meditating can help you focus, especially if you have pre-existing attention issues.

Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never meditated before. It’s easy:

  • Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down.
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes, or for however long you have to meditate.
  • Close your eyes or turn off the lights.
  • Focus on your breathing. Do not try to control it.
  • If your thoughts wander, gently bring them back to your breath.
  • When the timer goes off, wiggle your fingers and toes for a minute. Slowly bring yourself back to reality. Remember the sense of serenity you found.

10. Deep Conversation

There’s nothing more mentally stimulating than a good, long conversation. The key is depth: surface-level chatter doesn’t get the mind’s wheels spinning like a thoughtful, authentic conversation. This type of conversation helps in training your brain to think more deeply and reflect.

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Choose your partner carefully. You’re looking for someone who’ll challenge your ideas without being confrontational. Stress isn’t good for brain health, but there’s value in coming up with creative arguments.

11. Cooking

When you think about it, cooking requires an impressive array of cognitive skills. Developing a cook’s intuition requires a good memory. Making sure flavors are balanced takes attention to detail. When something goes wrong in the kitchen, problem-solving skills come into play. Motor control is required to stir, flip, and whisk.

If you’re going to cook, you might as well make enough for everyone. Invite them into the kitchen as well: coordinating with other chefs adds an extra layer of challenge to this fun mental workout.

12. Mentorship

Whether you’re the mentee or the mentor, mentorship is an incredible mental workout. Learning from someone you look up to combines the benefits of deep conversation with skill-building. Teaching someone else forces you to put yourself in their shoes, which requires empathy and problem-solving skills.

Put yourself in both situations. Being a student makes you a better teacher, and teaching others gives you insight into how you, yourself, learn.

Final Thoughts

Your mind is your most important possession, and training your brain is needed to maintain its health. Don’t let it get soft.

To keep those neurons firing at full speed, add a few fun mental workouts to your schedule. And if you’re still struggling to get your brain in gear, remember: there’s an app for that.

More Tips for Training Your Brain

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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