Mindfulness Alternatives for Those Who Don't Like Meditation
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For some of us, meditation is 100% unappealing. And while meditation isn’t mandatory to thyroid-healthy living, some sort of mindfulness practice is an integral part of a whole-health routine. But what do we do when meditation just isn't happening for us?
In this article we're going to explore why mindfulness matters, and what we can do to cultivate it, aside from traditional meditation.
Why Mindfulness Matters
We all need to clear our heads. Technology jumbles our minds. The news gives us information we can hardly process. We are blasted with overload, and with so much competition for our attention, disturbing words and images regularly penetrate our headspace. These are strange and extreme times we live in, and cultivating clarity, peace, and calm, well… let's just say it ain’t gonna happen by itself!
In fact, without effort taken towards clearing our mental cache, overwhelm can take root in our minds and become normalized. In other words, we accept a level of stress that maybe we shouldn’t.
The Connection Between Mindfulness and Healthfulness
Let's not forget, mindfulness isn’t only about the mind, but the body too. It’s easy to breeze through our days barely aware we have a body. But how can we feel whole as humans without occasionally pausing to remember the sensation of being alive and drawing breath?
Without a way to tune in, unload and unwind, a high-stress, disconnected existence can persist as one of our most deeply rooted root causes of disease. The links between chronic stress and illness, including stress and autoimmune disease are regular medical journal fare these days.
We are some stressed out and increasingly sick people here in the modern world! But even knowing that fact, doesn't magically make meditation work for all of us. Some of us simply don't like meditation, and those of us who do, still struggle to stay consistent in our practice.
I Speak From Experience…
I am a Hashimoto’s patient who has used diet and lifestyle to reclaim my life. As "Hypothyroid Chef," I can cook up anti-inflammatory meals like a Paleo ninja! I can do adrenal-friendly workouts till the cows come home! Supplements? I'm on it! But when the time comes for meditation or other forms of mindfulness? It’s always the first casualty of my thyroid-healthy routine when life gets busy.
What's up with that?
Personally, I enjoy meditation. I need meditation. I am a believer in the power of meditation. There have been long periods where I've kept my meditation practice going for months. It's reliably glorious. I get all blissed out, I'm happier, I'm sleeping better, I'm shedding less hair... and then I get kind of bored. I move on to other things, like not meditating.
When this happens, and for whatever reason, I just can't bring myself to sit in silence, I've found that the most surefire way to recalibrate, is by turning to a mindfulness practice that doesn't require...well, sitting in silence!
5 Ways to Mindfulness That Don’t Require Sitting Still
Below are 5 ways you can achieve the chill vibes of a regular meditator, without sitting and doing nothing with your eyes closed, while you’re actually thinking about what to make for dinner, or that dumb thing you said earlier, or the windows that need washing, or...
1.) Bird Watching
Don’t laugh! Bird-nerding is a great pastime for those random moments when you’re waiting for water to boil, or the bus to come. A set of binoculars and a bird book make it more engaging but are entirely optional. Birds bring wilderness and wildness to pretty much every landscape on the planet, no matter how urban. Pay attention, and before you know it you will be tuning into “Days of Our Birdie Lives” for another fascinating episode.
2.) Mindful Eating
Next time you find yourself dining alone, try slowing way, waaaaay down. Take a few deep breaths before picking up your eating utensils, and visually take in the bowl or plate before you. Smell the fragrances of the food. Notice the colors and textures. Ponder the ingredients. How much sunlight, water, soil, and human touch went into getting them onto your plate? When you take a bite, use all your senses. Unpack every layer of flavor, no matter how simple the meal. How will it nourish your body? Even a single raisin can become a profound morsel when savored and appreciated this way.
3.) Walking Meditation
Walking meditations are a great option for the restless and wiggly among us. Begin with some deep, grounding breaths when you set out on your walk, and then use your senses to tap into a deeper awareness. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “The earth is sacred and we touch her with each step.” Go slower than your typical destination-type walk. Feel your feet on the ground, and the shoes on your feet (if you’re wearing any). What does the day smell, feel, and sound like? Are there birds? What are they doing? What are the clouds like today? What does the air feel like going into and out of your lungs? Guess what. You just gave your mind a little vacation, without sitting still.
Qigong is like a moving meditation combining breath and energy. Qigong is an incredible tool because you not only score points for moving your body, but also for self-care. Acupuncturist and Qigong instructor Brodie Welch describes Qigong as a movement multi-vitamin. You can try some of Brodie's Qigong videos in my Thyroid-friendly Workout Kit, or The Calm Kit.
Prayer means different things to different people. It can be religious or not. It can be a memorized string of words or it can be free-form. In my mind, prayer is like meditation minus the pressure to clear the mind and have no thoughts. Instead, we create a quiet space for ourselves to give words to our deepest desires, wishes, pain points, gratitudes, and questions. It doesn’t have to adhere to a belief system unless you want it to, but it can be a way to connect with the inner and outer divine. In the words of poet Pádraig Ó Tuama: “Prayer is rhythm. Prayer is comfort. Prayer is disappointment. Prayer is words and shape and art around desperation and delight and disappointment and desire.”
- Cloud watching
- Adult coloring books, especially mandalas
I hope this has given you some inspiration and fresh ideas for how to uplevel your wellbeing with a mindfulness practice, no matter what form it takes. It’s not about perfection, it’s about finding what works for you, and making small, sustainable steps towards a vibrant, healthy lifestyle.
Wishing you peace, calm, and abundant good health!