How to benefit from meditation (but not actually 'mediate'): Three simple ways to slow down

Updated: Apr 5, 2020

The benefits of meditation flow from the increased ability to clear your mind, slow down your heart rate, breathe deeply and feel completely in the moment. It is a time out from your schedule, from your family, from your worries, from your ambitions. It is a point in time just for you. You don't have to reflect or think, you just let your mind detach from the day ahead for just a short while.

Meditation is kind of a buzz word at the moment. Many leaders, executives and athletes practice some form of meditation to clear their mind, sharpen their focus and master their hectic schedules. Masters of meditation will repeat and refine their practice, until they can successfully empty their mind and return to their day, calm and aware.

To perform at your best, you need a break (even if you think you don't).

If you have time and are keen to learn to do this, that's fantastic. But the danger is that 'try mediation' becomes another item on your to do list, and it can linger there for a while and make you feel a tinge of stress and frustration that you haven't done it yet. Ironic, huh.

How can I get all the benefits of meditation, without actually 'meditating'?

Meditation doesn't have to be a dedicated practice. You don't need to sit in silence and close your eyes to reap the rewards. It's easy to include elements of meditation in your daily life even if you don't actually set out to 'meditate'.

Here are my favourite forms of day to day meditation.

1. Exercise

Exercise is not just a way to tone and shape your body and improve your health and fitness. It is also a moment that you can totally zone out from the world and just focus on your training.

My favourite way to do this is weights training. I direct my mind to the muscle I want to work or the weight I want to lift. It is a very focused activity, and trains your mind to be in one place at a time and concentrate on a single goal.

I didn't use to think about exercise as a form of meditation. But think about it - how do you feel while you exercise and after you exercise? How does it affect your state of mind? For me, it calms me down, and I tend to notice that I am more productive and use my time more efficiently on the days that I train.

How to do it?

It might sound counter-intuitive, but make an effort to prioritise exercise when you feel like your are flat out, rather than skip it. If you break away from work to train, it forces you to manage your time more efficiently and keep things in perspective.

2. Put your mind on 'standby', but don't switch off

If I'm restless or distracted, I use set time blocks of concentration to tackle a task. After the allocated period (ie, 25 minutes), I will have a short break relative to the amount of time that I worked (ie, 5 minutes). This break functions as a tool to help me stay on top of a difficult task or a deadline. It's sort of like a retreat to my comfort zone. This is a form of mediation because I can let my mind switch to 'standby' mode and return to my work fresh soon after.

How to do it?

For example, focus for an hour, then break for about 10 minutes and turn your mind to a completely different stimulus that is not a stress - for me, it's often to prepare a meal. Choose routine activities that keep your mind ready to work (ie, cook, clean, tidy, eat, etc.) but don't distract you too much (ie, TV, social media).

3. Go outside

One of my favourite things to do is to spend time outside. It could be at the start of the day before I arrive at work, in my lunch break or at dusk.

How to do it?

The best way to do this is spontaneously. If you have ten minutes before work, or even five minutes, take a detour. You'll be surprised at how quickly it alters your state of mind from frantic and cluttered, to calm yet alert.

Find a quiet place nearby, like a park, a river, a lane way, etc. If you feel like you need some movement in your day, take a relaxed walk. Or, just find an empty bench to sit, or a sunny spot. Take three deep breaths. Nobody will notice. Look around, see what's around you. You'll find you naturally start to slow down. You will have things pop into your mind, but don't dwell on them for the moment.

Take home message

Life is hectic. But to perform at your best, you need a break (even if you think you don't). Make time for activities that allow your brain to have a mental 'time out' to enhance your well being and boost productivity later on.