Nobody got time for that.” is an expression I hear clients tell me often.
Usually, we are talking about the power of meditation and its ability to help calm our senses and bring us to a place of greater peace and serenity. When they ask, “For how long should I meditate?” and I answer with the preferable recommendation of two times a day for twenty minutes, they respond with various versions of “Nobody got time for that!”
I can relate. It seems in the busyness of life, taking 20 minutes to meditate and ground myself seems almost impossible some days.
That being said, there are some simple techniques you can use that take less than five minutes and yet can have a profoundly calming effect.
Let’s start with one of the most simple:
1. Take your shoes off. Go ahead, slip them off your feet right now. Don’t worry about whether your feet stink. You don’t have to keep them off forever (but can leave them off for as long as you want!) Now, put your feet on the ground and wiggle your toes. Just notice the ground connecting with your feet. Feel the textures of the ground. Notice whether it is smooshy carpet, a slick hardwood or tile floor, or whatever the texture might be. Notice the temperature of the ground. It is cold? It is warm? Wiggle your toes some more and take a deep breath. Imagine breathing in energy from the earth through the soles of your feet. With every breath, imagine bringing in the energy of life, foundation, and solidarity. Notice how your body reacts as you allow yourself to become grounded. Taking your shoes off is a simple way of becoming grounded.
2. Another simple and yet powerfully effective tool is to breathe. You may point out that you already breathe. Well, that is true enough, because if you were not breathing, you would also probably not be reading this. But breathing as a way of grounding ourselves is much different than the mindless breathing that we usually do. Grounded breathing actually signals to our brain that all is well in the world and helps us find peace.
To practice this, get into a comfortable position. You can do this standing up, sitting down, or even lying down on your back. Get as comfortable as you can. Move your body until you are in a position that feels comfortable and relaxed. Gently close your eyes. And then begin to notice. Notice the air as it enters into your body. Put your hands across your belly so that your fingers just barely touch. Breathe in the air and imagine that a balloon is filling up with air in your tummy. Feel the air being sucked into your body and then slowly released. As the air escapes, notice your shoulders becoming more relaxed and comfortable. Breathing in, notice your spine lengthening. Breathing out, notice the temperature of the air. Allow your face to become relaxed.
If you have thoughts that enter your brain, notice them like clouds in the sky and watch them just float away. Focus on your breathing and try to listen for your heart beating. Breathing in and out. Allowing your stomach to fill with air and then sending it back out into the universe. Welcome yourself to be right here and now. And continue to notice your breath. Notice that with each breath you take, you become more comfortable and relaxed. Any emotions of anxiety or tension can be released with every out-breath. With every in-breath imagine breathing in joy, peace, serenity, or whatever other pleasant emotional state you wish to experience.
Continue to breathe in and out. Noticing the way your body moves as you breathe in. Noticing the way your body moves as you breathe out. Continuing to breathe for a few more minutes and then bring your awareness back to the room — to this place here and now.
This simple exercise can have powerful calming results. As you try it, just notice what your body feels like afterward. Notice that your mind is calmer. Your peace has increased.
3. Practicing Gratitude is a simple exercise that can take less than a minute. There are multiple ways of practicing gratitude. Here is one of my favorites. Write down three things that you are grateful and why. Where you write them down is completely up to you. Whether you write them down on a social media post, on your electronic device, in a journal, calendar, or even a scrap of paper you find in your pocket, it doesn’t matter. Just write it down. That’s it. Just write it down. There is a growing body of research that is proving that practicing gratitude has an anti-depressant component and other health-related benefits. You can learn about one research study done by UC Davis that identified more than 10 physical benefits to practicing gratitude every day for 21 days by clicking here.
4. Want another grounding tool? There’s an app for that. Actually, there are a lot of apps for that. Here are just a few that I have found helpful.
Simple Habit specializes in 5-minutes guided meditations you can do daily to improve your life through stress relief and increased focus. Downloading the app is free and there are many meditations you can use without having to subscribe to a premium account.
Headspace is another app that many of my clients have found so helpful. It includes a free trial that educates beginners on meditation. There is also a reward system to help motivate you to meditate daily and you can connect with others to help improve your accountability.
Calm offers a wide range of guided meditations from which to choose. Some of the meditations last only 3 minutes. Others can last much longer. The app is free to try out for 7 days but does have an annual subscription.
Stop, Breathe, and Think has several meditations that last only five minutes and is perfect for someone who is just trying out meditation for the first time. The app comes with a mindfulness coach who can personalize over 40 free meditations that fit within your schedule. They also offer two options for a premium membership that will unlock 80+ premium activities and features.
10% Happier was created with New York Times bestselling author Dan Harris and other highly respected meditation teachers. It was designed for the skeptic who isn’t sure that meditation really works. It has a similar trial period as some of the other apps mentioned.
My personal favorite is Insight Timer. The main reason I like it is that it does not require a subscription to use. Whereas the majority of meditation apps (including the ones I have mentioned) are free to download and use for a week or so, once the trial has run out the user is locked out. Insight Timer offers the largest library of guided meditations on earth and the world’s most loved meditation Timer, for free. Check out more than 4,500 free guided meditations from over 1,000 meditation practitioners with this app. There is a reasonable monthly subscription to access some additional features on the app, but the subscription is not mandatory.
5. The Self-Compassion Moment. Kristen Neff, a researcher studying the amazing power of self-compassion introduced me to this simple grounding tool. I have found this technique to be very helpful when I have been triggered by a memory or situation that causes me distress. If I notice that I start to feel anger, fear, or sadness, I can use this simple strategy to bring me back to a place of calm and groundedness. It goes like this:
When a situation or trigger occurs during your day that makes it harder for you to focus or is distressing in any way, close your eyes for a moment and feel where the distress is taking place throughout your body. Just notice where it feels uncomfortable, tense, tight, or painful.
Now say to yourself, “This is a moment of suffering.” Validate that it is painful and that it hurts. Many people think that trying to deny the pain of the situation will make it go away. But that doesn’t actually work out that well. Acknowledging the pain without judgment has been proven to show that it reduces the pain. Spend a few seconds validating the pain of the situation before moving onto the second phase.
Phase Two: Say to yourself, “I am not alone in my suffering.” As you say this, consider that there are other people who have experienced pain in similar ways. By doing so, you recognize that you are not carrying this pain alone. The fact that others have also suffered connects you to something outside of yourself and builds upon a common humanity. Spend a few seconds imagining being connected to others around the world who may be suffering just like you.
Phase Three: Put your hands over your heart or some other act of self-compassion (rubbing your cheek, giving yourself a hug, etc.) Notice the warmth of your hands touching your body. Be mindful in what you feel both tactically and emotionally. Then say, “May I be kind to myself.” By doing so, you remind yourself to be gentle and loving towards yourself. I recommend following up with statements of encouragement. What would you like someone else to say to you in this moment of suffering that would be kind, compassionate, and helpful? Say these same words or expressions to yourself as you continue keeping your hand on your heart. And then breathe.
These are five simple techniques you can use that only take up to five minutes. Would you like to try an experiment? How about you try one of these methods every day for three weeks. Just pick one and do it every day. And then notice what happens. Do you feel more peace, joy, happiness, serenity, or calm? I’d love to hear your results! Feel free to post your experience below.