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Meditation is less about sitting formally on a cushion than it is about stopping, resting and tuning into your body and internal dialogue. That’s good news for all of us because it means that we can practice meditation almost anywhere, anytime.
Formal meditation for 10-15 minutes at least once a day may greatly improve your health and well-being, stopping during the day to do a “mini-meditation” is a fabulous way to relieve stress and even keep it from building up. Just taking a few moment to stop, close your eyes and focus on your breathing will go a long way to rejuvenating your body and mind so that you can go back to the tasks that need to be completed more refreshed and energized.
Here are some mini-meditations to add into your day, while at your desk, waiting in line, riding the bus, or while in a meeting.
Mini Breathing Meditation
How often are you focused on what needs to be done next instead of what you are doing right now? We often create stress for ourselves by thinking into the future and hurrying to get there. Find a pleasant chime or tone on a meditation or mindfulness app or extension like, the Insight Timer app, Headspace app or Bell of Mindfulness Chrome and Firefox extensions to download to your computer, phone or tablet. Many of these apps let you choose how often the bell will chime and some even let you choose the sound of bell you like best. Whenever the bell chimes, stop what you are doing and, if possible, close your eyes and put your feet flat on the floor. Then, take 3 deep breaths, feeling the breath go all the way down into your body. Pay attention only to those breaths.
In just these couple of minutes, you can bring yourself back to the present moment and forget about your long to-do list. If you feel comfortable with it, you can even blow the out breath out, like a big sigh or a whooshing sound to release the tension that might have built up since the last bell.
Short Walking Meditation
If you work at a desk, it’s all too easy to stay sitting in one position for hours at a time. Set a timer to remind yourself to get up and walk, just down the hall to the restroom or water fountain and back to your desk. Using an app like Simple Pomodoro can help you remember to do this.
Walk at a slower pace than normal. While you are walking, focus on the feeling of your foot touching the ground with each step. Feel the sensations of all of the micro-movements your feet have to make so that you can walk. You might even feel deep appreciation for the ability of your feet to make these movements. When your mind starts thinking about something other than the sensations of walking, gently notice and bring it back.
Getting up and moving mindfully every 25-30 minutes will help keep your blood flowing so you are more productive when working, plus it will keep your muscles from tightening up. As an extra bonus, you will have the added benefit of clearing your mind from the projects in your to-do pile.
We often view a phone call as an interruption. Whether we like the person on the other end of the phone or not, frustration can sneak up on us when we must stop our workflow to answer the phone. When your phone rings, don’t answer it immediately. Let it ring 2 or 3 times while you stop, smile and take a deep breath. Then answer the phone with the smile still on your face…even if you don’t really want to talk to the person on the other end.
Smiling releases “feel good” hormones in our bodies, even when we are “smiling on purpose” or faking a smile we don’t really feel. Practice smiling during the whole conversation. When you hang up the phone, notice how you feel.
You might start to see a difference in the reaction you have to your phone ringing as you consistently practice this. You may start to see it as a way of checking in with yourself and spreading a little happiness in another person’s day—people can “hear” your smile over the phone, and it will make them feel more relaxed. Perhaps you will even start recognizing that you don’t find phone calls as interruptive as you did before and that you feel lighter and happier after smiling through phone calls.
Many of us take our lunch break at our desk while we continue to work or while we are on our phones checking our personal email or social media accounts. At least once a week, practice meditative eating.
If it’s nice outside, take your lunch out into the sunshine and just eat. Don’t carry on a conversation, don’t check your email or answer your cell phone. Don’t read a book or magazine. Just sit and enjoy your food. Look around and take notice of your environment. If the weather isn’t nice enough to eat outside, try to find a window to look out of while you eat. Notice the textures of the food. Chew more slowly and savor the flavors. Don’t rush. Take your full lunch break to just enjoy your food. Then as you walk back to work, notice how regenerated you feel.
You will likely feel more relaxed and energized because you didn’t try to finish any work or errands while you ate, but instead, really took a time-out from the busyness of your day to revive your body and mind.
Smiling and Walking Meditation
Every once in a while when your bell app chimes, get up and take a walk down the hall or to get a drink of water. Walk more slowly than normal. Walk with aimlessness, even though you are walking to reach a specific location. While you walk, smile. Just a small smile will do. Notice as you pass people that when they see your smile, they smile in return. Focus on your breath with each step. When your mind wanders to something other than the sensations of walking and smiling, just gently bring it back to focus on those two sensations.
Have you ever noticed how many judging thoughts you have when listening? You might be disagreeing in your mind with the person you are talking to, believing they don’t understand the situation. Or you judge that the sound coming from the highway is too loud and is affecting your concentration.
Pick a random song that you have never heard before from a streaming service. Put on your headphones and listen to every nuance of the song. Feel the beat reverberating in your body. Tap your foot along with the beat. Really hear the song by focusing all of your listening ability and mind on it, and only it, until the song is over. Let the music wash over you.
Notice your thoughts about it. Is it different than you thought it would be? Is it pleasant? Unpleasant? Notice that you had an expectation about the song based on the title, the musician’s name or the genre it was categorized in. What judging thoughts came up while you were listening? There’s no need to change your thoughts, just notice them.
Too often during the day we are in fight or flight mode without even realizing it. The fight or flight response is important to our survival, but we live in that mode much more frequently than we need to. This causes tension in the body and in the mind. Take a few minutes to step out of the automatic, programmed, and unconscious responses that occur you are at work or busy during the day. A few minutes is all you need.
Simply put your feet flat on the ground and close your eyes. Allow your body to sink into your office chair. Imagine you are melting like an ice cube into the chair. Feel the sensation of your sitting bones sinking in. Now notice the feeling of the back of your thighs and your back on the chair. Just slowly relax each of these areas so they can sink down into the chair. Know that you are safe—the chair can hold your entire weight. Imagine in your mind’s eye that you trust the chair and are fully relaxed into it. Now, see the chair being supported by the floor and know the floor can support your full weight. Notice how you sink even deeper into your chair. Know the floor is supported by the foundation of the building and that you can relax your body even further because the foundation can support you.
Finally, see the foundation of the building being supported by the Earth. Recognize that you are literally being supported by the Earth, and allow yourself to sink even further into the chair while all of your muscles relax. Sit for a few moments appreciating the sensations.
By doing this meditation consistently, you will begin to notice when you have gone into fight or flight mode so that you can adjust and relax.
Short Eating Meditation
In the middle of the day, many people have an afternoon slump when their energy lowers and they feel sleepy or anxious for the work day to be over. This is an excellent time to take a break and have a healthy snack to provide your body and mind with more energy. It also supplies you with the opportunity to do a short meditation while enjoying your snack.
Bring your favorite healthy snack (my favorite is nuts) with you and enjoy it slowly during the late afternoon. Don’t do anything during this time except eat your snack. Even if you are eating it at your desk, close your computer or move your chair so that you aren’t looking at the screen. You may even want to close your eyes so that you can more fully experience the sensations of eating. Feel your mouth opening to take a bite. Feel your teeth sink into it. Really taste it. Chew slowly and savor every mouthful, every movement of your jaw chewing. Delight in the smells that are released with each bite. What do you notice that you never had before? How long has it been since you really tasted this, your favorite snack?
Once finished, you can go back to work with a more relaxed, focused mind, a replenished body and a fuller appreciation for the gifts the Earth gives you.
Science has now proven that when we smile, neurotransmitters called endorphins are released into the body. Endorphins uplift your mood, help deal with pain and relax muscles. One amazing thing about this is that it doesn’t matter if your smile is genuine or not—your brain reads the movements in your face the same whether you are faking it or are sincerely smiling.
We can use this daily to keep our bodies and minds relaxed. Notice the next few days how often you aren’t smiling when you could be. When we are engaged in work or concentrating, we are usually not smiling. But why wait to be happy? This is the only moment that exists…right here, right now. You can practice this anytime, anywhere. Just smile. It doesn’t have to be a big, cheesy grin. A little half smile is all it takes.
Notice how quickly you feel happier when you do this. Notice how many people smile back at you. The next time you notice you aren’t smiling, ask yourself why and then do.
Our whole life is carried out in our minds. Sometimes, we forget about our bodies. We think so much, turning issues around and around in our mind. Now, of course, thinking is good. We need to be able to concentrate on various tasks. But sometimes all that thinking leaves us feeling scattered and ungrounded. All of our energy is swirling around our head, not down in our body. To combat that, try this short, simple meditation.
Sit or stand with your feet firmly and evenly on the floor. Close your eyes and imagine that there are roots growing ever so slowly out of the bottom of your feet. These roots push through the floor, and then the foundation of the building and into the Earth. They keep going down and down through each layer of the Earth until they reach the core. Now, image that the roots from your feet wrap around the core of the Earth several times. Now, experience the feeling of connectivity to the Earth. Breathe deeply, imaging your breath filling your entire body, clear down to your toes. When you are ready, you can open your eyes and go back to your tasks, feeling grounded and centered.
Committing to a formal meditation practice will help you manage your stress more effectively, but adding these quick mini-meditations into your daily life will definitely help you keep stress under control. They cultivate self-awareness and give you the opportunity to slow down a bit. Since a large part of our stress is caused from being unaware of our habitual reactions to situations and our addiction to speed, these three-minute meditations can improve your ability to live a happy, less stressful life.