8 Quick and Easy Meditation Techniques to Calm Your Anxious Mind
Have you ever found it hard to motivate yourself to do something that was good for you, only to eventually do it, feel amazing, and wonder why you waited so long?
That’s what meditating was like for me. Even though I knew I could do it for only five minutes each day to feel calmer, less stressed, and more present, I found excuses not to do it regularly for years.
I’d tell myself five minutes wasn’t enough; I really needed thirty or more, and I didn’t have that time, so why bother?
I’d lament that I was too anxious to sit still (ironic, considering that I knew meditating could calm my anxiety).
I’d complain that my environment was too distracting (irony yet again, since meditation ultimately helps us focus and better deal with distractions).
And then there was my most commonly used excuse: “It just doesn’t work for me.”
Of course, it didn’t “work.” I wasn’t meditating with any consistency. And when I did, I got impatient with my own busy brain, like watching the proverbial pot that wouldn’t boil, instead of simply easing into the experience.
I was approaching it with a perfectionist mindset, as if I needed to eventually have a completely clear mind to be “good at it.”
Everything changed for me when I realized I could meditate in many different ways, to suit my schedule, moods, and needs; and that the only goal was to show up, mindfully observe my inner life, and practice detaching from my thoughts.
It was okay if I never achieved complete mental clarity. The practice itself, with its mental messiness and mind wandering, was the path to more clarity in my daily life.
And it’s not just about mental clarity. Adopting a regular meditation practice—even just five minutes a day—can improve your sleep, regulate your mood, boost your resilience, and help ease and prevent a number of physical ailments.
No other habit positively impacts so many areas of your life simultaneously. Because meditation helps reduce anxiety, depression, stress, and anger, while improving your focus, presence, and physical health, it bleeds into all areas of your life—your work, your relationships, your hobbies.
Literally everything can transform, over time, with just five minutes each day.
Whether you’re new to these meditation techniques or just looking for some alternative ways to fit mindfulness into your daily life, you may enjoy trying one or more of my favorite practices, including…
1. Alternate Nostril Breathing
Hold your left nostril down with your left thumb and inhale through your right nostril. Then close your right nostril with your left index finger, so both are closed, and hold the breath. Release your left nostril only and exhale.
With your right nostril still closed, inhale through your left. Now close your left nostril with your thumb, so both nostrils are closed, and hold the breath. Release your index finger from your right nostril and exhale.
This is one set. Complete a minimum of five sets to harmonize the left and right hemispheres of your brain, calm your nervous system, and create a sense of relaxation and ease.
2. The 100-Breaths Technique
Close your eyes. Feel your back against your chair and your feet pressed firmly on the ground, then gently bring yourself into the present moment. Now start breathing through your nostrils and counting as you go, thinking “and” for every inhale, and the number for each exhale—inhale “and,” exhale “one”; inhale “and,” exhale “two.”
Feel your belly rise with each inhalation, and let the breaths slow as you count yourself into a greater sense of relaxation. After you reach 100, open your eyes, move your fingers and toes, and bow your head in gratitude for the mental space you created.
3. Full Body Breath Scan
Start by inhaling through your nose, expanding your stomach, and counting to five. As you breathe in, visualize soothing warm light filling your feet, and then exhale through your lips for a count of five, while visualizing yourself releasing any tension you may have been carrying there.
Repeat this process for your ankles, your shins, your knees, and so on, all the way up to your head. End your breathing practice by silently expressing gratitude for the healing power of your breath.