(Article originally appeared on Fitbit.com)
Research shows meditation is medicine for the mind—clinical scans prove it literally changes the brain. It’s the mini-vacation where I can lie in the grass, gaze at the clouds, and sort out my thoughts. If I don’t do it, I go bonkers. I start obsessing over minutiae. Inconsequential fears blow out of proportion and paralyze my life. Perhaps you can relate?
But when I force myself to let everything go and just do nothing, I feel more like myself again. The stress melts from my mind, then my neck, and my shoulders, and all the way down to my fingertips. I laugh when I think of how small my biggest problems actually were. And I embrace the stillness that seems so scary when I run from it all day.
If stillness is so good, why do I run? Why does anybody run from the one thing proven to reduce anxiety, stress, depression, and burnout? Simply put, chronic busyness is a habit. And you can break it with a meditation routine.
Don’t meditate? This is the guide for you.
How to Meditate in 5 Easy Steps
Meditation doesn’t have to be stoic or still. Thousands of people meditate on their surfboards in the barrels of 15-foot waves. Others do it a thousand feet up slabs of granite in the Yosemite Valley. But you can do it anywhere that you have control of your breath.
Here’s a simple meditation guide that has worked wonders for me—the non-meditator.
1. GET COMFORTABLE
Find the position you like best and train your brain to associate that position with relaxation. For some that’s seated, cross-legged on a cushion or mat. But since many people associate work and stress with the seated position, I recommend lying down to newbies.
2. ENJOY YOUR SURROUNDINGS
Today, I picked up a dandelion in the park near my home. I held the flower up against the sky, and I noticed the contrast against the deep, deep blue. Then I noticed how the cool grass felt beneath me. I heard the birds twittering and observed the morphing clouds. And I completely forgot about the worries of my day.
Then I realized…I’m meditating! And that’s the point of meditating—it’s a mini-vacation.
Don’t have access to the outdoors? Try carrying a beautiful picture of nature in your wallet. Or you can create a mental image of your perfect place, complete with streams, mountains, lakes, trees, and whatever it is that makes you feel at peace.
Wherever you go, or whatever you look at, just focus on appreciating the things that would normally pass you by: colors, smells, textures, breezes, beauty. Just enjoy.
3. FOCUS ON YOUR BREATH
After you become aware of your surroundings, tune in to your breathing—it’s the essence of meditation.
Deliberate breathing harmonizes your parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, calms your fight-or-flight response, and induces relaxation. When you concentrate solely on your breath, you don’t have room to worry about the million and one things you haven’t done.
Place your hands on each side of your navel and feel your stomach pushing your hands out as you breathe in. This diaphragmatic breathing draws oxygen deeper into your tissues for more energy and rejuvenation.
If you’re crunched for time, you can get the most out of each breath with Relax, the guided-breathing feature available exclusively on Fitbit Charge 2 devices. The feature monitors your heart-rate variability to determine your best breathing rate.
4. FEEL GRATITUDE
Once you disrupt your busy thoughts with breathing, you can shift your focus to gratitude. Appreciate your body, the breath in your lungs, the sun, the sky, your family and friends, your fitness and health, and the opportunities you have to live an extraordinary life.
I feel good after noticing my surroundings and focussing on my breath, but when I shift to gratitude, the experience can be transcendental. That’s when my stress really melts away. My body feels lighter, my mind clears, and even though I’m technically meditating, meditating is the furthest thing from my mind. I’m just enjoying my life, and all the people and things in it.
Now that you’re buzzing with gratitude, you might begin to feel open to possibilities that seemed unrealistic earlier today: like finishing your first 10K, meeting that tight deadline at work, or organizing a junk drawer. It’s time to visualize yourself doing these things, as if they were really happening.
When I do this, I feel unstoppable. My confidence soars. I feel more creative; more in touch with my dreams. And when I end my meditation with a visual, I’m prepared to tackle the challenges I’ve been putting off for days, or even weeks.
You can incorporate meditation into anything. When I’m pressed for time, I blend it into my walks or jogs. And, if quiet isn’t your thing, you can meditate with classical music or any kind of instrumental that is calming to you.
This “non-meditation”-style of meditating is a ritual for me. It has helped me achieve my fitness goals and career aspirations, and it has improved the quality of life I lead. It energizes me and brings meaning to my work. It inspires me. And, when I do, it works 100% of the time.
Try it today. Riff on it, and make it your own. Do it daily for life-changing results.