Meditation has many useful and scientifically proven properties: it helps to fight anxiety and depression, reduces the overall level of stress, saves from insomnia, improves concentration, makes us more balanced, and according to some reports, even reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
All this does not negate the simple fact: meditation is not for everyone. Someone, following prompts from applications like Headspace or Calm, masters it quickly and naturally. Others build willpower and gradually train themselves to devote at least a few minutes a day to a healthy habit. But many of us find it difficult to sincerely imbued with meditative practices, and there is nothing wrong with that. To become more mindful, attentive and calm, you do not have to focus on the sensations of the body - you can choose other equally useful activities that help you calm down.
Keeping a diary
Keeping a journal or diary (on paper or even electronically) can help you manage stress and anxiety. On the one hand, recordings allow you to literally pour out your soul and release your experiences, on the other hand, they help you structure your thoughts, describe the nature of your sorrows, fears and doubts. Using the diary, you can track your mood, identify disturbing markers of behavior and impulses that trigger negative thoughts. Finally, on paper, it is easier to draw up a specific action plan that will help you cope with a stressful situation, and at the same time record positive thoughts, aspirations and desires.
There is no single correct way to keep a journal. Every morning you can write any thoughts that come to mind after waking up (this practice is called Morning pages - "Morning pages" - and is popular in the business community). Or carry a notebook with you everywhere and refer to it at any convenient moment. You can reflect in the evenings - write down important events of the past day and your feelings. Or even write once a week. Another interesting option is to start a correspondence with a loved one and express your thoughts to him. The main thing is to do it regularly at any convenient frequency.
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Painting, dancing, music, and any other creative hobby can improve brain function, relieve stress, and help connect with the people around us. Art classes require a high degree of involvement - in the dance or while creating a picture, we forget about all the problems and completely focus on the process. We truly enjoy it, and positive emotions become a strong defense against stress. Any creative processes trigger the creation of new positive neural connections - the more often we create, the stronger these connections.
And creativity also opens up scope for self-expression and reflection: it allows thoughts to flow uncontrollably and develop - this ability to "free the head" is considered one of the goals of meditation.
Walking in silence
It has been proven that walking activates mental functions, which is why during walks alone we often receive interesting thoughts, solutions to problems that we have been struggling with for a long time, and ideas for new projects. Try not to drown this stream in your head with music or a podcast, even if it is very interesting and useful. You can set your thoughts in a direction - start thinking about a specific question, problem. Or letting go of this flow and being surprised to find that important topics come to mind that you have long wanted to approach, but did not know how.
And walking, like meditation, evens out breathing, improves the functioning of the cardiovascular system, fills with energy and improves mood. In general, sheer benefit. Doctors recommend walking every day, at least 20-30 minutes. A 40-minute walk can be considered a quality, moderate-intensity workout.
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Some psychologists recommend using this practice as a direct alternative to meditation for those who cannot approach mindfulness training in any way and generally do not understand what is required of it. The method is very simple: you need to choose some daily everyday action and perform it as if in slow motion. You can take a shower at such a leisurely pace: turn on the water slowly, keep your hands under the stream for a long time to even out the temperature, wash your hair just as slowly and wash off the shampoo from it. Other options are washing dishes, dressing, slicing salad. In general, household chores are best for this practice, for which you are willing to allocate twice as much time: if you usually eat breakfast in five minutes, try to stretch it out by ten.
Deliberate slowing down helps to do the same as meditation: to concentrate on the action being performed, to completely immerse oneself in the present, not thinking about the past or the future, to consider the moment from different angles and fix in it. For starters, you can slow down by just 30 seconds, and then gradually increase the time. Most likely, you will soon learn to focus on the moment without performing any actions, that is, you will fully meditate.
Perhaps this is not really an alternative, but rather a simplified version of meditation. All that is required of you is to breathe for a while, tracking the sensations of the body. You can do this in just a couple of minutes, at any time and in any place - even at a business meeting, even in a full subway car, or in the evening before bed.
Slow and deep controlled breathing improves heart rate variability - an important indicator of the health of the nervous system, and indeed of the whole organism. The higher this variability, the more efficiently we can withstand stress and replenish energy reserves.>