Active Meditation - For Those Who Can't Sit Still
Updated: Nov 23, 2018
If you have ever dealt with depression, trouble focusing, trouble sleeping (because you can’t turn off your brain), and especially anxiety, you’ve likely been told to meditate.Meditation is great, I recommend it all the time and it’s helped me tremendously with my anxiety and panic attacks. But what if you can’t sit still?
Telling someone who can’t sit still or focus on one thing at a time is like telling someone with severe fatigue that heavy exercise will help. It may help some people gain more energy, but it certainly isn’t the way to go if you can barely walk.
Luckily, for those with ADHD, or similar symptoms, there’s active meditation.
What is active meditation?
Active meditation takes the core essence of meditation, the focus and breathing techniques, and applies it to situations where you are more active.
My favorite active meditation is done while walking. Almost every day I take a break in the middle of the day to go for a walk. During my walk I focus on my breathing, in and out, in and out. I use that time to refocus, let my worries slide back off my shoulders, and regain my energy for the rest of the day. It also helps boost my confidence, lower my cortisol levels, decreases my anxiety and any negative moods, and helps to bring back my motivation.
How do you actively meditate?
I go into my walk knowing I want it to be restorative. I try to push aside all the things on my mind and focus on the here and now. Is my to-do list a mile long, as always? Doesn’t matter. For this 45 minutes of the day, I dedicate it to myself and let all those worries slip away. I’ll get back to them later when I’m refreshed.
I’m a music person, so I use headphones attached to my phone in my pocket, which plays my favorite Pandora station. Music has been studied and proven to increase your feel-good hormones, making you happier. That’s helpful in the middle of a long workday.
Then I begin walking. Walking is a great exercise for meditation because you don’t have to think about it. Running, biking, paddle-boarding, and other exercise works too, as long as you don’t have to focus too much on doing the exercise correctly, which takes focus away from your breathing.
Instead, focus on your breathing. Exercise automatically makes you take somewhat deeper breaths, which is great. Then make them purposefully even deeper.
Focus on your breathing.
Meditation, no matter what kind, is about focusing on your breath, bringing your mind to the here and now, and letting everything else fall away.
As I walk, I’m getting my blood flowing, I’m focusing on my breathing, I’m listening to uplifting music, and it’s changing my body chemistry in ways that few other activities could do, all for the positive.
What if you’re not good at meditating?
If you keep finding your mind wandering to your work or life stresses, that’s okay. You may think you’re bad at meditating because you can only focus on your breath for a few seconds at a time before your mind wanders again.
I’m going to let you in on a secret: that’s totally normal.
It took me a long time to be able to focus for more than a few seconds without my mind wandering, and I still have trouble some days. Don’t pressure yourself. This is supposed to be an easy, happy, calming experience, so worrying about doing it wrong isn’t going to help.
Just focus on your breath as much as you can. If your mind wanders, that’s okay, just try to bring it back to your breathing when you notice it happening. No worries.
That’s literally it. You can focus on your breathing while you’re lying down in bed, while sitting, while driving, while walking or exercising, or doing pretty much anything. You don’t have to do it for a half-hour straight. Just a few minutes, even less than a minute, will be beneficial. Especially if you do it every day.
How it helped me.
I used to have panic attacks almost every day. I hardly ever left my house. Now, thanks to a number of things, including training myself to actively meditate, which I enjoy more than the typical meditation style of sitting still (although I do both), I haven’t had a full-blown panic attack in over 3 years.
I still have anxiety, and I’m assuming I always will. But with my self-training, I’m able to manage my anxiety and lower it when I feel it coming on. I’m doing well enough where now I’m able to teach workshops and give speeches to large groups, something that would have been impossible for me a few years ago!
So if you haven’t given meditation a try because you loathe sitting still and get bored easily, try active meditation. It may surprise you.
P.S. If you can go for your walk outside, surrounded by nature, even better. Being outside and surrounding yourself with nature is proven to improve a number of things, including your circadian rhythm, seratonin, mood, immunity, etc.