Feeling overwhelmed with your ever-growing to do list at work, or home? Try these super quick and easy meditation hacks for your working day, whether you’re commuting or WFH.
Autumn is almost here. And with it, it brings shorter days, colder weather, and the stresses of the year ending that was easy to ignore during cider-filled summer picnics.
September, thanks to our school calendars being entrenched in us, always feels like a new start, which can mean a new job, or new responsibilities, or old ones that need taking care of. Just as we refresh in the new year, we can also take this time to recharge our batteries as we battle the remaining months of 2022.
Meditation, then, might be a good place to start. And they don’t have to take a whole lot of time to do.
If you don’t have time to sit in a darkened room without distraction for half an hour, a short meditation can still be effective. In fact, there’s a wealth of research to prove it.
A study by the University of Waterloo in Canada found that just 10 minutes of daily mindful meditation helped prevent repetitive, anxious thoughts. Another study suggested that it’s the frequency rather than the length of a session that matters; researchers found that brief, daily meditation enhanced attention, memory and mood much more effectively over eight weeks of practice compared to four.
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“When practised consistently and effectively, short meditations can have a number of positive effects ranging from calming the nervous system to increasing focus,” Leo Oppenheim, head yoga trainer at BLOK, tells Stylist. Turning it into a regular habit will boost the benefit. “The key is finding the ones that work for you and practicing them consistently.”
So if you need something to reduce stress or offset the bad vibes from that awkward meeting, here are five micro meditation hacks that are so quick and simple they can be practised on your commute or at your desk – some in as little as one minute.
1. Listen to recorded birdsong (7 mins)
Chances are you woke up too late to stroll outside and catch the real dawn chorus (maximum wellbeing points available if you can) – but all is not lost. A 2020 study by California Polytechnic State University found that listening to a recording of birdsong has a positive impact on our wellbeing. After placing speakers playing recorded bird sounds along a hiking trail, researchers found that hikers reported a marked improvement in wellbeing, even after hearing just seven to 10 minutes of recorded birdsong.
Another study commissioned by the National Trust found that listening to birdsong, along with other woodland sounds, was 30% better at increasing feelings of relaxation than a voiced meditation app.
- Stream real recorded birdsong via RSPB Birdsong Radio or Birdsong.fm
- Both are available as apps so you can download and listen to the twittering when on the Tube.
2. Practise ‘humming bee’ breath (3 mins)
Apparently, good vibrations really are a thing, with research backing claims that humming can enhance wellbeing. A brain imaging study found that the meditation chant ‘om’ (which ends on a lengthened humming sound) actually reduced activity in certain areas of the brain associated with depression.
The yogic breath exercise ‘humming bee’ (bhramari) is an effortless way to get buzzing and can be practised anywhere. Oppenheim believes it is incredibly effective, explaining: “It can reduce stress levels and increase nitric oxide up to fifteen fold within the body. Nitric oxide is produced by nearly every type of cell in the human body, and is one of the most important molecules for blood vessel health as it increases blood flow and lowers blood pressure.”
- Oppenheim recommends finding a stable seated position before taking a few rounds of breath in and out through the nose.
- Then take a deep inhalation and on your exhale make the sound of the letter M through closed lips.
- When no breath remains inhale again and repeat, focusing on lengthening your inhalations and exhalations.
- Try it with your fingers in your ears for a more intense sound.
3. Hang upside down (2 mins)
Need a rush of blood to the head to offset a mid-afternoon slump? While experts believe more research needs to be done, there is a general consensus that short periods spent in inverted postures, with the head below the heart, could benefit brain function and reduce stress.
Yogis are big fans. Strong Women Training Club’s very own Adrienne Everett loves a headstand but admits they can appear scary at first. “Once you trust your body, it is one of the most relaxing and mentally energising poses,” she tells us. “The power of a blood circulation shift when inverted can bring calmness to the body as well as space to release tension.”
If that feels a bit too much for a workday, try a ragdoll which, as an inversion, is similar but with added relief for your back and shoulders.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent.
- Slowly bend towards the floor and let the head hang between your shoulders.
- Clasp the elbows and hang here for a few deep breaths, gently swinging side to side before standing up slowly.
- Don’t hold an inversion for longer than two minutes, and stop if you feel uncomfortable or dizzy. Avoid if you are pregnant or suffer from high blood pressure.
4. Stare at a colour (2 mins)
A 2018 study published in the journal Medical Acupuncture, found that after engaging in chromotherapy (colour therapy) coupled with intentional breathing 93% of participants experienced a positive response.
“Colour therapists have long commented that colours have subtle effects on the mind and body, boosting energy, productivity,and mood,” explains Tristian Thornhill, senior designer at Roberts. “Blue helps to calm the mind and aid concentration levels, while pale greens, reminiscent of relaxing outdoor spaces, are proven to lower anxiety levels and leave you feeling more at ease.”
- If you struggle to visualise a colour to focus on, find an object of your chosen colour (blue or green being best for relaxation) at home or work such as a book or piece of clothing, or call up a wealth of shades on your laptop or phone via an online colour chart.
- Sit comfortably without distraction while looking, with a softened gaze, at your colour.
- Breathe deeply into your diaphragm, breathing in and out through the nose only.
- Imagine the colour being absorbed into your body with every inhalation, and spreading throughout your body with every exhalation.
- Continue for two minutes or longer if needed.
5. Look up at the sky (1 min)
Perfect for when you’re working from home and away from the judgy looks of colleagues who assume you’re doing absolutely naff all while you stare out of the window. A study into the effect of sky gazing on our wellbeing, known as skychology, found that looking up at the sky for just 60 seconds helps us achieve clarity and perspective, experience a sense of awe, and is instantly calming.
“Looking up at the sky can be a very effective form of emotional self-regulation,” explains coaching psychologist and life coach Paul Conway. “The sky’s vastness evokes a sense of awe – a complex emotion which promotes pro-social behaviours such as humility and altruism, which can be useful in challenging work situations.”
- Conway suggests positioning yourself comfortably where you can see as much sky as possible.
- Take a few deep breaths – in through the nose and out through the mouth – and simply gaze at the sky.
- Notice what you see, such as the shape and movement of any clouds, or subtle changes in colour.
- Don’t cling to thoughts or feelings, let them come and go.
- Look at the sky as long as you wish (Conway recommends at least 60 seconds). When ready, finish with one more deep breath, and notice how you feel.
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