What are mini meditations, and how do they differ from longer meditations?
Micro meditations are basically just shorter meditation sequences. They range in type, and can include breathing, visual meditations, or whatever mental exercise you enjoy, just bite-sized. In general, micromeditations range from about one to five minutes, according to Susan Chen, founder of New York-based Vedic Meditation Susan Chen. It’s also a great way to learn about meditation if you’re not familiar with it, can’t focus during a longer meditation, or haven’t found the right method yet, Chen adds. “There isn’t just one type of meditation, and these subtle meditations are really a great way to get started,” she says.
But when we say micro, we’re not talking about tapering benefits—just length. There are many well-established benefits of meditation, including reducing inflammation, and even just three minutes of meditation is enough to de-stress and promote calmness. You don’t need to be a meditation expert to reap the benefits either; A 2019 study published in Behavioral Brain Research They looked at what happened when adults who weren’t experienced with meditation completed four weeks of guided 13-minute mindfulness meditations — they reported feeling better in mood and feeling more alert. The study also found that “relatively short” meditation practices had similar benefits as longer, more intense meditations.
“The key here is quality, not quantity…if you take a little time [to meditate] And invest your full interest which will be more beneficial. — Viktoriya Karakcheyeva, MD, psychologist
But adding one thing to the day is easier said than done, so how can you make microscopic meditation fit into your busy schedule? Both Chen and Victoria Karakchieva, director of behavioral health in the Center for Resilience and Well-being at George Washington University’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences, recommend trying speed meditation whenever you have a few extra minutes to focus—just be sure to do so when you’re able to devote your full attention to reaping the benefits. “The key here is quality, not quantity,” says Dr. Karakchieva. “You can meditate for a long time without investing too much and it may not produce results, but if you take a little time and invest your full attention it will be more beneficial.”
5 types of mini-meditations you can try
1. Alternate nose breathing
Chen says she recommends this meditation to her students because it’s quick and easy. Also known as nadi shodhana, alternate nostril breathing is based on a yogic principle called pranayama to manage breathing by covering one nostril at a time and breathing in. “It literally moves the breath away from the left nostril to the right in a methodical way,” says Chen.
Heres how to do it: With your lips closed and your tongue pressed against the roof of your mouth, place your right thumb on the right nostril and the middle or ring finger of the same hand on the left nostril. Close your right nostril and inhale through the left, then close your left nostril and exhale through the right. Then inhale through the right, exhale through the left. Repeat this alternate pattern as many times as you like.
2. The meditation staircase
Breathing meditations can help calm the nervous system, and Dr. Karakchieva has a short one to try which she calls the “ladder meditation.” Imagine breathing your breath over each other, which you liken to climbing a ladder: Inhale for one count, then exhale for one count. Next, inhale for a count, then exhale for a count. Next – you guessed it – inhale three counts, exhale three counts. You can go on for as long as you like. Don’t stress yourself out with this, though; Continue as long as is comfortable. When you reach the top of your ladder, count down by decreasing the length of each inhale and exhale by the count until you are back to one.
3. Ringing breathing
This easy breathing technique has been shown to improve mood and reduce anxiety by lowering your heart rate. It’s also almost comically easy to do: “The only requirement is to exhale for more seconds than you inhale,” says Chen. To get started, try inhaling for two seconds and exhaling for four, or inhaling for three seconds and exhaling for five. Repeat as many times as needed.
This is a simple exercise that Dr. Karakchieva says anyone can do. The visual reflections are all about depicting fun situations and images. One of the ways Dr. Karakchieva does this practice herself is by assigning images such as colors, shapes, temperatures, and textures to the physical and mental sensations you feel when stressed.
For example, suppose you find yourself feeling uncomfortable and notice that your shoulders feel tense and tight. Try assigning some of the visuals to that feeling, so you can start tinkering [those feelings], “You might say, The tension in my shoulder is like a pulsating red ball, and I’m going to try changing that color to something less intense, like purple.” Really focus on these images to redirect your mind away from stress, she recommends.
5. Say a helpful mantra
Use words of affirmation to calm your mind. Come up with a simple statement, eg “I hope I’m healthy, I hope I’m healthy, I hope I’m happy.” When you want to pinch yourself, take deep breaths and repeat your phrase as often as you need to. “Maybe you’re having a tough day and you’re not sure when it will end, so you can pause, notice what’s going on, and say that mantra to give yourself something good,” says Dr. Karakchieva.
Feel free to test out all of the above mini meditation methods or find another that works for you like a meditation app, for example. And you don’t have to wait until you’re stressed to use these techniques — taking a few minutes out of your day to practice mindfulness can also have protective effects when it comes to relieving stress and tension.
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