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Five Meditation Alternatives- Science Backed Relaxation Techniques

If you are like me then you probably hate sitting idle and do nothing. I always have to be on something whether its writing, crocheting or reading book. Its just hard for me to sit still. Although, I am trying to practice sitting still with my meditation app- Headspace for 10 minutes daily, it can be hard sometimes to focus.

I mean, sure, practicing meditation is a great way to calm your mind. It helps improve sleep, promotes focus, sharpens memory, and enhances your immune system. However, I have learnt that meditation isn't everyone's cup of tea.

Here are five alternatives to meditation with strong scientific backing that you should definitely give a shot.

1. Coloring

Researchers recommend that coloring has many psychological advantages, from eliminating anxiety and also promoting focus to decreasing stress and anxiety. Similar to meditation which helps you to get rid of negative thoughts, coloring helps you do the same. The repeated coloring motion involves the part of cortex that promotes imagination and reasoning.

The Mayo Clinic likewise acknowledges art as a leisure strategy. There are some research studies that appear to back it up as a stress-relief technique-- one research suggests that the repetitive pattern of drawing mandalas can minimize stress and anxiety.

Most often we associate Mandalas with Buddhism and rightly so. A mandala is a symbolic picture of the universe. The mandala's purpose is to help transform ordinary minds into enlightened ones and to assist with healing.

My favorite app on my phone for free coloring is Happy Color. Its has so many free designs from mandalas to animals to nature etc. Check it out and let me know if you like the app too.

2. Knitting/Crocheting

This has been one of my favorite activity to calm myself. Whenever I feel anxious, I take on my crochet needle and start making something and the process helps me slow down and just relax.

Studies have shown that the rhythmic and repetitive motions of crochet and knitting release serotonin thereby helping to reduce depression. Making something out of our own hands which is useful too helps increases our sense of "ableness" especially in times when we feel low and good for nothing. Depression expert Kelly Lambert states that, " our own effort-driven reward circuit, meaning the internal rewards that we get when completing tasks with our own hands, not only adds to the serotonin release but also releases dopamine and endorphins, which further enhance positive feelings."

According to numerous researches, crocheting is additionally advantageous for those experiencing anxiety, PTSD, and other chronic diseases.

2. Nature/Outdoor Walks

Strolling in the nature is a tried and tested method to alleviate stress. Like any cardiovascular activity, walking releases endorphins which calms down the stress hormones and stimulates relaxation. Brisk walking regularly for 30 minutes can strengthen your bones, improve pulmonary health, curb diabetes and trim your waistline.

Researchers have found that time spent outdoors for a walk helps to relieve stress, and also improve memory and attention: Even when the weather is not comfortable, taking a walk outside can improve memory and attention span by up to 20 percent.

4. Journaling

I know its hard for some to write down their thoughts everyday. I had this fear, "What if someone reads it?" You know what, I stopped caring about it and started journaling in the mornings. Although, I am not as regular as I would like to be, writing down my thoughts has helped me tremendously to reflect on my thoughts and work on myself.

Sometimes, writing down your problems helps in identifying solutions easier than just thinking about it in your head. I have had the best thoughts when I start writing, some of my blog topics have come out of journaling and I am so thankful for it.

As far as research goes, here are the benefits of journaling:

Remember, you don't have to journal everyday. Some days when you are feeling anxious, it helps to jot down your thoughts on what things or what actions made by certain people makes you stressful, write down the reasons and how can you solve those issues.

5. Reading

Last but definitely not the least, reading always helps. Reading stimulates imagination which takes you into a make-believe world which is far from reality thus reducing stress levels by more than half.

According to a 2009 study at the University of Sussex, stress is reduced up to 68% just by reading! Only six minutes of reading can slow down the heart rate and improve overall health! It calms the mind and relaxes the body. It has also been found that reading improves ones cognitive level and thereby reduces the chances of getting Alzheimer's disease.

So, go to your local library and get a book. Currently, I am reading Buddha's Wife and The Mind Diet. Let me know in the comments below what you all reading at present.

Science backed or not, you find out what you like the best. It could be painting, pouring your heart while writing or simply reading a nice book. Or it could be something completely different than what's mentioned in the list. Do what makes you happy and calm. Our lives have become so busy that we forgot how to relax and by trying different techniques, you will identify what makes you calm and keep going at it.

Let me know in the comments what techniques calms you down.


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