This post was written by Claire Grieve — an international yoga specialist, stretch therapist, health coach, and wellness writer. Check out her website for more information.
Meditation is a practice many swear by. But what if it’s just not your cup of tea? Sitting still for that long can seem daunting to many. If you want to destress without meditating, there are plenty of alternatives that you can incorporate daily to receive a similar fix.
The key thing to note is that it’s not about doing; it is about being. Our culture and nonstop society is trying to teach us that success is measured by what we do. Anxiety creeps in as we are constantly asking ourselves what is next to do. The answer is to just be.
To be in the moment or to strive for a state that many refer to as "flow" is the goal. Many describe this state as the place where thought ends or is, at the least, muted. I've found that Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi has a great perspective on the psychology behind flow (check him out for some inspiration!). This presence and “being in the moment” is achievable through more than just meditation. One can fill their tool belt with the below alternative de-stressing options, then turn to whichever makes the most sense given circumstances and lifestyle.
Here are eight simple alternatives for those who want to try something other than meditation:
1. Matcha tea time: Prioritizing a quick matcha tea break is a bulletproof way to decrease stress and boost your immune system simultaneously. Make a matcha latte with Califia Almondmilk, hot or cold. Matcha is packed with antioxidants and neurotransmitters that help to calm anxiety. An overachiever tip is to spoon in some collagen protein powder. Collagen includes an important amino acid called L-Tyrosine that boosts dopamine levels and prevents depression. Be sure to make this a mindful session, technology-free, which brings me to my next suggestion ...
2. Screen-free unwind time, screen-free rise time: Enough with the phones. Cutting back on technology (and social media!) will cut back on stress. We are addicted to the serotonin boosts that “likes” may provide, but there are healthier alternatives that will not trigger stress. Make it a priority to sleep with your phone away from the bed, leaving at least a half hour of zero screen time before bed. The same rule applies in the morning: no checking any notifications, e-mails, or Instagram until after breakfast. It all can wait and you will be in a better state to respond once you are properly energized. An additional bonus is you will be less likely to hop back into bed and snooze after crossing the room to turn off your alarm.
3. Modify your mornings: Waking up just a half hour earlier and dedicating that as “me-time” will catapult your entire day forward. Value your mornings. Just because you don’t fill them with meditation doesn’t mean they aren’t beneficial. It’s a healthy, slippery slope, as starting your day on the right foot will lead to you hitting the sack earlier. This results in more solid sleep that will help equip you to better navigate any stressors the next day.
4. Morning pages: This is a process of free writing, a form of brain drain. Once you move that energy, you may feel as if you've remedied any lingering issues on those topics and can move forward throughout your day. The key that separates it from journaling is to never go back and re-read the entries. Forget being grammatically correct or making sense. Just let it drain.
5. Grounding in gratitude: A quick trick that helps counteract any bedtime or anytime anxiety is to shift your focus to gratitude. It is truly grounding and proven that one cannot think negative thoughts while thinking gracious thoughts. Make it a habit to fall asleep thinking about ten things that happened that day that you're grateful for. This sets the foundation for better sleep and pleasant dreams.
6. Get nurtured in nature: We all know how good it makes us feel to get out in nature, but few of us make it a priority to engage with nature regularly. If you’re lucky enough to have hiking trails near you, set up weekly hiking dates in your calendar. You’ll destress by boosting endorphins and soaking up Vitamin D. Go at it solo or grab a friend for company.
7. Call a friend: Connection is a fundamental human need. We live in a world of being connected by technology that sadly results in more disconnect. In the midst of anxiety or a stress spell, it can be hard to think of something as simple as picking up the phone and calling a dear friend. Connection breeds fulfillment, which counteracts stress. Make it more personal and utilize the intended benefits of technology by making this connection a FaceTime date.
8. Hugs and kisses: Speaking of dates, let's not forget the boosting benefits of intimacy and affection. If you’re lucky enough to be in love, don’t let the stresses of life stop you from enjoying it. Shift the focus from your problems to your partner. Hugging, kissing, and cuddling all release the “cuddle hormone” oxytocin. Stressful thoughts and cortisol scramble the opposite direction when remedied with these happy hormones.
The bottom line is that sometimes you can’t control life and the stress it brings. You may not be able to stop the stress, but you can counteract it with activities that get you into a state of flow. The more you do that the better equipped you will be to navigate stress.