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5 Simple, Stress-Reducing Mindfulness Practices for People Who Think They Can't Meditate

Trying to lower stress but feel like meditation isn't for you? Below I share 5 other simple, stress-reducing mindfulness practices that really work, are enjoyable and are easy to fit into your life, including mindful walking and the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique. Read on to learn which might be right for you!


Woman sitting with closed eyes outside amidst daffodils

So many of us are looking for ways to reduce stress in our demanding daily lives, and we've heard about the profound benefits of mindfulness and meditation. These practices can dramatically change our physical and mental well-being, even physically reshaping the brain toward more peace and less panic.


But meditation can be challenging for many people for all kinds of reasons. I maintain that there IS a meditative practice for everyone, but maybe it isn't seated meditation.


So if you'd like to lower your stress but feel like meditation isn't for you, here are 5 simple, stress-reducing mindfulness practices that really work, are enjoyable and are easy to fit into your busy day!


Mindful Walking

What It Is: One of my biggest go-to practices, mindful walking is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of seeing walking as a means to get somewhere, we slow down and experience the journey, grounding into our senses and bodily sensations and the present moment.


Benefits Include: It provides multiple calming anchors to shift the brain out of its stress loop; exercise releases endorphins, reduces stress hormones and boosts circulation and oxygenation; walking engages soothing bilateral stimulation of the brain (the basis for EMDR trauma therapy!); greenery calms the nervous system...and soo much more!

How to Practice:

  • Before starting, close your eyes and check in with yourself. How do you feel today? What do you feel and where in your body?

  • Take a few deep breaths and really feel the sensations.

  • Begin walking, ideally a bit more slowly than usual to give yourself time to take in your surroundings.

  • Take in the world around you through your senses! What do you see? Smell? Hear? Feel underfoot, on your skin (sun, breeze, rain), maybe something you can reach out and touch like bark or branches?

  • Notice what you feel in your body. The feeling of walking in your feet and legs, the swing of your arms, the air coming in and out of your lungs, whatever else you observe.

  • Observe how you feel afterwards. Any shifts? Anything calmer?


(I have two guided variations of this practice available as part of Monthly Membership on my site, or that anyone can purchase in my On-Demand Library!)


5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Technique


What It Is: This mindfulness exercise also relies on sensory information to help us escape our mental stress loops and is incredibly effective, especially for those dealing with anxiety and panic.


Benefits Include: Exercise releases endorphins and reduces stress hormones, walking engages soothing bilateral stimulation of the brain (the basis for EMDR trauma therapy!), greenery calms the nervous system, movement boosts circulation and oxygen in the body...and soo much more!


How to Practice:

  • Take a few deep breaths and begin to notice what's around you.

  • Look for 5 things you can see. Notice objects, natural things, people, things of beauty, eye-catching colors or patterns...

  • Notice for 4 things you can feel (or touch!). What different textures can you find, temperatures, sensations in your body... Feel the sun or breeze on your skin. The smoothness of the floor or the soft cushion of the carpet under your feet.

  • Identify 3 things you can hear. Cars, birds, rustling leaves, a windchime, an ice cream truck, children playing...

  • Seek out 2 things you can smell. Soil, flowers, perfume, incense, pine needles...

  • What's 1 thing you could taste? Sometimes this one is harder to find, so maybe it's more theoretical, or maybe you really can find some delicious treat nearby, or the cool calm of a glass of water or other beverage.


Time in Nature


What It Is: This one is simple. Just get out in nature, whether it's for 5 minutes or 50 or more. You can sit and soak it in, paddle in a kayak, wander through the woods, climb a big rock, or engage with it in any other mindful way. The key is to slow down, pause and let it fill your senses.


Benefits Include: Our brains are wired to refresh when they detect natural input, be it green things in our sight, natural sounds in our ears, the textures of nature, and so on. Even taking "micro-breaks" of just 40 seconds periodically during a task to stare at a photo of a green roof was enough to help participants score higher and maintain focus better than those who'd stared at a concrete cityscape instead! So immersing all our senses at once in REAL nature is one of the best things we can do to break out of stress and calm our minds and bodies.


How to Practice:

  • Get outside in nature.

  • Put your devices away and on silent!

  • Tune into your senses: the greenery and wildlife you see around you, the sounds of birds and breeze and whatever else you might hear, the feelings on your skin and underfoot, sensations in your body and when you touch different natural objects and textures, any smells and tastes.

  • Slow down and breeeeeaaaaaatttthhheeeee it all in! Savor! And notice any shifts, how you feel.


Mindful Eating


What It Is: Like its relative mindful walking, this one is pretty self-explanatory. Mindful eating is slowing down to really experience what we're eating, consider where and who it comes from, take in all its sensory details. For most people I've shared this practice with, it's pretty life changing! You'll never see an orange or raisin the same way again!


Benefits Include: Mindful eating can make eating more delightful, more sacred, more joyful, more full of gratitude, all states that bring more peace and grounding to our lives and that lower stress. It can also help us break the habit of mindless eating, make smarter and healthier choices about food, become more in tune with our body's needs, and begin to repair negative relationships with food.


How to Practice:

  • Choose one food you'll practice with. Typically, mindfulness teachers recommend an orange, a raisin, or a small piece of chocolate.

  • Behold the food first. What does it look like? Is there packaging? What colors is it? What do you notice about it with your eyes?

  • Consider the places, people and inputs that went into producing this food and getting it to your plate. Where did the plant grow? Who nurtured it, how long might it have taken, what went into helping the plant and fruit flourish? How did it get to you? How many miles did it travel and how many people may have been involved?

  • Breathe into gratitude for this food. Wow! What a life this small piece of nourishment has had before it reached you! Feel thanks for all those who helped, and for the nourishment this food provides. For the gift of food.

  • Begin to feel the texture and density of the food, take in its scents. What do you notice before tasting?

  • Let it sit on your tongue for a moment before chewing it and again, notice. What early tastes or textures do you experience? Does the scent change or swell?

  • Slowly begin to chew the food and swallow it slowly, paying close attention to all its sensory details.

  • Reflect! Do you see this food differently now? Does it taste different?


Take a Dance Break!


What It Is: Yep, dancing to music can be a mindfulness practice! We just have to pay attention while we're doing it. And lucky for us, dance AND music are both hugely effective at reducing stress and boosting mood. Put on just one song and shake some stress out, or lengthen your practice. It's ALL helpful!


Benefits Include: Dance releases endorphins, music and dance both lower stress and boost mood (in fact, dance appears to be one of the MOST effective mood boosters we know of!), movement helps us get out of our thoughts and in our bodies while improving circulation and oxygenation, and music can literally change our brainwaves.


How to Practice:

  • Choose a song (or more) that makes you want to move and press "play."

  • Take some deep breaths and scan your body before you start moving. How do you feel? What do you feel?

  • See if you can let your body move however it wants to move. Can you let IT guide you, rather than allowing your brain to tell what you "should" do?

  • As you dance, keep noticing! The music. Your movements. What sensations you feel and where. Any shifts you're feeling physically, mentally.

  • When you're ready to stop, pause again and breathe deeply. Take another scan and see what you observe!


These are just 5 simple, stress-reducing mindfulness practices that I love and use frequently, but the options really are unlimited. Pretty much anything in our lives can be a mindfulness practice, so long as we slow down and pay attention:


  • Watering the plants.

  • Making dinner.

  • Taking a shower. (This one is sooooo relaxing when you really tune in!)

  • Writing in a journal.

  • Sitting in a waiting room or on a bus.


So try any of the above and lean into any that feel especially good. Let me know which ones you find most effective!


If you're looking to learn more about mindfulness and its benefits? These are a couple of my favorite mindfulness books and authors:


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