TAKING A BRIEF TIMEOUT—even during the most stressful day—works wonders for your state of mind. The following four quick meditations quiet your thoughts so you feel calm and grounded.
Since I've made meditation part of my daily life, I'm less likely to overreact to everyday stress, my heart doesn't race, and I'm happier. Health psychologist Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., of Boulder, Colo., the author of Inner Peace for Busy People (Hay House), confirms my experience. "Meditation introduces you to a part of yourself that is more peaceful," she says.
Try one of these meditations today. It's important to find one you'll practice consistently; you'll receive the greatest benefits if you meditate every day.
Taking slow, deep breaths can calm your body and mind in less than a minute, no matter where you are. "Focusing on the breath gives you the opportunity to immediately change your perspective on a situation," says Fred Miller, a yoga teacher in North Hollywood, Calif., and author of How to Calm Down (Warner Books, 2003). Breath-related meditations are also convenient and practical. "Your breath is always with you," says Sharon Salzberg, co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Mass. "You can practice in the grocery store, in the doctor's waiting room, or in traffic, and no one will know what you're doing."
Miller recommends a simple exercise that he calls "Three Deep Breaths." Inhale through your nose, and then exhale through your nose. Inhale again, breathing a little deeper this time. And then breathe out, extending your exhalation so that it's longer than your inhalation. The third time, inhale even more slowly, paying close attention as your breath fills your lungs. Finally, exhale at the same pace, paying attention as your breath leaves your lungs. That's all it takes.
If you begin to think of other things during this exercise (like what to make for dinner tonight), simply bring your attention back to your breathing. Your mind is like a toddler or a puppy—although willful, it can be trained to focus through gentle and persistent effort. Repeat this practice frequently throughout the day. Take three deep breaths at the beginning of every hour, or use cues—like stopping at a red light—to remind yourself to breathe consciously.