Mind & Body

The Secret to Feeling Centered

No time to meditate? Weave a practice into your workday.
The Secret to Feeling Centered
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The research on meditation’s benefits keeps pouring in—it makes you more creative, less stressed, harder-better-faster-stronger. We’re at the point where not keeping up a regular practice (defined as 45 minutes a night, in many studies) seems like sucking in the air of a big rig’s tailpipe or driving down the highway without a seat belt—Bad with a capital B!

When you meditate, your mind shifts out of conscious thinking and into quiet mode. (It’s not all in your head, either: Hop in an imaging machine, and scientists see your brain light up in new ways during the practice.) By breaking your usual train of thought and calming the body, meditation regulates your insulin, slashes inflammation, arms you against the flu—even helps your chromosomes age gracefully. So, yes: It’s really, really good for you.

But formal relaxation isn’t for everyone. You can try so hard to master not thinking that you wind up stressing yourself out, says Bruce Rabin, M.D., Ph.D., a psychiatrist at the University of Pittsburgh. “Meditation is very difficult to do,” he says. “And if you only give people this very difficult option, they’re left going, ‘What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I do this?’” Luckily, you don’t have to sit still with your palms up just so. Researchers now believe that any activity that requires focused attention and being in the moment can count as your daily dose of vitamin M.

The trick is finding just the right task that helps you focus, says Julian Ford, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut. Leisurely pursuits, like gardening or sketching, can certainly do the trick, but workaday endeavors can put you in the om zone too. Ideally, the undertaking will shift your focus from the minutiae to what’s important, such as having a beautiful product line come June or getting that coveted promotion in January. Think of it as the practical vehicle for turning down the noise in your brain by tuning in to what you value in life. Then you’ll fall into a rhythm and distracting thoughts and worries will be blocked out, Ford says. “To get into the flow, focus close attention to what you’re doing on a moment-by-moment basis, while also considering the larger meaning of the activity in your life.”

Which to-do will successfully send you to a placid place? For inspiration, we asked six rising luminaries how they quiet their minds and in turn rev up their health—all while still on the clock.