How to meditate when you don’t have the money or the time

Use these simple meditation techniques and exercises to create a space for mindfulness in your busy schedule for free.
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Illustration of a person brushing their teeth

Mindfulness meditation is the name given to a collection of techniques that help you focus your attention on the present moment. Practising mindfulness meditation comes with a lot of benefits. It can help you manage stress and anxiety, improve your focus, get better sleep, and much more. Unfortunately, meditation isn’t always as easy as it seems, and many people face barriers that lead them to believe the practice isn’t something they can use in their life. Two of the most common barriers that stop people from building a consistent mindfulness meditation practice are money and time. If you feel like you can’t practise mindfulness because you’re too busy or you can’t afford it, this article can help.

How to meditate during busy times

When you feel like you’re too busy to meditate, that could be the time in your life that you need it the most. When you aren’t taking time for self-care, stress and frustration can build up and you can become burned out. If your plate is full and you don’t have time for dedicated meditation sessions, an approach called integrated mindfulness could be a good fit for you. Integrated mindfulness is the practice of weaving small moments of mindfulness into your daily life. 

Integrated mindfulness is also a helpful approach if you find yourself forgetting to practice mindfulness. One of the trickiest parts of building a mindfulness practice is turning these new behaviours into habits. Mindfulness has the biggest impact on your life when you do it consistently over a period of time. Lots of people don’t get to enjoy the full benefits of mindfulness meditation because they fall away from it before they can turn it into a habit. Integrated mindfulness makes this easier by using a technique called habit stacking. Habit stacking involves taking a new habit you want to develop and tying it to an existing habit, something you already do in your daily life. This way, your old habit acts as a reminder to practice your new habit and it becomes much easier to remember. Using this technique, you can use almost any activity as an opportunity to practice mindfulness. Here are some suggestions, but remember you can also come up with your own. The goal is to find a routine that works for you and fits your lifestyle.

Mindful teeth brushing

Brushing your teeth can be a great opportunity for a few minutes of mindfulness meditation. Tune into the present moment by focusing your attention on your five senses. What can you see? What does the toothpaste taste like? What can you hear? What can you smell? What can you feel in your body? This is a good activity to choose because most people go into autopilot mode while brushing their teeth, plus it can be pretty boring.

Mindful red lights

Most people understand how frustrating it can be to be stuck at a red light, especially when you’re running a bit late. Red lights aren’t all bad though, they provide a perfect opportunity to grab a few moments to practice mindfulness. The next time you’re stuck in traffic, use that time to do a quick body-scan meditation. Begin paying attention to how your body feels in the moment. Start by focusing on the top of your head, then slowly scan down through your body. If you find any part of your body tense, you can try relaxing it. Keep going until you reach your toes. This is a great way to turn an otherwise irritating experience into an opportunity to hit the reset button before getting on with the rest of your day. 

Mindful room cleaning

Some people love the satisfaction of cleaning their room, while others are bored at the thought of it. Love it or hate it though, cleaning your room offers a good chance to practice mindfulness. As you work, gently draw your attention to the task at hand. As you pick up different objects, notice how they feel in your hands. Notice their weights and textures. Spend some time focusing on your breathing, taking slow deep breaths as you clean.  You can even play some relaxing music or light your favourite candle to help create a more relaxing and comfortable atmosphere. 

Mindful time outside

Mindfulness and nature go great together. Spending time outdoors is good for your body and mind, and integrating some mindfulness meditation can really enhance the experience. The next time you go outside or out for a walk, use it as an opportunity to appreciate the world around you. Start with a slow, steady, and relaxed pace. Try and notice the sights and sounds around you. What is the loudest thing you can hear? What is the quietest thing you can hear? Notice how the sun or wind or rain feels on your face. If you feel your mind wandering, guide your attention back to your steady pace as you continue to move forward.  

Create mindfulness reminder objects

If you find yourself constantly forgetting to practice mindfulness, choosing some reminder objects can be helpful. A reminder object is something that you use to remind your brain to take a few moments for mindfulness. You can use anything you want to be your reminder object. Some people use stickers. You can place the stickers in different places in your house. When you see the sticker, do a little mindfulness meditation. Beside your front door can be a great spot because you’ll see it before you leave the house. Other people prefer to pick a mindfulness object that they can carry around with them either in their pocket, their wallet, or their bag. This could be a special card, coin, keyring, etc. When they reach in and feel the object, they get their mindful reminder. It’s fun to pick out what object you want to use and no two people will have the exact same one. 

How to meditate for free

Many people who try to embark on their own mindfulness meditation journey are discouraged when they come across guidance and resources that can only be accessed by paying a monthly subscription fee. While these meditation subscription services can be useful, lots of people can’t afford them. The good news is, these services are not the only path to building a mindfulness practice. There are plenty of ways to get started with mindfulness meditation for free. 

If you’re just starting out, guided meditation can be a great way to learn different techniques and find ones that work for you. There is a wide range of free guided mindfulness meditation resources available online. The free mindfulness project also offers a collection of guided mindfulness exercises that are free to stream or download. The free mindfulness project was set up by a clinical psychologist and the exercises on the site have been provided by a range of people who are skilled and experienced in mindfulness practice. 

Some people prefer using YouTube to find guided mindfulness meditations.  The wide range of different mindfulness videos available on the site makes it easier to find a guided meditation that works for you. Beaumont Hospital also has a collection of guided mindfulness and relaxation exercises that you can listen to and download for free. All of their content was developed by the hospital’s department of psychology and some of the exercises are even recorded in Irish.

If guided meditation isn’t for you, you can read our articles on grounding techniques and simple activities to help you live more mindfully which contain simple instructions on different mindfulness exercises you can try for yourself.

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