walking on a boardwalk

3 Meditation Techniques for People Who Can't Keep Still

By Kaitlin Vogel
May 21, 2023

If you tend to associate meditation with sitting cross-legged and silent for hours on end, you might come away with the impression that it's not right for you. Especially if you find it hard to sit still. What we often get wrong about meditation is that we think it’s for one kind of person and done in one, highly specific way.

The reality is that meditation isn't just for a specific type of person—it’s for everyone. Research suggests that meditation may do everything from reduce blood pressure and help us cope with stressful times to boost self-compassion, attention, memory, and emotion regulation. And those are just some of the benefits you may enjoy if you give meditation a chance.

What's more, there are many different types of meditation to choose from, including some that are fidgeter-friendly. Check out these three variations on meditation if you seek a little more freedom in the relaxation technique.

1. Walking Meditation

Often, when we’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, going for a walk is just the thing to help clear our heads. As it turns out, research suggests that mindful walking exercises may reduce stress, and walking may be more effective in reducing anxiety symptoms when it's also paired with meditation.

“A largely underrated meditation technique is the walking meditation,” says Meghan Cornett, a yoga and meditation teacher based in New York City. “You can do this anywhere, and it's so subtle that it won't be noticed by anyone if you're out in public or at work.”

Cornett suggests the following to get started:

1. Begin noticing your feet on the ground as you walk.

2. Allow your heel to be the first point of contact with the earth and then slowly roll down the outer edge of the foot to the ground; the last part to come down is the pinkie toe.

3. Once your pinkie toe hits the ground, you can allow all the other toes to touch, as well, with the big toe being the last. That's one step!

4. Repeat the process as you step with the other foot. You may want to practice this at a slow walking pace until you get the hang of the motion. Afterward, you can easily speed things up.

The goal here is to keep your mind totally focused on your feet and this motion of contact with the earth, Cornett explains.

Valerie Knopik, Ph.D., a meditation and yoga teacher and professor of human development and family studies at Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Indiana, suggests trying a walking meditation while barefoot to truly tune into your senses. That way, Knopik says, you can pick up on sensations like feeling grass beneath your feet, or sand between your toes. The key is to stay present in these moments and focus solely on how you’re moving and what you’re feeling.

You can also try the walking meditations on our app.

2. Engage in Mindful Moments Throughout the Day

Simply practicing mindfulness in your day-to-day tasks may decrease boredom, boost satisfaction, and allow you to experience other benefits of meditation. Cornett explains that daily acts like washing the dishes can be easy meditative experiences that are already part of your routine.

While washing the dishes, you could:

  • Take a moment to notice the temperature of the water, the way light plays across the bubbles and foam, the scent of the soap, or the feeling of the sponge in your hand.
  • Practice keeping your attention on this one task and notice all the different senses that can be involved in this experience. When your mind wanders, compassionately bring it back to the present moment.
  • Inhale and exhale deeply throughout.

3. Guided Visualization Meditation

Visualization meditations require just a little time and the power of your imagination.

Knopik recommends picturing 'floating on a cloud,' or John Kabat-Zinn's mountain meditation, or you can choose one of the guided meditations on our app.

Another option is using a mental picture of your favorite place. Imagine yourself in a place that brings you peace; feel the sun perfectly warm on your skin, or hear the sound of ocean waves. Or think of a lighted candle, fixing a soft gaze and focus on the candle flame to keep you present. Spending just a few quiet moments—not hours—in silent contemplation may help you feel calmer and more centered and, who knows, may even temporarily interrupt your urge to fidget.

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