Who says you need to move to an ashram in India to learn how to meditate? Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra are offering a quick and easy way to adopt this ancient practice that promises to improve relationships, psychological and physical health, sleep quality, and mood starting right now.
The media mogul and New Age guru have teamed up to kick off a 21-Day Meditation Challenge, complete with emails that will guide you through a 16.5-minute daily meditation, keep you inspired, encourage you to write in an online journal, and help you pick up other life lessons when you register for the free online program.
We already know what you're thinking: How on earth are you going to stop the Twitter newsfeed of thoughts running through your head for 16.5 minutes a day? The answer is you don't.
“What many people don't realize is that the goal isn't to shut off the mind but rather to listen or observe and not be attached to answering it,” says Roberta Lee, M.D., author of The SuperStress Solution and vice chairwoman of the department of Integrative Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center. “This allows you to reflect from a sense of calm rather than react from a sense of fight or flight.”
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The beauty of this practice—beyond the perks mentioned above—is that it can seriously help put things into perspective. “You're relating to the world in a much more controlled way,” Dr. Lee explains. “You're able to see the flexibility of a situation, as opposed to immediately and reflexively going into survival mode, which makes us less tolerant.”
Other benefits of mindfulness meditation include increased productivity, creativity, efficiency, energy, and self-esteem, she adds.
Whether you plan follow along with Oprah and Deepak or continue to work on your own private practice, here are three mind-clearing ways to help you find a little zen in your busy day.
1. Become a human pedometer: Having trouble sitting still? Try meditating while walking or running, suggests Michelle Barge, a yoga and meditation teacher based in New York City. “Count each step and see if you can get to 1,000 without losing track,” she says. If your mind starts to wander (a good thing!), no biggie, just start over. Focusing on the number lets thoughts ebb and flow effortlessly, which helps your brain achieve restful alertness.
2. Make lunch your biggest meal: “Poor digestion is a big culprit when it comes to a dull mind,” says Heather Hartnett, a spokesperson for the David Lynch Foundation in Manhattan. The eight-year-old nonprofit founded by the famous "Twin Peaks" director teaches transcendental meditation to all walks of life worldwide, including troubled students, veterans, homeless, and prisoners. “Eat your main meal at noon when digestion is most effective,” Hartnett says. New research from Brigham and Women's Hospital confirms it: Dieters who ate the bulk of their daily calories after 3 p.m. felt sluggish for the remainder of the 20-week study.
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3. Find bliss in daily chores: Dread washing dishes? Turn small, annoying, unavoidable household tasks into an instant time-out from your day, where you can tap into your inner peace and quietness and thankfulness, Barge says. While you rinse off each dish, consider how grateful you are for the food you just ate, the family (or friends) you just shared the meal with, the home you live in. Need help getting in the zone? Light a special meditation candle (a calming sent like lavender is great) while you clean. The ritual of the familiar scent will help put you in that blissful mindset.