No one enjoys the sneezing, fever, and aches that come with colds and flu, but unfortunately, once you’re sick all you can do is wait it out. Between getting tons of fluids and even more rest, you might try some mindfulness meditation to help you find some mental and emotional relief.
As a bonus, meditation may help boost your immune system. That science is still tentative, but even the psychological effects are enough to make sick day meditations worth a try. Here are five different ways to use meditation to make yourself feel less miserable.
Take Deep Breaths
Meditation is as simple as breathing—or anything else that can help calm your mind and focus your attention away from pain.
All you need is a comfortable chair and a quiet room. Pediatrician Mark Bertin tells the New York Times how to use this simple focus to get your mind off your sniffling and sneezing:
Start by taking a few deep breaths, focusing on the subtle physical movements that follow along with breathing. If your illness makes breathing itself a challenge, consider focusing on your feet touching the floor, or the back of your legs on the mattress. Continue breathing naturally for a few minutes, or focusing on body sensations.
Visualize Yourself in a Better Place
When’s the last time you sat down and let your imagination run wild? For some of us, it’s been since middle or high school. Right now, between the coughing and sneezing, is the perfect time to start.
Visualizing images gives you the space to think beyond your current pain and create your own happy ending. For this exercise, you can close your eyes or keep them open—whatever you prefer. Imagine what it would feel like without the pain. What would you be doing? How would you feel?
Don’t limit yourself to your everyday surroundings. If you like, picture yourself on the beach with a cocktail in hand. Or maybe you see yourself gathered around family and friends during Thanksgiving.
You’re only bound by your imagination. The goal is to imprint enjoyable experiences in your mind. It’ll help you move past any discomfort.
Scan Your Body
At a recent doctor’s visit, the nurse instructed me to write down where I felt the pain. My immediate reaction was to tell her everywhere. Suffering from a severe case of the flu, I couldn’t differentiate between subtle aches and excruciating pain.
With mindfulness, you can take deliberate steps toward figuring out the origin of your pain. Body scanning is the practice of drawing awareness to every inch of your body.
You can lie in bed and gradually acknowledge each body part, from head to toe. It’s an opportunity for you to feel those sensations of tingling, tightness, and pressure.
After you spot the pain, you can either accept it for what it is or take action to remedy it, maybe with a massage or gentle stretches. It’s your choice, but it all begins with body scanning.
Repeat Positive Mantras
What you think is what you believe. That’s why saying positive thoughts can be a powerful meditation routine when you’re sick.
Rather than sulking about how you currently feel, you can move your thoughts toward how you want to feel in the future—happy, healthy, and energized.
Mantra meditation is repeating positive sayings out loud or in your mind. You’ll suppress those negative thoughts and earn that much-needed relaxation. Personal development coach and meditation expert Thomas Di Leva offers the following suggestion when selecting a mantra:
“Remember, it is best to choose an affirmation that you can deeply relate with. For instance, instead of saying ‘I will lose weight’ choose ‘I will lose 10 pounds in 3 months’. This will direct your mind to focus on what is to be done, by when it is to be done, and whatever it is to be done. You have the power to do it.”
When dealing with a migraine the last thing you want to do is hear … anything, really. Instead, you probably want to lock yourself in a dark room and bury your head under a pillow.
That’s a viable option, but there’s also something called mindful listening. It’s the chance to listen for sounds that can actually soothe you.
If you sit quietly in your home and really listen, you may hear the buzzing of the refrigerator, the ticking of a clock, or even drops of water hitting your kitchen sink.
You can do the same mindful listening exercise outside. Visit a park and listen to kids playing basketball, birds chirping in the distance, or a stranger slamming a car door.
Be present in the moment and start listening to your environment. Serenity is only one sound away.