5 Hobbies That Train Your Brain to Stay Calm and Clear

I'll be completely honest: The thought of sitting alone in a room for a prolonged period absolutely terrifies me. Whenever I attempt to meditate, my thoughts run haywire, and I can't help but feel like there are more productive ways to spend my time.

I'm not the only one struggles with this age-old practice. "No matter how many reports there are proving the mental, emotional, and physical value of being quiet, there seems to be an even greater number who refuse to give it a try," say Mindful's Deb Shapiro. After years of stress and constant stimulation, "The mind has no idea how to be still," she argues. "Rather, it craves entertainment. It’s not as if you can suddenly turn it off when you meditate, it just means you are like everyone else."

If you've never managed to master the art of meditation, there are other ways to train your mind to be still. Here, we spotlight five of the best startlingly simple activities that promote mindfulness and are scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety. The best bit? They don't require much time and will fit into your busy schedule.

Forget meditation—these five activities will help you achieve clarity and calm.


Put Pen to Paper

Free writing is the practice of continuously penning your thoughts for a set period of time, without paying attention to spelling, grammar, or even a topic. You don't have to structure paragraphs or worry about adhering to writing convention; the point of this exercise is to encourage a stream of consciousness, where your inner monolog flows freely onto the page. 

Studies suggest free writing has serious mental health benefits. Research published in the journal Advances in Psychiatric Treatment found that people who write about emotional, stressful, or traumatic events saw an improvement in their physical and psychological health. 

If you're short on time, this is the perfect mindfulness activity. Those involved in research penned their thoughts for just 15 to 20 minutes on three to five occasions and noticed the benefits. 

Can't meditate? Tell us how you incorporate mindfulness into your day.