A Guide to Shower Meditation: The Self-Care Ritual For Your Busiest Days
Meditation is a fantastic way of coping with stress and anxiety — seriously, studies show that it can help people manage stress, so finding a type of meditation that works for you can help you reap those benefits. However, the practice can also be intimidating, anxiety-inducing, and time-consuming. If you have a super busy schedule or find that traditional meditation just doesn’t work for you, shower meditation is an excellent alternative.
At its core, shower meditation is exactly what it sounds like: you use the ritual of showering as a mindful practice. Assuming that showering is already part of your daily ritual, you don’t need to worry about finding extra moments in your already over-scheduled day, which takes the stress down a few notches. Movement, sensory awareness, gratitude, and mindful attention are integral to a relaxing shower meditation. You can use these suggestions to get you started, and as you become more comfortable with the practice, you can come up with your own ways to enhance and personalize your shower meditation practice.
How to Meditate in the Shower
You don’t need to make any alterations to your typical shower routine to turn it into a mindfulness meditation. If you really want to keep it clean and simple, you can begin by simply setting the intention to be completely and fully present while you wash yourself, paying close attention to your breath, your bodily sensations, the temperature of the water, the scent and feel of the soap, and anything else that comes up. Keeping your breath deep and regulated can help you maintain this focus, and when your thoughts begin to stray, invite them back to the shower with you, appreciating these moments you have with your body.
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For most of us, though, if it were that easy, we would already be masters. Here are a few techniques you can use to bring you deep into shower meditation, and hopefully really enjoy the experience:
Set the Environment
Some people find that lighting a candle, a stick of incense, or using a certain type of lighting helps them delineate the space between everyday activity and ritual. Try to find a small, quick action you can do to signal to your brain and body that this shower comes with the intention of mindfulness. Personally, I use colored lightbulbs in a few lamps in the bathroom because overhead lighting feels harsh to me, so softer, moody lighting reminds me that I’m here to do some relaxing, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Since I love scent, a candle or incense also signals to me that this is not just an ordinary shower, but a meditative shower — and they take two seconds to light.
Offer Gratitude for Water
I come from a culture that is animistic, meaning that we believe everything has a spirit, so respectfully engaging with water as an entity was part of my upbringing. Cultivating a relationship with water and other elements brings me comfort and appreciation every time I wash my hands, drink a glass of water, or take a bath. You don’t have to be from a culture with these beliefs to practice gratitude for water, though.
Most living things can’t survive very long without consuming water in some way — it helps us and our environment stay hygienic and healthy. Not everyone has access to clean or safe water, even though we all need it to survive. There’s a lot to be grateful for if water is coming from your tap.
If you’re new to this idea, a nice way to start is by greeting and thanking the water for being there, and for its life-giving force. You might say something like, “Thank you, water, for your life-giving, cleansing gifts.” This positions you in a respectful relationship with water, and brings you deeper into the experience.
Set an Intention
Now you can set an intention with this shower. As you stand under the shower and feel the water running over your body, you might ask it to rinse away your stress, refresh you, or comfort and soothe you. There are so many ways that water can make us feel, and it’s often different from day to day. Take a moment to assess what it is you need, and how you can use this ritual to help give that to yourself.
Breath is the most important aspect of meditation: you can meditate doing absolutely anything with the help of a steady, mindful breath. Just regulating the breath, or using breathing practices, can be enough to help manage stress. “Moving meditations” like shower meditations and yoga benefit from slow, steady breaths that guide your movements and center your intention. For instance, if your intention is to wash away your worry for the time being, then exhale fully, imagine breathing out stress, and bring your awareness to the water rushing over you and down the drain. On the inhalation, you might visualize breathing in healing, relaxing steam that fills your body and soothes your nerves as the water immerses you in comforting warmth.
Do a Body Scan
Showering is one of the few times during the day that we spend some quality time with each body part, so this is a good time to check in with yourself. A body scan is a popular meditation method that you might be familiar with if you’ve ever listened to a guided relaxation, or experienced savasana, aka the nap time part of yoga. Basically, it entails bringing your awareness to your body, one body part at a time. Here’s how to do it: begin at your feet and work your way up, noticing what each body part feels like. This could be a physical sensation like, “my foot is sore,” or “my lower back feels more relaxed.” You might experience an emotional sensation, like, “my heart feels full.” You might even notice a lack of sensation, like, “I can’t really feel anything about my hips,” and that’s fine, too. You’re just noticing without judgment.
Something that I like about a shower body scan is that washing yourself, part by part, can be a very tender act if you direct your attention that way. If you feel something like pain, tension, sadness, stress, or numbness, you can use the act of washing as a way to ritualistically release or soothe that uncomfortable feeling, or send love or care to that part of your body. This is a good place to continue your conversation with the water, if that feels ok, and ask for its help and support in caring for that part of you that requires more attention.
Engage the Senses
All of your senses can be involved in a shower meditation, even taste. (Personally, I like to enjoy a cup of tea in the shower.) Some people gravitate toward visual cues and want to use colored soaps, gels, wash cloths, poufs, or loofahs to help them engage mindfully with the shower ritual. You might even decorate your shower with plants, a beautiful shower curtain, or cute shower decals to make the shower feel more like a ritual space.
Others love scents. Hanging herbs like eucalyptus or lavender from the showerhead is a beautiful way to scent your shower, particularly if you have sensitive skin and scented soaps and shampoos don’t work for you. If your skin is ok with scent, you can experiment with what kinds of scents make you feel meditative. Since scent is such a strong trigger for memory, that might be a place to start. Lemons are considered very lucky in my culture, so sometimes I want a fresh, citrus soap if I feel like I need some extra protection. On the other hand, spices like clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and florals like lilac, rose, and jasmine, make me feel luxurious and comforted, so those are other moods I can create.
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Touch is very helpful to ground you in an experience, and paying attention to the sensation of the cloth or loofah against your skin, the temperature and pressure of the water, and the lather of the soap will help you stay present and meditative, especially if you’re pairing this attention with a deep, steadying breath.
Sound is also a resource for mindfulness. The sound of the water is constant and can be a place for your attention to rest. You can also add other sounds, like a fan or music. Many people find it easier to meditate to music without lyrics, so you can experiment with that. If you’re a chanting type, the shower is also a good place to chant. If you have a mantra you work with, this is a great place to repeat your mantra — and you can experiment by focusing different mantras on different parts of the body.
This guided shower meditation video by Idit Nissenbaum is a nice walk-through of the kinds of sensory experiences you can be aware of with some calming music in the background.
Close the Shower Meditation
Just as it’s helpful to do something to open the meditation, like light a candle or greet the water, it’s also helpful to close it. Closing the meditation allows you to acknowledge and hold the experience you created, which makes the feeling easier to revisit later if you need to. I like to bring both hands over my heart and be silent with the water for a moment, and thank the water for taking such good care of me. I also like to be in the habit of wiping down the shower after I turn the water off to keep it clean and inviting, but depending on how much time you have, that’s optional, of course.
Personalize the Experience
You can try these suggestions and see how they work for you, and I encourage you to experiment. You might want to incorporate a full-body scrub with a sugar polish and really get into the metaphorical and physical benefits of a deep exfoliation meditation. You might turn your deep-conditioning hair mask into a three-minute intention to deeply nourish yourself inside and out. Maybe working your feet with a pumice stone reminds you to be grounded. The wonderful thing about meditation is that, with practice, you begin to know yourself better, and it becomes easier to listen to your needs. Your shower meditation can reflect your preferences, and be tailored to give you the specific kind of relaxation you require.
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