Have you ever caught your mind wandering at the spa?

You know what I mean: You’re supposed to be enjoying yourself. 


Experiencing the incredible benefits of deep relaxation. 

Lights on. Nobody home upstairs. 

Pure mental silence. 

Yet there you are. Mind chattering away like there’s no tomorrow. You might as well be at work, the committee in your mind is that loud. 

Good news.

It doesn’t have to be that way. 

These simple mental fitness activities will help you center and focus your mind on the present moment.

That way, you can enjoy your time at the spa. 

Even better, you’ll be able to take that focus and mental clarity with you. No matter where you go. 

One: The Alphabetical Gratitude Exercise 

Studies have shown that expressing gratitude turns the volume down on “monkey mind.” 

It probably won’t surprise you that similar studies have found that the opposite of gratitude increases mental chatter. 

The problem with gratitude exercises is that they can feel kind of random. And they usually involve writing. 

Pen and paper while at the spa? No thanks. 

Give this simple routine a try instead. 

Start with the letter A. Think of any person whose name starts with that letter. Then, for 3-5 breaths, hold them in mind and mentally express your gratitude for that person.

Then move on to the letter B. 

Try and go as deep into the alphabet as you can. Sure, some people will be hard pressed to find someone named Xavier to be grateful for when they reach X. 

But the point is to give yourself some kind of mental structure to follow. Reducing thoughts about how to complete the exercise is a blessing unto itself. 

Two: Love Yourself And Others 

We often forget to cherish ourselves. Yet, nearly every enlightenment and contemplative tradition places love for self and others at the forefront. 

Spend at least 3-5 breaths just embracing yourself as you relax at the spa. Then move on to doing the same for others, 3-5 breaths for each. 

You can use the alphabetical structure you just learned, or choose another structure. For example, you can go through your family by age. Or you can go through your teachers starting with grade one up until graduation. 

Three: Mantra Meditation 

Committing a simple mantra to memory is a great way to keep yourself focused on the present moment. You can also work up to more complex mantras that will focus your mind for 10-20 minutes or longer. 

One of the simplest mantras to learn is called Kirtan Kriya. It’s unique because it usually involves a relaxing routine that uses the fingers of both hands. You can learn this mantra from Gary Weber, who teaches both simple and complex mantra recitation on his YouTube channel. 

Four: Wander a Memory Palace 

Instead of thinking about work, imagine reinforcing a language you’re learning in a relaxed and comfortable way. 

On your living room couch, you have a phrase in Spanish and the same phrase in French on your kitchen counter. (Because why not learn more than one language at the same time?) 

Now, you might be wondering… 

How could a phrase be on my couch?

This is the basis of the Memory Palace technique. By creating associations and imagining them on or near locations in a familiar building, you can easily mentally revisit them. 

[Text Wrapping Break]Do this a few times, and that information will enter your long term memory. 

You can do it to help with language learning or some of the more robust mantras that will keep you focused on the spa experience for much longer. 

The best part?

You can use your favorite spa as a Memory Palace too once you’ve learned how the technique works. 

Five: Relax Before Relaxing 

You go to the spa to unwind, so why not hit the ground running? 

Although activities like Qi Gong, Tai Chi and yoga are not strictly mental, they do exercise your mind. This is because they draw upon your focus and concentration. 

A little bit of stretching and movement before you arrive will do a world of good. Always remember:

The science story argues that the mind is a production of the brain. The evidence is on their side because people who regularly practice such activities are generally much calmer and more focused. 

Six: Use Decision Parameters When Thoughts Arrive 

No matter how much mental mastery a person cultivates, they’re probably still going to have thoughts arise when they’d rather be relaxing. 

The Stoics remind us that thoughts themselves aren’t the problem. It’s how we react to the thoughts that creates our troubles. 

For that reason, it’s good to have some solid tools for responding to worries when they arise. Instead of thinking willy-nilly about how you’re doing to deal with them, try the W.R.A.P. technique. 

Chip and Dan Heath suggest this approach in their book, Decisive

When a problem comes to mind, follow this simple W.R.A.P. acronym to consider ways of tackling the issue so your mind can return to resting: 

  • Widen your options 
  • Reality test 
  • Attain distance 
  • Prepare to fail 

You might think that even considering failure is a downer. But as Oliver Burkeman demonstrates in The Antidote, picturing potential disasters in the mind is one of the fastest paths to attaining peace with their possibility. Richard Wiseman presents similar research in favor of this in his book, 59 Seconds

Personalization And Variety Are The Key 

So there you have it: A solid starter-kit for keeping focused on your spa visit. Even when distractions arise (as they inevitably will). 

Rather than rely on just one of these activities, rotate through them. We know from some specific studies in memory, that a variety of approaches is the key to learning quicker. That means that more is more when it comes to picking up skilful living strategies. 

And as you’ve seen, each of the activities above involve personalization, from wandering through the alphabet to picturing the worst that can happen to you. 

Yes, it’s okay to fantasize about the problems of others, or escape into imagined fairy tales. 

But keeping focused on you and your mind, rather than trying to repress unwanted distractions, is not only a solid strategy. It can provide tremendous rewards when done in an optimal way. 

Practice makes progress. 

And when it comes to gratitude, all the more so when you’re lucky enough to have practices like these while you’re at the spa. Enjoy! 

Anthony Metivier is the founder of the Magnetic Memory Method, a systematic, 21st Century approach to memorizing foreign language vocabulary, dreams, names, music, poetry, and much more in ways that are easy, elegant, effective, and fun.