Let Go Of Your Expectations To Reduce Stress
The first and most important tip to help you begin your meditation practice is to understand that you might have a misconceived notion of what meditation is. Images of a cross-legged yogi on a hilltop or a yoga-pants-wearing incense-burning mediation teacher might come to mind, but dont be fooled by appearances. Anyone can practice meditation you dont need to be a yogi or even wear any particular clothing though comfortable clothing is practical).
Jon Kabat Zinn, founder of MBSR and advocate for mindfulness meditation, explains:
When we speak of meditation, it is important for you to know that this is not some weird cryptic activity, as our popular culture might have it. It does not involve becoming some kind of zombie, vegetable, self-absorbed narcissist, navel gazer, space cadet, cultist, devotee, mystic, or Eastern philosopher. Meditation is simply about being yourself and knowing something about who that is.
Helps Us Focus On The Present
How often have you caught yourself dwelling on the past or worrying about the future? Id imagine more often than youd realize. Meditation helps us become more grounded and focused on the present moment.
When youre more focused on the present, youre not as stressed. Most stress is imagined. Even when the stress is real, we make it worse by stressing about the stress. It happens in the mind when its ruminating on something that occurred in the past, or its worrying about the future.
With meditation, youre not living in this waking-dream state. Youre living in the moment and not constantly lost in thought. While there are many ways to be stress free, getting out of your head is the quickest and easiest way.
It’s Ok For Your Mind To Wander
If you notice your mind wandering, that’s good. Meditation can be challenging for some people, particularly perfectionists. We sometimes fall into the trap of wanting to do it “right” and becoming frustrated with ourselves when our mind drifts off. The thing to remember is that if you notice this happening, that’s a good thingyou noticed.
Noticing and redirecting your thoughts back to the focus of your meditation is the real point of meditation. It’s virtually impossible to prevent your mind from wandering anyway.
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Tips To Keep You Going
Meditation can be done anywhere and you do not need much time. Try starting with one to 2 minutes each day, and then increasing the time gradually over weeks or months. It takes time, patience and practice to meditate.
If you need some help, try:
- doing a meditation course
- using a meditation DVD or YouTube video
- using a mental health app, such as Smiling Mind
You can find other digital mental health resources by visiting the Australian Government’s Head to Health website.
A Meditation For Anxious Emotionsbob Stahl
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Ways Meditation Reduces Stress
Remember that stress reduction is ultimately a byproduct of a daily meditation practice. The goal of meditation is mindfulness. Mindfulness is also the means to that end. When we practice mindfulness during meditation, we can be more mindful outside of the practice. This unlocks so much to us, including a healthier mind and reduced stress. Heres 6 different ways meditation reduces stress.
Press Play For Advice On Meditation
Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast, featuring ‘Good Morning America’ anchor Dan Harris, shares a quick step-by-step process for beginners to try meditation. Click below to listen now.
Many people find that if they try to meditate for too long each session or create a “perfect” practice it can become intimidating or daunting, and they find it more challenging to keep as a daily habit. It is far better to create the habit and work it into a more thorough version of that habit.
Its helpful to have silence and privacy, but more experienced meditators can practice meditation anywhere.
Many practitioners of meditation attach a spiritual component to it, but it can also be a secular exercise. Really, there is no wrong way to meditate.
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Spend Time With Friends And Family
Social support from friends and family can help you get through stressful times.
Being part of a friend network gives you a sense of belonging and self-worth, which can help you in tough times.
One study found that for women in particular, spending time with friends and children helps release oxytocin, a natural stress reliever. This effect is called tend and befriend, and is the opposite of the fight-or-flight response .
Keep in mind that both men and women benefit from friendship.
Another study found that men and women with the fewest social connections were more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety .
Having strong social ties may help you get through stressful times and lower your risk of anxiety.
Its hard to feel anxious when youre laughing. Its good for your health, and there are a few ways it may help relieve stress:
- Relieving your stress response.
- Relieving tension by relaxing your muscles.
In the long term, laughter can also help improve your immune system and mood.
A study among people with cancer found that people in the laughter intervention group experienced more stress relief than those who were simply distracted (
Try watching a funny TV show or hanging out with friends who make you laugh.
Find the humor in everyday life, spend time with funny friends or watch a comedy show to help relieve stress.
Not all stressors are within your control, but some are.
One way to do this may be to say no more often.
What Can Stress Do To Your Body
We often use the words Im stressed casually in our everyday conversations, with little acknowledgment of the adverse effects of stress in our lives. But evidence suggests that we should be much more concerned about our stress levels than we are.
The Centers for Disease Control found that 66 percent of American workers say they lie awake at night troubled by the physical or emotional effects of stress, and stress has been linked to many health problems, including obesity and heart diseaseespecially among low-income Americans. Stress not only affects us, but it can impact those around us, too, especially our children.
Prolonged stress changes the brain. The part of our brain that helps process threatening situations, the amygdala, can appear larger in people who are chronically stressed. Researchers have also seen that the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex can appear smaller.
Stress among adults is rising at an alarming rate, according to the 2019 Stress in America Survey. This means that more Americans are walking around with high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which is linked to most diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and depression
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Managing Stress With Meditation
Meditation isnât about eliminating stress itâs about managing it. A lot of that boils down to how we perceive stress. By altering our mindset, we can lessen the implications on our mental and physical health.
Stress often gets a bad rap, which is perhaps undeserved. Think where we would be, for example, if we didnât have the distress signal that makes us flee from danger. Or if we didnât feel pressed to finish a project or homework on time. Some people even thrive in high-pressure careers, feeling completely in control in the fast lane and totally stressed out when things slow down. So the degrees of stress can vary widely person to person. Nevertheless, good experiences in our best interest will still bring stress. Thereâs no avoiding it.
Our appraisal of pressured situations can actually affect the level of distress we associate with a certain event. But, looking at this through the lens of mindfulness, it is possible to soften the way we perceive stress and relate to it in a more accepting way.
The next time we experience a stress response in a âgoodâ situation, try to avoid applying negative labels. Instead, try to think about it as something powerful and energizing, preparing us to meet lifeâs challenges.
When it comes to managing stress through meditation, the Headspace app has a dedicated 30-day course for subscribers that comes with exercises designed to address all manner of stressors.
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Practicing Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Consult with your doctor first if you have a history of muscle spasms, back problems, or other serious injuries that may be aggravated by tensing muscles.
Start at your feet and work your way up to your face, trying to only tense those muscles intended.
- Loosen clothing, take off your shoes, and get comfortable.
- Take a few minutes to breathe in and out in slow, deep breaths.
- When youre ready, shift your attention to your right foot. Take a moment to focus on the way it feels.
- Slowly tense the muscles in your right foot, squeezing as tightly as you can. Hold for a count of 10.
- Relax your foot. Focus on the tension flowing away and how your foot feels as it becomes limp and loose.
- Stay in this relaxed state for a moment, breathing deeply and slowly.
- Shift your attention to your left foot. Follow the same sequence of muscle tension and release.
- Move slowly up through your body, contracting and relaxing the different muscle groups.
- It may take some practice at first, but try not to tense muscles other than those intended.
How To Practice Relaxation Meditation
1. Guided Imagery
Probably the most popular form of relaxation meditation for stress relief is the guided imagery. This form of relaxation meditation consists of relaxing music, and/or sounds of nature, and a persons voice to guide you on an imaginary journey.
It usually starts with a little mindful breathing, followed by a body scan to physically relax your body. Then the meditation focuses on relaxing your mind by taking you to an imaginary place that is safe, comfortable, and happy. Its like going on a short vacation from all the things that are causing you stress.
The meditation generally uses a countdown to get you to this place, and includes a set of affirmations to help you relax. The countdown is almost hypnotic, and helps you assimilate the relaxing affirmations more effectively.
Once you reach the imaginary safe space, you normally stay there for a short period in order to let your body and mind relax further. After a while, the voice will slowly guide you back to where you started by counting up with more positive affirmations.
The reason the guided imagery form of relaxation meditation is so popular is because it is quite effective, and you dont have to do anything except listen to the meditation and follow the guide.
2. Moving Meditation
3. Self-Guided Relaxation Meditation
Some people are more inclined to do their own relaxation meditation. What they generally do is start out with a body scan, where they consciously relax the muscles in each body part.
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How To Begin Meditation
Create the habit of setting aside 30 minutes a day for meditation practice.
Create a comfortable space where you can sit and dedicate some time to yourself. Have a space to sit in silence, recognize, and learn your breath. Remember that the most important space to take care of is your inner space. Wear comfortable clothing.
Having cushions and a mat can create comfort. If you sit in meditation posture, make sure your hips are higher than your knees. You can keep your eyes closed, put your inner sight in the middle of your forehead, shoulders away from your ears, back straight, all these practices help you to concentrate on your breathing. Recognize the length of your inhalation and your exhalation.
Another common way to practice meditation is to go for a walk and begin to recognize your steps where youre looking, your breathing, what you hear and perceive. This is the beginning of building the foundation for mindful meditation practice.
Chanting mantras or repetitive prayers are also ways to focus and exercise your mind and empty it of thoughts. This exercise can help you to increase your concentration and be present in the moment.
May Your Life Become Your Mediation
Meditation is not just for relaxation its primary purpose is to help you develop the capacity to respond skillfully and gracefully to lifes difficulties as well as its joys. Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche
As you begin to develop a mediation practice, youll likely notice the profound sense of peace and relaxation that it brings. As you keep practicing, try to bring what youve learned into your daily experience. Its great to start on a mat or in a peaceful environment, but the more familiar you become with your practice and the more attuned you become to your levels of peace and stress, the easier youll find it to live your life in a more meditative, mindful, and compassionate state.
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How To Practice Basic Meditation For Stress Management
Megan Monahan is a certified meditation instructor and has studied under Dr. Deepak Chopra. She is also the author of the book, Don’t Hate, Meditate.
Meditation has many health benefits and is a highly effective way to relieve stress and maintain a healthier lifestyle. With practice, meditation becomes both more of an easy habit to maintain and more of an effective one as well, given that it builds resilience to stress over time.
Putting in the effort to learn and practice meditation can actually transform your experience of stress in your life. There are many different ways to meditate, and this technique is one of the most basic. With practice, you can use this technique to feel inner peace whenever you need it.
Meditation Releases Emotional Turbulence
Through the practice of meditation, you develop what is known as witnessing awareness, which allows you to observe your thoughts and feelings and stories with greater objectivity and distance, rather than getting pulled into the melodrama of emotional reactivity. As you begin to witness your mental activity, without attempting to resist or change it, there is a spontaneous calming of the inner commotion. Over time, you will begin to notice that some space has been created around difficult emotional states. You will start to see that there is more to who you are than your moods or thoughts, and you may also observe that the sensations associated with the negative state dissolve altogether.
It’s a wonderful realization to know that you dont have to repress what you feel in order to feel inner peace! In fact, repressing emotions never leads to emotional well-being but only adds to the accumulation of emotional toxicity in the body. By not repressing or fixating on emotions, they can move through and out of the body. A regular meditation practice allows you to spend more and more time in the silence and peace of pure awareness. As this sense of spaciousness expands in your daily life, it becomes easy to let go of old patterns of thinking and feeling that create stress.
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