Whether it’s caused by work, relationships or other situations, stress has gotten the best of all of us at one time or another. Everyday life is filled with stressors. But, while some stress is normal and even healthy, constantly high levels of stress can wreak havoc on our emotional and physical health.
While some people turn to medications or supplements to ease feelings of stress and anxiety, there are a few simple ways we can relax and bring about feelings of calm. Meditation and relaxation are easy ways for us to slow our racing heart rates, lower our blood pressure and refocus after life gets just a bit too stressful.
Meditation and its benefits
For thousands of years, people of all walks of life have used meditative practices to center themselves. Although it was originally used for spiritual connections, meditation is often used as a method for stress relief today.
Meditation is good for both the mind and the body, helping you achieve an overall sense of wellness. Because it is free and can be done anywhere and in any length of time, anyone can practice meditation to shed daily stress.
One of the major benefits of meditation is its ability to promote feelings of calmness and balance. The deep breathing and awareness often practiced in meditation helps lower your heart rate and slow your breathing, which can help make you feel more at ease. Additionally, meditation has been found to promote better self-awareness and creativity.
Some studies have even found that meditation can assist people suffering from health conditions that are worsened by stress, including anxiety, depression, chronic pain and high blood pressure.
Relaxation anywhere, anytime
There are many specific types of meditation that can be taught by instructors. Most of these methods help you focus on one particular object, image or bodily process. For example, guided meditation encourages you to focus on a mental image of a place you find relaxing, where mantra meditation uses the repetition of a comforting word or phrase to find calm. There are also more physical types of meditation, including Tai Chi and yoga, that incorporate postures and movement.
Despite there being numerous types of meditation available, there is really no “right” way to meditate. In fact, many people create their own forms of meditation each day by incorporating some of the common core techniques. This freedom allows you to meditate wherever and whenever you want, whether it is for an hour each morning or for five minutes during a stressful period at work.
Incorporating meditation into daily life
Most people who begin meditating find it easier to accomplish if they set time aside each day to do it. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day here and there but attempting to find time each day to sit down and relax will usually create better results.
To begin, sit or stand in a comfortable position. Start by closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing. Breathe deeply and evenly, focusing your attention on the inhales and exhales. This initial step is crucial, as it signals to your body to slow the heart rate and calm down.
After getting your breathing under control, you can try a number of different things. If you have a phrase or word that is calming to you, repeat it softly between breaths. Or, conjure an image of your “happy place” and focus on that. If you want to, you can continue to just focus on your breathing and your experiences during—this is called mindfulness.
The main goal here is to let your mind focus on something other than the jumble of thoughts that are making you stressed. It’s natural for your mind to wander during meditation—when it does, calmly re-center your focus. With practice, you should be able to find your calm and center your focus more easily during stressful situations.
Other forms of relaxation
Meditation isn’t the only way to shed stress in your day-to-day life. Try out some of these other ways to relax while using the basic method of deep breathing:
- Rhythmic exercise: Engaging in exercise that has a rhythmic quality like running, walking, rowing or dancing can produce similar results to meditation. Exercise releases chemicals in your brain that can decrease stress, while the rhythmic motions and breath help you focus on things apart from your stressors.
- Music: Music has been found to be extremely therapeutic. If you need something apart from silence to get calm, pop in your headphones and start breathing calmly while listening to a soothing song. Other relaxing sounds might help, too, such as rain or birds chirping.
- Self-reflection: Grab a journal, notepad or even a Post-It note and write down an encouraging mantra, a positive part of your day or something you are grateful for. Doing this while also paying attention to your breathing can help you shift your focus off of your stress and create a more positive outlook each day.
No matter what type of meditation or relaxation methods you choose, practicing deep breathing and meditative techniques a little bit each day can work wonders for your mental and physical health. By staying consistent and focusing your attention, you should be able to more easily and effectively shed daily stress and live a happier life!