In our modern world of perpetual busyness, our sympathetic nervous system is frequently in overdrive. We find ourselves constantly rushing from one activity to another, multitasking and being always available, thanks to our smart phones and the Internet.
Meditation offers us a chance to stop, to take a break from our busy lives. During meditation, we get familiar with how our mind works, we get to reconnect with our bodies and we get to recognize the feelings and thoughts that are causing our stress. These feelings are often related to external events or situations that we find stressful.
When we meditate, we cultivate a new awareness, or mindfulness, which helps us clearly see how our inner self-talk and automatic tendencies of reacting, or overreacting, to certain situations cause us stress. We start to appreciate how much of the stress in our lives we create internally by the way we think about and respond to situations. This new awareness then gives us the opportunity to make changes in how we respond to difficult situations.
So meditation is marvelous. But what about all the preconceived notions a lot of people have about meditation? Many people think meditation is too “out there” for them or that they won’t be able to do it. Let’s bust those myths right now so that you feel more comfortable and confidence using meditation to manage your stress....
The above is an excerpt of the "Meditation For Stress Management eBook"
There are many types of meditation instruction, and with our access to information in our modern world, it’s easy to find out about them so that you can choose the one or ones that feel right for you. Depending on what you want to focus on, you might choose a different type of meditation instruction. Below is just a short list to get you started thinking about what types are available and which ones might be right for you.
Guided meditations are great for every practitioner, especially beginners who might be finding it challenging to calm their minds. Many beginners start with these and then find they can branch out to other forms. You can find many different guided meditations online, in the form of MP3 audio downloads, podcasts and even videos.
They are exactly what the name states—a person guides the meditator through a meditation, often through the use of visualizing or using affirmations. Some focus on whole body relaxations, such as body scans. They come in many different lengths, which is nice. You might choose some shorter ones to use when you don’t have much time and then longer ones when you do.
This type of mediation is making a comeback after its popularity in the 60’s and early 70’s. It was very popular with celebrities of the time, including The Beatles, John Denver and The Beach Boys. Transcendental Meditation is a mantra-based meditation in which a word or phrase is repeated over and over during meditation.
Mantras are used in many traditions to help focus the mind. Practitioners meditate for 15-20 minutes twice a day while reciting their mantra. Mantras are giving to individuals by their Transcendental Meditation teacher. This type of mediation requires you to find a license instructor, and there is a fee involved.
Rather than sit with eyes closed, moving meditations focus on the sensations felt in the body while in movement. Many people who like the idea of meditation but not the sitting gravitate to this form of instruction. Some types of moving meditations include Yoga and Qigong. To try these, you can find free and low-cost sources online or take a class in your area.
Mindfulness meditation has its roots in Vipassana meditation, one form of Buddhist meditation. One of its leaders, Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, is well-known in the West. Mindfulness meditation is known in the West mostly due to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a doctor who created Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. This form included sitting and focusing on the present moment and on the breath, attempting not to change anything.
Binaural Beats Meditation
Brainwave synchronization has been used for centuries, but the modern world is just beginning to realize the positive benefits. Studies now report that the use of binaural beats can hasten the process of meditation and let you reach meditative stages that you’ve never before been able to achieve.
Binaural beats for meditation selects certain brainwaves to stimulate the brain and cause deeply relaxed meditation or mental alertness, depending on the mental state you desire. All different types of binaural beats meditations can be found online. You can even try some of them out for free to see if they are a good fit for you!
Always wanted to meditate, but didn’t know how? There’s a lot of confusing information out there about all the different types of mediation. But if you just want to do something basic to see how it positively impacts your life, you really only need to do these five things:
Find a quiet place—
It’s easiest to meditate when you can find a time and place where you won’t be interrupted. This is a time just for you. You might go into your bedroom and shut the door, for example, signaling to family or roommates that you want to be alone. You might also want to choose a time of day when the environment is less busy. Some people find getting up 15 minutes early to meditate before everyone in the house is up is a great time to practice meditation.
Close your eyes and focus inward—
Sit comfortably and close your eyes, focusing on this present moment. You don’t need to sit cross-legged if that isn’t comfortable. You can sit in a chair, on the floor, or even lie down, if you can stay alert (and awake!). Once settled, notice how you feel in your surroundings. Focus only on the moment right now.
Focus on your breath—
An easy way to focus on your breath is to bring your attention to your abdomen. Feel it rise and fall with each breath. Or, you can focus instead on your nostrils, feeling the warm air coming out of your nose and the cool breath going in. If you are having trouble focusing, you can even think to yourself on the inhalations, “breathing in” and, “breathing out” on the exhalations.
Connect with your body—
Once settled and focused inward, take notice of your body. How does each part feel? You may want to scan your body, starting with your toes and going all the way up to the top of your head. Just notice and really feel the sensations in your body. Notice tight spots, warm places and places that feel comfortable. Remember, there’s no need to change anything about how your body feels. You are just noticing.
When your mind wanders, and it will, that’s okay. That’s what our brain is meant to do. When you notice you are thinking instead of focusing on your breath, simply bring your mind gently back to the breath. This is mediation—bringing your mind back, over and over and over. After practicing meditation for a while, you will notice that your mind wanders less and less.
Beginning mediators find it soothing and relaxing to just take a few minutes once or twice a day to stop the busyness of life and check in with themselves. It’s an easy way to take a break, clear your mind and be able to go back to your normal activities refreshed. You only need 5 or 10 minutes to start enjoying the benefits meditation has to offer.
When life gets you down, de-stressing is the name of the game. There are the runners, the readers, the video gamers, the bakers, the eaters, and then there are the meditators. No doubt you have heard of the wonderful and mystical world of meditation, but most people probably have not tried it for themselves.
Those same people probably believe they can’t meditate. Admittedly, with the fast-paced world we live in, it can be hard to calm the mind and sit still for any period of time. But meditation is still possible. There are many other misconceptions about meditation; however, with some helpful information, you can master the art of meditation and naturally utilize it to relax.
Meditation, contrary to common belief, does not completely still the mind. Meditation practitioners instead observe the mind in its unfettered state. Your mind never stops thinking. It’s impossible because that’s what it does. But slowing our minds, however, and focusing on the thoughts that come through can provide insight into what causes our stress. Once that has been addressed, we can more easily and effectively deal with said stress.
It’s true that meditation developed from religious or spiritual practices. But meditation itself is secular. There is no present belief system attached to meditation, so no added pressure! Meditation is all about no pressure. It allows you to be kinder to yourself, so you can chillax, relax and detox from your busy life.
Years of Hard Work:
You don’t need to be super master unicorn of meditation to get the best results. It’s not necessary to practice hours of meditation for years to reap the benefits. According to scientific evidence, as little as 10 minutes of meditation a day can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, improve clarity, focus the mind, and help foster an overall sense of wellbeing. It’s that easy and simple, and rewarding too.
You need to be calm to meditate. FALSE! There’s no certain personality type that finds it easier to meditate. Meditation makes people calmer and more gentle and compassionate by repetition. By consistently meditating, people who are willing to invest the time in meditation can find balance and a calmer side of themselves.
Weird positions and strange words:
Sitting with your legs folded over your head and chanting witchcraft words, that’s what meditation is. Nope. That is a teetotal myth and one that has been perpetuated by the media. True, some meditation practitioners recite mantras while they meditate for hours. That being said, there is no standard for meditation.
The chanting and hour-long sitting is optional. You can meditate in silence, or with music, and practice in any position you want. You can sit, stand, drive, or even lie down (Try not to fall asleep if you do the latter. That’s not meditating; that’s napping).
Ask any meditation practitioner and they will tell you that they meditate while riding the bus to work, in their office chair, and after waking up in the morning.
It can be done anywhere and in any way. There are no brownie points for making yourself uncomfortable. Remember, meditation is used to calm the mind and relax the body. If you aren’t comfortable, you can’t meditate.
Let’s get one thing clear about mediation. You don’t have to be a yogi master to reap the benefits of meditation. You don’t have to chant, sit for long hours or master challenging positions. Forget what you’ve seen in the movies! For beginners, meditation can seem daunting, but never fear. Don’t say “no” to meditation before you’ve even tried it.
Meditation can’t be beat when it comes to managing stress!
Meditation, when all is said and done, is a very simple practice that allows its participants to find peace and comfort. It is a practice that uses repetition, focus and redirection.
Here are six steps for mindful meditation that will get you started on your path to meditation paradise:
Find a quiet place
Go find yourself the Promise Land of Quiet Places and get your mindful meditation on. That place could be in an office, in your bedroom, on your front porch, or even in a tree house. Just pick any place that is going to be your quiet haven for however long you choose to meditate. Do whatever works for you!
Find a Good Time
Anytime can be meditation time. Really! The best time to mediate is different for everyone. Simply find a time when you won’t be interrupted. Yeah, that isn’t always easy, but how about mediating for a few minutes during your lunch break at work or getting up 15 minutes early to have some quiet mediation time? Starting with as a little as five minutes of mindful meditation can go a long way toward helping you relax.
Finding the right amount of comfort for your meditation time is essential. Sit relaxed, but with good posture. You can sit on the floor, on a chair, on your bed or on a meditation cushion. Heck, you can even lay down if you don’t think you will start sawing logs or do walking meditation. Once you’ve found your comfort spot, just closing your eyes and focusing on the present moment.
Focus on Your Breath
In, out, in, out, and feeling the rise and fall of your abdomen with every breath. To narrow your concentration even more, focus on the inhalations and exhalations as they move through your nostrils. Now think, “Breathing in” and “breathing out” with each breath. When your mind starts to wander (or has been on a long vacation) no need to worry or beat yourself up for being a bad meditator! Just come back to the breath again.
Connect with Your Body
Do a cursory scan of your body and take mental note of the sensations in each section. Pay attention to tight spots, relaxed spots, warm places and cold places. Notice if your stomach feels empty or full. Is there any tingling in any part of your body? You don’t need to change anything. Just observe.
Notice when your mind starts to wander. It will, but don’t worry because that’s what brains were made to do! So when it does, gently guide it back and refocus on your breathing once more. That is meditation–the process of refocusing and redirecting your mind.
When you combine all the steps, you will have accomplished mindful meditation and a calmer self.
Ah, meditation. The art and practice of calming the mind and reducing stress. Yes, meditation does in fact help you become calmer and less stressed. The beauty of meditation however, is that it does so much more! It can make you happier and healthier mentally, emotionally and physically. But it doesn’t stop there! Keep reading to find out what other great benefits can be gained from meditation.
Develop the ability to let go of worry and regrets
Meditation actually helps the mind recognize, acknowledge and redirect what neuroscientists call the “Default Mode Network.” It’s the network that commands common traits like worry, self-doubt, self-reproach, negativity and regret.
Stimulate feelings of well-being, happiness and equanimity
Doesn’t it feel good to, well, feel good? Meditation gives us the pleasure of a better enjoyment of life. We learn to appreciate the world and people around us more, and the little irritations in life don’t seem to bother us as much.
Enhance focus and concentration
Our brains learn how to focus like a laser during meditation. This concentration and focus we have during formal meditation flows over into our regular day so that we get more done in less time.
Encourage compassion towards self and others
Have you ever noticed that when you’re stressed, you tend to lash out at people? You’re not alone. Fortunately, meditation can take care of that too! It encourages us to pursue life with a benevolent and curious awareness that leads to more fruitful and healthier relationships, including with ourselves.
Decrease stress, anxiety and depression
There’s more stress in our lives than ever, and more people are being treated for depression and anxiety than ever before. Stress occurs depending on how we respond to a challenging situation, while anxiety results from frequently thinking about the future and depression comes from focusing too much on the past. All three of these can be greatly reduced by practicing meditation, where we learn to live in the present moment.
Diminish negative self-talk
Meditation makes us keenly aware of the negative self-talk that is constantly chattering in the back of our minds. That awareness allows us to recognize self-reproach and self-doubt for what they are—just thoughts. Once we are aware of them and see them for what they are, we can choose not to buy into them. We can stop them before they really get a hold on our peace of mind.
Nurture acceptance of change
It’s fair to say that most of us hate change. But through meditation, we come to accept change easier. We come to accept that life progresses and changes, and that we must progress and change with it. By cultivating our curious awareness, we can more fully appreciate the transformations that life naturally brings.
Reduce perfectionistic and rigid thinking
Meditation helps us fully understand that perfection does not exist. As meditators, we are better able to contend with our crazy, imperfect, and mostly out of our control world.
Decrease the need for attaching to outcomes
Lastly, meditation frees us from preconceived notions regarding the world around us. We then create fewer expectations. When we have fewer expectations, we can let our lives flow, which increases our happiness and peace of mind.
Meditation is becoming more mainstream than ever before. We hear about it in the media almost on a daily basis now. No longer is it just for hippy-dippy people who go around hugging trees and eating weird food. That’s because science has finally caught up with what wise people have known for centuries—that meditation calms the mind and brings balance and health to the body.
You may have seen mediation as a waste of time, and you wouldn’t be the first. After all, it looks boring and pointless. You literally do nothing. Who could stand it? In our busy modern world where we are used to being entertained constantly, either from binge-watching TV, movies on demand, social media or games on our cell phones, it can be difficult to imagine just doing nothing…unless you are asleep.
But you may just change your mind when you see the impressive list of health benefits that neuroscience can now prove are attributed to mediation.
Meditation can actually reduce our risk of some of the most common medical ailments of our time—and the biggest “killers” in our society, such as:
Meditation Reduces Risk Of
High blood pressure
Neurodegenerative diseases associated with aging
Beyond that, there are many other ways that meditation benefits our well-being and helps us live happier, healthier lives:
Physical Benefits of Meditation
Improves quality of sleep
Increases brain function
Boosts immune system
Reduces chronic pain
Elevates pain caused by tense muscles
Relieves anxiety and improves mood
Reduces amount of atrophy in the brain, keeping brains, “younger”
Leads to better decision making by using different parts of the brain that enable more rational and less emotional reactions to stressful situations
Changes brain structure associated with learning, memory, sense of self, empathy and stress in only 8 weeks
Changes structure of the amygdala, the part of the brain that helps determine how we respond to stress responses
Improves mood, visual-spatial processing, memory and cognition
Reduces risk of reoccurring clinical depression
Reduces frequency of binge-eating
Reduces relapses in substance abuse
Meditation has been proven to help manage and reduce stress in the body and in the mind, which is why it does all the things on these impressive lists. And it doesn’t take years of mediation to see these results! Medical studies prove that changes in the brain occur in as little as 8 weeks of mindfulness meditation practice.
The participants in these studies reported overall improved mood, less judging thoughts, more tolerance for situations that used to cause them stress, awareness of actions, easier to relax and feelings of well-being.
Meditation actually changes the pathways in the brain and increases gray matter in the sections of the brain that deal with response to stress and stimuli. With this increase comes more control over our thoughts and actions. Meditation for just 10-15 minutes a day can lead to experiencing these benefits.
You can mediate almost anywhere and anytime, but it’s always a good idea to have a routine for your mediation practice. There are several reasons for this, including getting your mind and body ready to get quiet, getting your family to recognize that time and place as your quiet space and to ensure your mediation practice is consistent. Try these ways to prepare for mediation.
Choose the time and place—You want to decide on a time and place that will be quiet, with as few distractions as possible, for meditation. Turn off your phone, shut out the lights, tell your loved ones you are unavailable. It doesn’t matter if you choose to mediate in your bedroom or in your office. The time of day is also totally up to you. Maybe when the kids are in bed or first thing in the morning is better. Just choose a time when you can have solitude and are alert enough to concentrate. The space can be big or small. The most important thing is consistency.
Light scented candles or incense—This isn’t something that everyone might want to do, but it’s a great way to set the tone for mediation. Our sense of smell is the best for recalling memories, so when you smell that familiar smell, your mind and body will start to prepare automatically for mediation.
Play background music—Some people prefer silence, and that’s fine too. But beginning mediators find that total silence can be a bit too overwhelming at first. That might sound strange, but think of all the noise we are used to. No matter where you go, you hear TV’s or music piped in. If you want to play some music while meditating, find something soothing with no lyrics. Our minds tend to “grab” the words the singer is singing and wants us to sing along. Best to avoid that. Play the music softly so that it doesn’t end up becoming a distraction.
Wear comfortable clothes—There may be times when you are in a suit and want to mediate. That’s good too. But most people find it easier to sit for a while if they are as comfortable as possible. This means comfortable clothes. But if you get the urge to meditate in your suit or dress and heels, go for it!
Get your body read—Since we hope to reduce the amount of distraction, it’s always a good idea to go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, blow your nose, put on a sweater, etc. before you sit. It’s hard to concentrate when your throat is dry and you keep coughing.
Yoga stretches—It’s always a good idea to do some stretches before sitting, especially if you plan to sit for an extended period (whatever that means to you). While certainly not mandatory, doing a few simple standing yoga postures before sitting can prepare both your body and mind for sitting. Some that are good for this include Cat Pose, Sun Salutation, Standing Forward Bend, Chair Pose and Downward Dog pose.
If you have been dealing with a lot of stress, and other remedies aren’t working to relieve it, it might be time to try meditation. This allows you to center yourself, clear your mind, and focus on nothing while letting your brain and body relax. Here are some tips for using meditation to relieve emotional stress.
Try a Simple Meditation Session
When you are using meditation as a way of relieving stress, it doesn’t need to be complicated or complex. If you are just starting out with meditation, simply give yourself a few minutes a day to yourself. Make sure it is completely quiet, or that you just have some light meditation music playing. Relax your body, close your eyes, and let your mind go blank as much as possible. Don’t think about the things causing you stress, but take these few minutes to find a silent peace.
Practice Your Breathing
Breathing exercises can also help you to find peace and relaxation while you are meditating. Instead of focusing on the thoughts causing you stress, you want to focus on your breathing. When working on your breathing, inhale through the nose, and out through the mouth. Feel every breath as you take in oxygen and it enters your body. When exhaling, focus on letting out all your negative energy to get it out of your head. You can lower your blood pressure with this simple task every day.
Use a Mantra
When you are meditating, it also helps to have some mantras memorized. These mantras will bring more focus to clearing your mind and easing stress, which helps when you have difficulty letting go of all that stress and anxiety. A popular mantra is simply “Om”, which is the sound of the universe. It represents birth, death, and re-birth. There is also an ancient mantra called “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu” which means you want all beings to be happy and free. You can use these types of ancient mantras or create your own.
Focus on Parts of Your Body
Another easy method for learning to meditate is to focus on parts of your bod instead of your thoughts. For example, if you notice your mind wandering while meditating, start focusing on specific parts of the body and feeling sensations. You might focus on your heart and feel the steady heartbeat, feel the tingling in your feet, or the warmth in your hands.
Meditation takes practice, so don’t be discouraged if it is difficult in the beginning. Keep practicing, focus on your breathing, and find distractions.
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