We all struggle with stress. Whether it’s anxiety from upcoming events or tension from uncertainty, stress can have a profound impact on your life, creating fraught relationships and lost productivity. Since stress has this potent ability to prevent us from living our best lives, it’s important we find stress-reduction methods that work with our lifestyle.
Mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) is one of the more powerful processes for reducing common sources of stress. The practice of MBSR stems from ancient roots – many religions provide a type of meditation or prayer technique to help you shift away from a worried mindset to a calmer state. Today, people of all backgrounds practice mindfulness to reduce stress. MBSR is easy, and a process you can start today. Follow our guide below to begin your journey in stress reduction.
Step #1: Connect Mind and Body
The first step of MBSR is to check in with your body. The best way to connect mind and body is through a technique called a “Body Scan.” A body scan is usually done by lying on your back – use a mat on the floor or your bed. If lying flat on your back is uncomfortable, feel free to settle into a reclining chair. Pull a blanket over yourself and dim the lights if possible. Begin the body scan by noticing the contact between your body and the floor. Move past that and explore other sensations in your body. Bring those sensations up to your mind. Are you tingling? Are you warm, hot, or cold? Do you feel any buzzing, itching, pulsing, or numbness? Notice your thoughts as well – are you uncomfortable, tired, or alarmed? Then let those sensations settle. Let them pass without moving.
The first time you do a body scan might be hard because it requires you to think and act differently than you are used to. The more you practice, the more you’ll become aware of even the smallest sensations. Keep going. The goal is to build an awareness of your body’s many sensations and to develop a greater intimacy with those sensations so you can let them pass without triggering an emotional response.
You may find it difficult to start a body scan on your own so try this 30-minute audio guided scan.
Step #2: Practice Sitting Meditation
Sitting meditation is one of the more recognizable ways people approach mindfulness. Just like breathing, sitting comes very naturally. The difference between mindful sitting and normal sitting is your awareness.
The best way to separate sitting meditation from normal sitting is to set aside a special time and place for the activity. This special appointment will be a time for you to be in a non-doing state of being. Calmly accept this time as it is. Start out with a straight and dignified posture – your head, neck, and back should all be in alignment. Whether you choose to sit on the floor or in a chair, posture is very important. Relax your shoulders and place your hands on your knees or in your lap. Once you’re comfortable in your posture, hone in on your breathing. Feel it come in, feel it come out. Your mind may start to wander off as you get deeper into the exercise; just reign it back in. Observe the impulses you feel – try not to think about what to do next or something that happened in the past. Keep focused on your breathing. This practice helps you accept each moment as it comes and goes. In the long run, this will train your mind to be less reactive and more stable when stressful situations arise.
Spire provides free guided meditations perfect for beginners getting into mindfulness. You can start them before you begin your sitting time and use them to help you control your breathing and focus your mind.
Step #3: Get Physical
Now that you’ve connecting your body and mind and started your own mindfulness practice, the next step is to put it all together. Yoga is a wonderful activity to make this connection. While mindful yoga uses stretches and poses like regular yoga, it’s biggest difference is that the focus is on the body/mind awareness. So, don’t worry about achieving the perfect posture or position. Go slow and focus on how your body feels. Remind yourself to be fully awake – not lost in a daydream but tuned into your senses. While you move between poses, recognize how your thoughts and whole sense of self changes in perspective. Make sure you stretch within your body’s limits. This is a slower exploration of yoga so take your time between each pose. Each stretch should work to move your mind to a calmer state.
Be sure to pick a mindful yoga routine you’re comfortable with – there are fantastic free videos to watch on Youtube.
Step #4. Leverage Additional Resources
Now that you have some of the techniques to help you move towards a less stressed state of being, you’ll have to work on recognizing those first signs of stress. While there are a number of ways to help you identify those moments, we created Spire. Spire tracks your breathing patterns and alerts you to the first signs of tension. In the heat of the moment, you may not realize that you’re becoming stressed out but Spire will. Over time with Spire’s help you’ll become more aware of these moments and be able to eliminate your emotion or physiological response to them. Learn more about the science behind Spire.
As you master these practices, you will feel a shift in your mindset and outlook on life. Mindfulness based stress reduction should help you achieve acceptance, letting go, patience, trust, and peace in your own life. Pair these ways with Spire to reduce stress and discover calm.