You have a lot of stress in your life. When you come home from work, you might change into something comfortable and spend the rest of the night watching Netflix. However, this doesn’t actually do much to help you deal with the levels of stress and frustration in your life.
Instead of spending hours zoning out and putting your stress on ice, there are actions you can take to deal with it in the long term. Meditation is one of the simplest and most beneficial ways to deal with stress. It is a great way to activate the relaxation response, and deal with many of the physical side effects of being stressed out.
If you really need to watch through an entire season of your favorite show in one night, don’t fret. You can reap the benefits of meditation from just a few minutes of practice each day and get back to your favorite shows in no time.
This article will briefly explain how meditation promotes relaxation, and then offer some guided meditations you can try now to get the relief you deserve.
How Meditation Promotes Relaxation
When you have a seemingly never ending list of things to do, or people to worry about, your mind is constantly activating your stress response. This means your body is signaling your brain to prepare for danger. Whether you’re dealing with an angry bear, or stressed about a looming deadline at work, your brain can’t tell the difference between these two dangers.
The stress response evolved as a way to survive situations where you need to be ready to act in an instant. However, with modern technology and demands on our time and energy, the stress response hasn’t been given enough time to catch up. This means our brains have a hard time discerning between immediate threats and everyday stressors.
However, the stress response isn’t the only way your body can respond to what is going on around you. The opposite of the stress response is the relaxation response. This is when your mind and body realize that you are safe, and that you can take the time to rest and relax.
In fact, the term “relaxation response” has been used specifically to describe meditation. This particular doctor defines the term as your ability to change the signals your brain puts out. Meditation is the best way for you to counteract the urgency of the stress response, and show your brain that it’s safe to relax and take it easy.
Chronic stress often comes on as a result of constant and uncontrollable worry. Meditation is a great way for you to get in touch with your emotions, and see what is going on in the present moment. As you take a step back to focus on your breathing, you are forced to become aware of the sensations going on within you, and look at them from a different perspective. Often times, this perspective can give you the emotional clarity necessary to deal with the cause of your stress.
Meditations You Can Use to Relax Right Now
The good news is that there are hundreds of different meditations that can help you activate that relaxation response and get relief right now.
Meditation doesn’t even have to be difficult. In fact, there are thousands of resources available to those who are just starting.
The great thing about most of the following meditations is that you can do them wherever you are. Whether you’re on a break at work, taking the train home, or are about to go to sleep, you can do these meditations as long as you have a couple of minutes to unplug from everything.
Meditating on Your Own
If you do better following a script, there are a number of different types of meditations you can use to relax and let go of your stress.
Most meditation practitioners believe that there are three major categories when it comes to meditation. Those categories include:
- Focused Attention – these types of meditation are focused on one specific thing for the entire time. This can be focusing on a specific object, or honing in on the breath.
- Open Monitoring or Mindfulness – monitoring meditation is all about noticing what is happening without judgment or trying to change. Many people also call this mindfulness, as it is simply being aware of what is happening.
- Effortless Transcending – This is what most people think of when they hear meditation. Also called transcendental meditation, this type of meditation focuses on emptying your mind of thoughts and creating a blank slate.
Here are some different techniques that fall under these categories.
The breath is a fundamental part of meditation. Being aware of just the breath during meditation is a great example of a focused attention technique. This technique is great for people who find that their mind tends to wander during meditation, or who have too many worries to allow them to relax. Focusing on the breath forces you to come into the present by honing in on one thing happening in your body right now.
The body scan meditation involves taking an inventory of what is currently happening in the body. It is a great example of open monitoring meditation because the technique’s goal is to become aware of what is happening in your body right now. There is no specific intention to change what is going on, you are just focusing on the body as a whole instead of on a specific aspect.
Picturing Your Thoughts as Clouds
Emptying your mind can feel the exact opposite of effortless, no matter what the title of this kind of meditation is. However, when accompanied with a visualization, some people find the process is easier than they imagined. One great way to do this is to imagine your thoughts as clouds in your mind. Once they have all become clouds, picture them drifting away and leaving your mind like a clear blue sky. You don’t have to try to do anything. Simply stay in the moment with that clear blue sky for as long as you need.
Following a Guided Meditation
Even those who have been practicing meditation for a while can have a hard time meditating on their own. If you can’t seem to meditate without help, don’t worry! There are many options for those who need to follow a guided meditation. If you don’t like a particular one, you have many more to choose from.
Here are a few guided meditations you can try out right now.
10 Minute Ultra Calming Guided Meditation to heal the body & mind
This 10 minute video is offered by Positive Magazine in order to heal body and mind of the more physical effects of stress. Like many other meditations, this one starts with focus on the breath to help you get in the right mindset for calm. Once your breath has slowed down, the audio paints a picture of a beautiful pink sky to help you feel the peace of that environment.
Spire In-App Meditations
Spire has a number of guided meditations that you can take advantage of. You can access them easily in the app, or listen to them on our Soundcloud page. Check out this playlist of quick meditations you can do at any time.
Deep Relaxation Meditation
Fragrant Heart offers this nearly 20 minute meditation as a way to relax and become aware of the tension in your body. The recording focuses on slowing the breath and relaxing muscle groups to feel an immediate release of tension.
Guided Meditation ‘Connecting to the Calm Within’
Diane Yeo offers another 20 minute meditation to help you find peace and mindfulness in your life. She starts the meditation by encouraging listeners to be open to whatever happens, cautioning against labeling the meditation as good or bad. She uses this meditation to help people remember that they have calm within them, they just need to remember how to connect with it.
The next time you are feeling too stressed to carry on, consider checking in and doing some meditation. It’s a great way to reverse the negative effects stress can have on your mind and body. Even if you only have a couple of minutes, there’s a meditation out there to help you relax and calm your nerves.