The Best Everyday Meditative Breathing Techniques

If you’ve spent any time researching meditative breathing techniques, you’ll know that there are dozens of methods to choose from. Trying to find a technique that works for you can be overwhelming, and it might scare you away from trying. However, you can narrow it down by searching for breathing methods that help with specific issues.

Many breathing techniques are based on the yogic principle of Pranayama, which is the foundation of all yoga practices. Pranayama translates to extending your life force. Because breathing can help you with so many issues, breathing in a specific way will provide you with a greater quality of life and help you get a better handle on the issues you face every day.

Here is a quick guide to some breathing techniques that help reduce stress, raise energy levels, and help you when you’re having trouble sleeping. Read more

Normal Respiration Rates: Everything You Need to Know

Is your breathing “normal?” We all know that it’s important to be aware of your heart rate, but your respiration rate, or how fast you breathe, is another one of the most important vital signs and can tell you a lot about your health.

Respiration is a special kind of natural impulse. It’s the only automatic function that can be controlled consciously. In order words, breathing is normally completely unconscious, but when willed, it can come under conscious control. You might not realize it, but your breathing has a direct impact on your blood pressure, core temperature, and heart rate. If you take a blood pressure reading taken while breathing rapidly and then another quickly after while breathing slowly and evenly, you will see that fast breathing spikes your blood pressure and heart rate.

Your breath reflects both inner and outer conditions of the human mind and body. It is linked to increases in physical exertion, deep relaxation, fear, and sleep. All of these physical states have distinct breathing patterns associated with them. It is one of the core vitals that medical practitioners document when following the progress of a patient. Your breath is not just a reaction to actions you are taking on the outside – it is a signal of core bodily states.

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6 Free Deepak Chopra Guided Meditations

In recent years, meditation has risen to prominence as a compelling way to combat the negative effects of stress. Additionally, studies on the practice have suggested that healing meditation’s benefits include pain reduction, addiction, and anxiety.

Luckily, you can start your practice with the helpful guidance of world-renowned meditation leader Deepak Chopra and his Chopra Center. You may know Deepak as Oprah Winfrey’s close spiritual friend, but he’s even better known for his wisdom, inspiring outlook on life, and his pursuit of perfect health and inner peace.

Deepak believes that meditation can take you beyond “the mind’s noisy chatter into the pure awareness that is the source of all your happiness, inspiration, and love.”

Ready to discover the calm beyond the noisy chatter? Follow along with Deepak’s Chopra Center meditations below.

Start With Your Breath

Meditation is a form of mindfulness, and just like mindfulness, it helps to start getting focused by bringing attention to your breath.

In the following meditation, Deepak Chopra guides you in breath awareness. This simple meditation is a great place to start and an easy way to quickly manage stress.

Quiet Your Mind

Try this meditation after you’ve done a few of the basic breath awareness exercises, and are ready for a real meditation experience.

Carve out some time during your day and get into a comfortable position to start. When you’re ready, play this guided meditation to quiet the stressful “noises” of your mind.

Meditate With Intention

Meditation is a great tool for not just stress; it’s a great way to help you focus your mind. This is a great morning meditation – Deepak Chopra starts his day out with a two hour meditation that allow him to set intentions for his day. In the following meditation, he shares his four favorite intentions to repeat during meditation.

Meditation for Sleep

Since meditation helps quiet the mind, it makes sense for it to help with easing the mind into a restful state – ready for deep sleep.

Let Deepak Chopra guide you into dreamland with this meditation for sleep.

Meditation in Everyday Activities

Meditation can help bring certain focus, enlightenment, and clarity to other aspects of your life as well.

For example, if you’re feeling low on energy, it’s good to take a break. Why not take a break with Deepak and refresh your energy with the following meditation? It focuses on maximizing energy to be your most productive self.

Now think about the relationships in your life. Could you use clarity or focus there?

This meditation could help. In the following guided practice, Deepak Chopra calls for you to open your heart to let the joy in and to bring more empathy to your relationships for better understanding on both sides.

Deepak Chopra inspires many because he firmly believes that each person deserves a more fulfilling and joyful life. You can find more meditations as well as participate in the meditation challenge at chopracentermeditation.com.

Now, that you have access to a few of his guided meditations, make time for them during your day. Spire can help by giving you a gentle reminder to break away from the stresses of daily life and spend some time on yourself.

The Most Effective Meditations for Insomnia

Sleep is essential for a healthy life. Sadly, 70 million Americans suffer from sleep problems that prevent them from getting a healthy number of Zs. Sleep loss and sleep disorders like sleep apnea are common health problems, yet 80 to 90 percent of adults with sleep disorders are undiagnosed.

Insomnia, or chronic sleeplessness, has huge, negative effects on health. Loss of sleep leads to poor memory, depressed mood, serious mental stress, and more.

How do we overcome sleeplessness?

A good way to start is by pinpointing the reason you can’t sleep. Most of the time, it’s because you’re extremely stressed and can’t let go of those feelings.

That’s where meditation comes in handy.

Meditation is the practice of finding inner calm and releasing negative feelings. Practicing meditation has been shown to help regulate emotional states, lower anxiety and stress, and decrease the symptoms of depression. (Study)

Meditation helps us regulate the stress in our lives and subsequently. helps us get to a better night of sleep.

How Meditation Helps With Sleep

Meditation not only helps you get more sleep, it also helps you get a deeper sleep with a higher intensity of REM waves.

One study have showed that people who practice mindfulness meditations experienced improved sleep quality and a decrease in the symptoms of insomnia.

Another study showed that meditation was a viable treatment for those who suffered from chronic insomnia, with practitioners experiencing fewer symptoms post-meditation, even months after their initial practice.

How does meditation help you get to dreamland?

One of the ways meditation helps you get to sleep is that it actually increases melatonin levels. Melatonin is an important hormone released by the pineal gland that regulates your sleeping cycle and wakefulness.

Another way that meditation gets you to sleep is by training your relaxation response to work a little faster. Meditation helps you stop let go of things you can’t control. By meditating during the day, you strengthen that response so you can call on it when you need it most.

Stop counting sheep and try meditation instead.

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Meditations for Sleep

Meditation may seem like a daunting task, but in practice, it’s relatively simple. The hardest part comes from trying to clear your mind.

A great meditation to start with is the world-renowned mindfulness leader and meditation guru Deepak Chopra. In the following boost, he leads you to sleep deeper with a simple 12 minute meditation.

For a deeper dive into restful meditations, try this “Rest” meditation series from Thich Nhat Hanh. These meditations will help you find compassion for your body, tune into being completely still, and relax your whole body.

YouTube has a good selection of guided meditations that can you help you sleep as well. Many of them come with calming visuals that gently guide your eyes to sleep. Try this popular meditation below.

If you need something more immediate, you can follow a simple two-step meditation to relax. Simply start by bringing your attention to your breath. Take a deep breath in, hold it for a few seconds, and then breathe out. Do this a few times until you have a controlled, steady pattern of breathing.

When you’re ready, think of a small mantra that can help to ward off stressful thoughts. Repeat the mantra with each inhale and exhale, until you fall asleep.

As we mentioned earlier, meditation is a practice. To really train your relaxation response, try to meditate during the day and not just before sleep.

If you only have a few minutes to spare, this beginner’s meditation will only take 7 minutes of your day.

To reduce stress in your everyday life, and consequently reduce stress before bed, try this another meditation led by Deepak Chopra focusing on stress reduction.

For even better sleep, pair up your meditation practice with these foods or additional methods of falling asleep.

There are many reasons that babies sleep so well but one of the biggest might be because they don’t experience stress the way adults do.

Meditation can help us be kinder to ourselves by letting go of unwarranted, negative thoughts that follow us into the night.

It’s time to try meditation, let go of stress, and sleep like a baby.

A Short Guide to Mindfulness Meditations

Meditating on your own can be difficult, especially if you’re just starting out. Maybe you’ve done a few meditations with the help of someone else, but trying to do them on your own seems impossible. If you’re not familiar with meditation techniques, you might find yourself stressing about remembering what comes next, or you might have simply no idea what to do when it comes time to meditate.

Using guided mindfulness meditations can help you take advantage of the benefits of meditation without having to know what to do on your own. Letting someone else guide you through a meditative process can help you reach goals you might struggle to achieve on your own. There are many different types of guided meditations out there, so you’re sure to find some that are uniquely suited to what you need.

What are Guided Mindfulness Meditations

Guided mindfulness meditations are meditations led by someone else with the intent of helping you be more mindful. Using a premade meditation can help you set and reach your intentions, put aside stress about getting the practice right, and will guide you to states of mind that you might not be able to find on your own. If you get distracted easily, guided meditations are perfect to help you bring your mind back when it starts to wander.

Here are some of the common formats guided meditations take:

Podcasts:  There are thousands of podcasts focused on meditation. If you are picky about the voice of the person guiding you to a state of relaxation, you’ll have plenty to choose from. Most podcasts are available on iTunes, but you can find others on Soundcloud and on company websites.

YouTube:  YouTube is another great place for finding guided meditations. Some of them include visuals to aid your meditation if you have a hard time closing your eyes. As with podcasts, if you don’t like the voice of one person, you don’t have to stick with them! The best part about YouTube videos is that they are all free to use, so you can find guidance for free!

Attending Meditation Classes:  If you’re willing to pay for meditation, there are likely some incredibly knowledgeable meditation teachers in studios nearby. You’ll want to look for someone who has been meditating and teaching meditation for years, as their experience will benefit your search for peace.

Finding and Using a Meditation Script:  Knowledgeable meditation experts have created scripts for those who want to carry out and alter a practice. Many yoga studios and mindfulness experts have created scripts that are available on their websites, or you can search Google for a guided meditation script on a specific topic you want help with.

Benefits of Guided Mindfulness Meditations

A Complete Guide to Mindfulness Meditations 2

Meditation is a great way to deal with the anxiety and stress that comes from everyday life. Trying to balance work, family, friendships, and money can be exhausting, especially when it feels like you have too much to do and not enough time to do it. Going through guided mindfulness meditations on a regular basis can help you find a moment of peace in an otherwise rushed life.

There are many benefits you can reap from practicing guided meditation on a regular basis.

All You Need to Do is Listen

Many people hesitate to start learning meditation because they feel like they’ll need to work on a specific skill to receive the benefits from it. Guided meditations take away all of that pressure, because someone else is leading you through the practice. All you need to do is listen to their voice and do your best to follow what they are saying. It might seem weird at first, especially if it’s something you haven’t done before, but do your best to trust the person guiding you. They know what they are doing and they have had success in guiding other people through this meditation.

Meditation Improves Your Body’s Hormonal Balance

Meditation isn’t just for your mind, it has many benefits for your body as well. Practicing mindfulness helps keep stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol in balance, which when left unchecked, can lead to anxiety and weight gain. It’s also a great way to increase your level of human growth hormone, which reduces stored fat, helps regulate your metabolism, and assists in regulating your blood sugar.

Physical Pain Becomes Easier to Bear

Along with helping your hormones, guided meditations are a great way to reduce chronic pain. Sometimes the pain in our bodies can come from long term stress and trauma. Being guided through meditations can help us to reduce that emotional stress, which then lessens the source of our chronic pain. Meditating mindfully can help pain sufferers lessen their pain by increasing their mental control and will help improve their overall quality of life.

Mental Goals Become Easier to Attain

There are many reasons people turn to meditation. Most of the time, they are searching for a specific outcome or have several different reasons for turning to this practice. Here are a few outcomes people have been able to achieve through practicing guided mindfulness meditations.

  • Improving mental focus and memory
  • Healing from past trauma and pain
  • Enhancing creativity and imagination
  • Relaxing and reducing stress
  • Boosting confidence and self esteem levels
  • Reducing or removing prominent negative thoughts

Mental Health Concerns Are Easier to Address

Because guided meditation works on improving the power of the mind, it makes sense that it would improve some mental illnesses. Many therapists use guided meditations in their treatment of patients. This practice is successful in modifying behaviors and destructive thinking patterns that therapists work to help their patients address in psychotherapy sessions.

Meditation Can Help Process Difficult Emotions

Even the most well adjusted people can have a hard time processing difficult emotions. Feelings like guilt, sadness, depression, and anger can be difficult to get a handle on. However, instead of pushing down your emotions only to have them resurface with a vengeance later, meditation helps you process and grapple with them in a healthy way.  Guided meditations give you a safe space to examine your emotions and help you understand where they are coming from.

Reduce Your Anxiety With This Guided Meditation Script

A Complete Guide to Mindfulness Meditations

We’ve created a guided meditation script to help you out during times of anxiety. Feel free to use this when your Spire tells you that you are feeling a bit tense, or when you can feel the tension in your body.

If scripts aren’t really your thing, you can access dozens of Spire’s Guided Mindfulness Meditations on Soundcloud.

Guided Meditation for Anxiety

Set aside a few minutes of your day where you won’t be disturbed. This could be during your lunch, after work, or right before bed.

Get into a position you will be comfortable for an extended period of time. This may be sitting down on a couch with your feet touching the floor, sitting on the floor with your legs crossed, or laying down with your head propped up. Do whatever feels most comfortable to you.

Close your eyes.

Notice your chest rising as you take in a breath, and feel the air enter your lungs. Then notice as your chest falls and the air exits your lungs. Take some time to feel this process happening. Feel the breath go in, and then go out.

Count ten breaths.

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Now you are tuned in to your breath.

As you breathe in, visualize the air you breath in as a white vapor. This vapor is full of energy and calm.

As you breathe out, visualize the air you push out of your lungs as a black fog. This fog is full of the stress, panic, and tension that has filled your body over time.

Breathe in to fill your lungs and your body with the white vapor. Feel the energy course through you as you breathe it in.

And as you breathe out, feel your stress and worries leave your body with the black fog. The tension in your body leaves with each exhale.

Breathe in and feel lighter, full of positive energy. Breathe out, feeling the stress exit through your nostrils.

Envision the white vapor coming from above. It drifts in from the sky into your nose as you inhale. This positive energy will revitalize you and give you the strength you need to face your day. Feel the vapor come into your body as you breathe in.

And as you breathe out, feel your exhale pull pain and stress from all over your body and push it out through your nose. Imagine the black fog going downwards and sinking into the ground. With each breath out, you exhale more and more stress and worry.

Repeat the inhale and the exhale as many times as you need. Don’t feel like you have to rush through this exercise. You can breathe in as much white vapor as you need, and breathe out as much black fog as you feel like is in your body.

Once you are ready, focus on different parts of your body. Take note of how they feel. Do you notice any places that have less tension than before? You might not be completely free of stress and worries, but that’s okay. You’ve still decreased the amount in your body, and that is something to be proud of.

Bring awareness to your body by moving bits at a time. Start with your toes, then your feet. Continue to your legs, then to your pelvis. Continue to your stomach, then your arms and shoulders.

When you feel like you have brought enough awareness to your body, open your eyes. Take your time to adjust to the world around you. It is common to feel somewhat disoriented after a meditation. There is no need to rush out of this state. Once you are ready, you can continue through your day, or relax into sleep.

End Meditation

Guided meditations can help all kinds of people in all sorts of situations. Whether your mind is prone to wandering or you don’t think you are able to meditate on your own, guided meditations are perfect for you. If you want to improve your mental or physical health, there are specific meditations you can try out to achieve your goals. There are hundreds of options for you to choose from, so don’t stop looking until you find what works for you.

Stress vs Strain: What’s the Difference and How They Interact

Work stress is all too familiar to anyone living in modern times, times which features a 24/7 business cycle and distractions on every corner. While there are certainly societal benefits to the high-tech, high-productivity environment that this creates, it has resulted in relatively high levels of work stress for workers. The go-go-go lifestyle associated with this high-productivity work culture – specifically the unhealthy eating and low sleep – adds to the work stress problem.

Everyone has a certain reserve of emotional energy and stamina. When you’ve been giving it 110% at work for the last 10 years with no self-care, things start to catch up with you. Your once star corporate-player persona becomes afflicted with persistent fatigue, mounting illness, poor health and an irritable emotional countenance. You may find yourself simultaneously unable to relax yet unable to be productive. It’s become a challenge to engage mentally and emotionally in things that you once took so much excitement and energy.

Along with these symptoms, your sense of meaning and accomplishment may decrease in all aspects of your life. Eventually, you may become cynical and detached from the world around you. This state is known as burnout.

Work stress affects the broader economy and society as well. Corporations in the United States lose over $8,000 per person annually due to absenteeism attributed to work stress. Work stress is considered world-wide as a major challenge to organizational health. When adding up the sick days, absenteeism, lost productivity, and health care costs, work stress ends up being a major drain on the national economy.

Anyone reading the Spire blog knows that stress is not a simple, single-faceted issue – the causes and roots of stress are myriad, as are its effects on health and wellness. This article will address one important cause of work stress: work strain.

There are multiple factors that contribute to work stress. Physical exertion and job insecurity can cause stress, but for many of us, with stable desk jobs, a major cause of work stress is work strain.

Understanding work strain and how it interacts with work stress is an important step to understanding and dealing with work stress in general. What is strain and how does it affect us? Can we prevent or mitigate strain? Let’s talk about it.

What is strain?

Strain is a sociological and psychological construct which helps to understand the mental and emotional demands on people in a certain job or workplace. The level of work strain of a particular job can be graphically represented in the a two-dimension chart called the “Psychological demand/decision latitude model”, as seen below:

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Source: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-001-x/2007112/article/10466-eng.pdf

This chart shows us that there are two types of strains: psychological and demand.

The first type of strain comes in the form of psychological demands on the worker, and is divided between low and high. Low psychological demands are characterized by level of thinking and mental exertion associated with a line of work. Measuring psychological demands on workers quantifies the mental intensity of work: the complexity of skills required and the ability to keep up with work colleagues.

An example of a line of work with high psychological demands would include a variety of white-collar jobs, such as business analysts, managers, or salespeople. These people work hard to keep up with contending priorities and demands from multiple sides (high intensity), analyze complex data to make important decisions (complexity of skills), and work in multi-faceted teams to get there (keep up with colleagues).

Conversely, a job with low psychological demands might include some freelance writers, who can work at their own pace, may deal with simple writing subjects and interact with few clients at once.

This is not to say that high psychological demands are better or worse than low psychological demands. It is just to say that the amount of strain exerted by each differs, and thus their contribution to overall stress. Low psychological demands are associated with lower strain, whereas high psychological demands are associated with higher strain. But the way that strain is funneled into stress depends on the second factor, which is the demand dimension of strain.

The other dimension of strain is ‘demand.’ This type of strain goes beyond the purely intellectual and rational aspects of a job, and touches on the emotional and creative aspects. The demand dimension quantifies the degree of creativity in work versus its repetitive aspects. It also encompasses work autonomy: the extent of freedom and responsibility granted to workers to decide what to do, and when and how to do it.

An example of a job with a high score on the demand dimension would be something like a skilled contractor or tradesperson. These types of workers can set their own schedules, work with the clients they choose to work for, and decide how they are going to complete a job with little to no oversight. Because of this, they can exert a high amount of creativity on the job as they plan and execute their own solutions. Think of a self-employed plumber coming in to fix up your kitchen sink. They schedule the job according to their availability; they apply their brains to creatively address the problem you’ve hired them to fix, and they have little to no oversight – all that matters is that they did the job right.

A quintessential job with a relatively low score on the demand dimension would be that of a telemarketer. Telemarketers are often told precisely what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. They are given a script to read and numbers to dial. It’s a tough job for lots of reason, and the low amounts of creativity and independence afforded to telemarketers doesn’t help (so be nice next time one of them calls you).

Contrary to psychological strain, having a high demand score is considered lower work strain. This makes sense – having work where you have much creative agency and control over your own results in less straining than a job where you need to perform mind-numbing repetitive tasks under the iron rule of management.

Researches decide where different jobs lie on the chart above based on survey questions asked of workers. They ask workers to mark the statements below on a scale of 1 to 5. They compare the scores against industry-wide averages to understand where the job lies on the Psychological Demand/Decision Model. You can try it for yourself while thinking about your own job:

Psychological Dimension:

1.     Your job requires that you learn new things.

2.     Your job requires a high level of skill.

3.     Your job allows you freedom to decide how you do your job.

4.     Your job requires that you do things over and over.

5.     You have a lot to say about what happens in your job.

Demand Dimension:

6.     Your job is very hectic.

7.     You are free from conflicting demands that others make.

Depending on where the score lies, a job may be: high-strain, active, low-strain (relaxed), or passive. Here is the chart again for easy reference:

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Source: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-001-x/2007112/article/10466-eng.pdf

Low strain work is challenging to the mind while giving the worker a higher degree of creativity and autonomy. These jobs are located  in the “low-strain” quadrant (top-right hand corner).

Interestingly, if a higher degree of psychological demand (that is, more complex work with greater demands) is accompanied by a higher degree of autonomy and creativity on the job, you’ve got yourself a recipe for high-growth and motivating work. Strain is higher in these jobs, but instead of feeding into stress, strain is funneled into effective problem solving and creative energy.

On the other side of the spectrum, jobs with low amounts of autonomy and psychological demands are considered “passive.” Job strain is low, but workers are unmotivated and experience little to no personal or professional growth. Finally, if you are in a work environment that, in addition to giving you a low amount of control and creativity over your work, is also complex and mentally challenging, you’ve found yourself in a high-strain work situation. In this job, you are in danger of experiencing high stress, with all the negative outcomes associated with it.

How Strain Feeds into Stress

Job strain is an important source of job stress that workers experience, but it interacts and co-exists with multiple other stressors. These can include low job satisfaction, a high degree of physical work, and job insecurity. For example, you may be usually happy in a job that lands in the “active” category – high autonomy and creative agency, as well as an intellectually stimulating work environment. However, due to an economic downturn, that jobs becomes unstable and you start fearing for your job safety. In this case, despite where the job lies in the strain spectrum, you’re still going to experience stress. On the other hand, some people are very satisfied with “passive” but secure jobs, and find themselves with little to no work stress in their lives.

The way that strain affects your stress levels is complex, and can vary according to the individual characteristics. Many of us have a workaholic, endless-energy, A-type person in their lives who seem to thrive under pressure and only crave more. Lots of CEOs seem to operate under that model – just think of Elon Musk.

Sometimes, the relationship between strain and stress is completely reversed. White-collar workers were more likely to have low job strain and high job satisfaction, yet they also had higher levels of work stress.

So how do you approach this situation in a way that makes sense? A good way to do it is to assess your job using the information from this blog post to get an idea of how much strain it may be adding to your life. Then, use Spire to understand if your job strain is in fact translating into stress and affecting your breathing and emotional level. Since the ways in which strain affects your stress levels may be unique, Spire is the best way to get a personalized picture of how strain is affecting your psyche.

What’s more, Spire can then help you deal with that stress by prompting you to pay attention to your emotional state throughout the day, and track your general emotional state overtime. In a way, the stress you feel can be controlled to some degree by paying attention to these states and taking personal steps to improve the situation.

A Guide to Mindfulness for Beginners

Daily stresses are a fact of life that we all deal with. If you’ve spent some time researching stress management techniques, you have likely heard of mindfulness.

One of the biggest factors that prevent people from pursuing mindfulness is feeling like they have to make immediate lifestyle changes. The great thing about mindfulness is that you can apply as much or as little of it to your life as you are comfortable with. If you aren’t in a place to make big life changes, you can still enjoy the benefits.

If you’re not sure if mindfulness is for you but want to find out, keep reading. This article will serve as a beginner’s introduction to its benefits and how you can implement it in your daily life.

What is Mindfulness?

In the simplest sense, to be mindful is to be aware and present. It is a mental shift towards being more present in your life – if you take the time to notice your surroundings while you are taking your dog for a walk, you are being mindful.

Mindfulness has been practiced for thousands of years in the Buddhist and Hindu religious traditions. The Vedic texts in Hinduism discuss many concepts important to the philosophy of mindfulness, such as Dharma (the order of the universe) and enlightenment.

Mindfulness focuses on being in the present and becoming completely absorbed in whatever you are doing. If you are drinking your morning coffee, you might be mindful by focusing on its warmth, taking in the smell of the freshly ground beans, and enjoying its depth of flavor.

Being Present

All forms of mindfulness focus on one thing: being in the present. Getting caught up in what might happen or what has already happened makes it difficult for us to fully appreciate where we are now, and can exacerbate our worries and fears.

Being mindful of your current situation can be incredibly helpful if you are experiencing panic or anxiety. By focusing on your immediate surroundings, you can draw your attention away from the sources of your anxiety.

A good way to begin is to focus on doing one task at a time. Trying to do more than one thing at once will give your mind more reason to wander. By completing one task at a time, you can put all of your focus on that task, completing it more energetically and precisely  than if your mind were elsewhere.

Types of Mindfulness

The great thing about mindfulness is that it can be applied to all aspects of your life. No part of your day is too small to benefit from focusing on what is happening in that moment. Here are a few areas of your life you can try being more mindful in.

Body: This type of mindfulness focuses on what is going on in your body. One step at a time, you analyze the various parts of your body, becoming more aware of the sensations you experience at any given moment.

Body scan mindfulness can help you realize where you might be holding stress in your body, and will also help you let go of some of that tension. You can try it out for yourself if you feel so inclined.

Movement: Most of the time, this is done in the form of yoga or tai chi. This type of mindfulness focuses on the movements your body is making.

One popular movement mindfulness exercise is focusing on your walking. Most of the time, this exercise is slow and meaningful, focusing more on the motions rather than on getting from one place to another.

Breath: Breathing mindfulness exercises are some of the most helpful practices in dealing with anxiety. When you are mindful of your breathing, you will notice an immediate impact on your state of mind.

When you’ve got a few minutes to practice being mindful, you can check out this breathing exercise that focuses on what you should do after you exhale.

Environment: Focusing on your environment is a great way to help yourself come to the present. Most of us are in a rush to go about our day and don’t take notice of everything going on around us. Taking a moment to sit down and notice the flow of the world can help you slow down and catch your breath in an otherwise stressful time.

One of the most common environment exercises is focusing on the sounds around you. Whether you are in your quiet home, or on a packed bus, there are many sounds you can tune into and be mindful of.

Top Benefits of Mindfulness

You’ve likely started looking into being more mindful because you’ve heard of all of the potential benefits you can get from being mindful. Here are some of the things you can look forward to when you start incorporating it into your daily life.

Stress Reduction

One of the biggest reasons people start looking into mindfulness is to reduce stress in their lives.

A 2013 study found that people who practiced mindfulness had lower levels of cortisol, one of the body’s stress hormones. Knowing what you are thinking and why you are feeling a certain way can help you figure out how to deal with the stressors in your day to day.

Having a regular practice of mindfulness makes you less likely to immediately react to a situation. In your mindful state, you take time to focus on what is happening and evaluate the best course of action. This can help reduce potential conflict and prevent further stress from occurring.

Better Memory

A 2013 study found that being mindful helped many college students improve their 2013 GRE scores. In the study, researchers helped students focus their minds and become more attentive to their surroundings. After a two weeks of practicing mindfulness, most students found they had improved in their test scores by 16 percentile points.

Because mindfulness forces you to bring your whole focus to the present, you will make clearer memories. When you are focusing on what’s happening around you in a given moment, you will make stronger mental associations, making it easier to recall what was happening in any given moment.

Reduced Anxiety and Depression

Individuals with anxiety might be worrying about all the possible things that could go wrong. When you take the time to focus on your surroundings and your body, you’ll be less inclined to obsess about what ifs.

There are also hundreds of studies that show the benefits of mindfulness for those who suffer from depression. After several weeks of mindfulness practice, many participants see a reduction of depression symptoms and are less likely to relapse into depressive episodes.

Incorporating Mindfulness into Your Life Today

Getting started with mindfulness is easy. Even if you only have five minutes a day, you can improve your health, reach a better mindset, and start to get better emotional control with regular, short practices of mindfulness.

One of the most important things to remember is that you don’t have to make a lot of big changes at once. The best way to make mindfulness part of your lifestyle is to make small changes. If you don’t think you have enough time to get really into it, just dedicate five minutes of your day to doing a breathing meditation. Practice noticing how your breath comes in and out of your body.

Once you feel like you can be mindful of your breath without too much effort, you can move on to being mindful in other ways. If five minutes doesn’t feel like enough time, then set aside ten minutes. In those ten minutes, take the time to notice any tension in your body. Are you clenching your jaw? Do your shoulders feel tight? Whatever is happening in your body, take the time to notice it.

When you are ready to practice mindfulness in other parts of your life, you can follow the steps below to make the most of your practice.

  1. Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted.
  2. Get yourself into a comfortable position.
  3. Set an intention. What will you be meditating on today? What do you hope to get out of your mindfulness experience? Hold onto that goal as you start your practice.
  4. Take a moment to focus on your breath. Feel your chest rise and fall as your breath comes in and out of your body.
  5. Once you are in a calmer state of mind, expand your consciousness. Focus on your emotions, your environment, your body, your thoughts, or any other object of your meditation that will help you to reach your goal.
  6. Notice different aspects and characteristics of the object of your meditation. Use as many senses as possible.
  7. When you are ready to come out of the meditation, take a few deep breaths and stretch out. The motion will signal your brain that it’s time to move onto other things.

There are countless options of what you can choose to be mindful of, whether you decide to focus on your emotions, body, or environment, you can take advantage of the many benefits mindfulness can bring to you.

How Meditation Helps with Anxiety

As a part of the orchestra of human emotions, anxiety is a feeling that affects us all. Especially in today’s fast-paced, results-oriented work environment, anxiety is a daily occurrence for working professionals. It is a state characterized by a mixture of feelings of worry, apprehension, fear, restlessness, and stress. Like all states of mind, anxiety is also reflected as states of body. It can express itself through fatigue, headaches, sweating, shaking, and muscle tension.

Meditation is an ancient practice which has been used across multiple cultures and spiritual traditions. It is a tool used to quiet the mind and enhance focus on an inner state. Many people have been seeking to incorporate meditation into their lives for its psychological and even physical benefits. But can meditation be used specifically to address anxiety? The answer isn’t clear cut, and this article will seek to shed light on the answer.

What is Anxiety

Just like other negative states, anxiety isn’t all bad – in fact, it can be helpful and productive. It can give you that needed pressure to push through that final deadline or complete a task that you’ve otherwise been putting off. It can fire-up a creative impulse. But these are only helpful in appropriate contexts. pasted image 0 1

Which contexts would this be?

The answer lies at the beginning, when humans had to fend off dangerous predators and survive in a rough natural environment. Being anxious in these situations heightened awareness and readied the body for a quick fight-or-flight in response to threats. After all, it would be strange that the human body evolve no emotional and physiological response to the threat of a hungry tiger.

Anxiety becomes debilitating when it occurs in situations which should not warrant feelings of worry, apprehension, fear, restlessness and stress. In today’s world, prolonged anxiety is usually not a reasonable response to most situations. Anxiety is often unwarranted in modern stressful situations.

But with the human mind and body hardwired the way it is, the body will respond with anxiety to situations which it perceives as dangerous, even if that is not the case. So, if you perceive being late to a meeting is a serious and grave situation, your body will respond with anxiety. For the body, fear is fear. It’s not the body’s job to analyze a situation and assess the necessity of producing anxiety. It hinges on what the mind interprets as frightening.

With a work culture that induces high levels of stress and a society provide poor support for alleviating anxiety, the mind is constantly assessing situations as fearful. Partially as a result, anxiety disorders are common in the developed world. Anxiety disorders affect more than 40 million adults in the United States alone. Worldwide, approximately 20% of persons who receive primary health care have anxiety disorders.

Anxiety disorders are affecting women more than men, with 33% of women experiencing an anxiety disorder as compared to 22% men. Researchers theorize that this is due to a combination of hormonal fluctuations, brain chemistry and upbringing: women feel responsible for the happiness of others, and so have an added layer of stress to deal with.

Anxiety disorder can sometimes climax in the form of panic attacks. These are sudden, intense feelings of anxiety and fear that cause a physical fight-or-flight response. Your breathing may heighten; you may feel pain in your chest and vision may start to tunnel. These are all parts of the fight-or-flight response. Excessive anxiety results in an unpleasant state, both of mind and body.

The Effects of Anxiety on Human Wellness

Anxiety disorder has multiple ill-effects on your mind and body. On a physical level, those suffering from excessive anxiety may find themselves afflicted with the following symptoms:

  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Sweating or flushing of the skin
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea

Emotionally, you may find yourself afflicted with edginess, sadness, depression and/or irritability.

The long-term effects of anxiety disorder include heart disease, early aging, oxidative stress, stroke, and even cancer. Productivity at work is also adversely affected by anxiety.

Dealing effectively with anxiety is important. But how?

There are several medicines on the market which are prescribed for those suffering from high levels of anxiety. Sometimes, these medical solutions are essential. However, if you are looking to take some additional steps to supplement your current treatment, or you are looking to manage anxiety before it gets out of hand, there is a solution outside of the strictly medical context.

And increasingly, people have been turning towards this natural method of stress and anxiety reduction. This promising treatment is the age-old practice of meditation.

The Science Behind Meditation 

Meditation is prominently recognized as one of the major practices of Buddhism. Buddha recommended meditation to his disciples as a part of the path to achieving enlightenment. The “8-fold path” to enlightenment involved, in addition to extensive meditation, prescriptions to do good and serve others. Per Buddha, only through meditation was a person able to achieve enlightenment, a complete stillness of the mind and inner peace.

But the Buddha was certainly not the only spiritual leader to promote meditation as part of a spiritual order. Indeed, nearly every spiritual tradition incorporates a practice that can be characterized as meditative or meditation. Meditation is an ancient tradition dating back to over 3,500 years ago – even prayer is a type of quiet meditation.

Despite its longevity, it’s only within the last 50 years that the scientific community has been studying meditation systematically. In this short amount of time, the research has uncovered impressive potential and even stunning feats of meditation.

In one example, Buddhist monks have been recorded controlling their body temperatures through a meditative practice called “g-tummo”. In controlled scientific tests, experienced monks could dry cold and moist sheets placed around their bodies within an hour. Witnesses of the experiment report seeing steam emerge from the sheets as they dried. The monks’ body temperatures were measured to rise as much as 17 degrees Celcius.

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How is this possible? No one quite understands the biological mechanisms behind meditation just yet. But study after study are suggesting that meditation has far-reaching benefits, including for pain reduction, addiction and, as described below, anxiety.

Meditation as a Cure for Anxiety?

In 2014, the Journal of the American Medical Association conducted a sweeping review of different meditation techniques’ effects on psychological stress and well-being. The review considered a wide variety of meditative techniques that emphasized mindfulness, concentration, and automatic self-transcendence. Prominently, these meditation programs were mantra and mindfulness meditation. Mantra meditation consists of chanting mantra and focusing on it to achieve a meditative state. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing your awareness on the present moment, while non-judgmentally observing your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

The review include 47 reviews looking at the effects of meditation on 3515 patients. The review is important for anyone considering meditation as a treatment for anxiety.

The results showed that not all meditation types are the same. Mantra meditation programs did not have strong evidence that it improved anxiety levels and anxiety disorders. However, mindfulness meditation programs showed a significant improvement in anxiety, depression, and pain.

These effects can be achieved without spending too much time meditating – the review included studies where participants meditated for as little as 10 minutes a day while still seeing positive effects. Few studies recommended participants meditate fewer than four times a week, however, so it to get the most out of your meditation practice, aim to meditate as consistently as you can.

In conclusion, there is good evidence to support the use meditation for anxiety reduction, but the evidence certainly does not point to a panacea. While a useful tool, it seems that meditation can only be one part of a more complete stress-reduced lifestyle.

How To Meditate For Anxiety Reduction

To start with mindfulness meditation, just follow these steps:

  1. Find a quiet spot, empty of distractions.
  2. Set a timer for the duration you want to meditate. Start with 10 minutes a day and move up from there.
  3. Sit on a chair or on the floor, whichever is more comfortable.
  4. Close your eyes and focus on your breath, on where it feels the strongest. When thoughts enter your mind, don’t reject them. Simply acknowledge them and gently return your attention to your breath.

It sounds simple, but you may find that it is challenging to simply observe breath. The more you pay attention to your breath, the more you may start to want to control it. You may find that simply breathing naturally while observing it neutrally takes practice.

For many, meditating in silence may be too difficult. If that includes you, your practice can be improved by incorporating a guided meditation to carry you through those 10 minutes. These include phone apps, such as Headspace and Breathe, which will not only offer some guidance, but also motivation to keep on going.

What’s great about Spire is that you can see exactly what is going on when meditate. You can observe your heartbeat decreasing, your breath stabilizing and smoothing out, and your focus sharpening. It’s an unprecedented and satisfying way to get feedback on your practice. What’s more, Spire will show your improved states of mind and body as you continue meditating day by day, giving you encouragement to keep on going.

Daily meditation might seem like an impractical use of time. However, in an age of endless distractions and heightened stress, incorporating practices to re-focus your mind is important. Think about the time you waste lost in thought, unfocused, and scatter-brained. With that in mind, it’s easy to understand how meditation yields impressive dividends for a relatively small investment in time. Carve out ten minutes today for your first meditation session. Your mind will thank you!

How to Practice Mindfulness with Kids and Teens

Adolescence was a tough time for many of us. When we weren’t dealing with weird bodily changes, we had to manage the stress of school, friendships, and self-discovery.

With the modern digital landscape, kids and teens today face even more challenges. Social media, information overload, and new methods of validation all contribute to the stress load. Read more

Mindfulness Weekly Review: Boston Harbor and Sherlock Talking

Huffington Post, How Mindfulness Fights Anxiety and Depression

Find out how mindfulness can help with anxiety and depression; includes a short video guided meditation.

Big Think, If You Focus on the Benefits of Mindfulness, is it still Mindfulness?

This article reminds us that even though mindfulness has great benefits, sometimes it’s best to focus on just being mindful and not so much on the benefits.

The New York Times, How to Meditate

An amazing resource for meditation, including definitions of mindfulness, meditation techniques, and different guided meditations.

Daily Mail, Did A Mindfulness App Help Team GB Win Their Most Successful Haul Ever?

The Daily Mail maps out the British athletes that used Headspace and mindfulness to win medals in Rio.

Variety, Trailer of Benedict Cumberbatch-voiced Mindfulness film ‘Walk With Me’

Check out the trailer for ‘Walk With Me.’ a documentary about Thích Nhất Hạnh, narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch.