When the topic of stress comes up, a common suggestion – even from doctors and physical therapists – is meditation. To those without any experience in these techniques, this sounds strange at best. Meditation is often assumed to be a spiritual or yoga-based act for only certain types of people, not a common treatment for stress and anxiety.
This perspective arises because of a misunderstanding in meditation, the different options available, and how it can help your body and mind. Only a brief period of meditation per day, such as 10 minutes, can produce positive effects. If you’ve never tried meditation before and don’t know where to start, don’t worry. There are many different types suitable for a variety of people and stress issues.
This is a great place to start for general stress relief and learning basic meditation concepts.
This begins by sitting in a comfortable position (no lotus style required) and focusing on your breathing – in through the nose and out through the mouth. Most versions encourages you to start by counting as you breathe to make sure you are taking enough time. The right type of breathing, through your diaphragm, is also important. In other words, breathe through your stomach while keeping your chest still.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This meditation may be slightly more difficult for those without practice, but the benefits are great, especially those who suffer from an aching neck or back. Here the intention is to reach a relaxed state where it is easy to focus, so you can apply that focus to specific muscles in your body. Some people run through all their major muscles from toes to head, focusing on the feeling of a particular muscle and reducing tension, then moving on. Once you learn the practice, however, you can focus on the muscles with the most tension in your body.
Body Scan Meditation
Body scan is great for calming anxiety and finding sources of stress or pain so you can locate the root of a problem. It involves lying on your back in a resting position and focusing on different parts of your body. This is similar to progressive muscle relaxation, but the goal is “listen” to different parts of your body, accept what they are telling you, and move on. This makes it much easier to calm your fears, locate digestive troubles, and find the aches that are stressing you out.
Mindfulness is a more spiritually-oriented version, similar to that practiced by Zen Buddhists and others. This involves picking a focus in the present, being generally aware of what is occurring, and letting your mind absorb time from moment to moment without worrying or becoming too attached to any one idea. This allows you to analyze your own thought patterns, find new connections, and learn to accept the world as it comes to you. An alternative version of mindfulness encourages you to pick a single image or thought and focus on it, letting your impressions of it wash over you.
Meditation in Movement
So you don’t like sitting still. That’s fine – there are several types of meditation designed to help you relax and focus via movement. “Walking meditation” is a popular form of mindfulness meditation for those who would rather move around. Yoga can be great for decreasing muscle pain and relieving stress. Practices like Tai Chi can help increase your balance and flexibility too.