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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How to Meditate for Relaxation and Stress Relief

How to Meditate for Relaxation and Stress Relief

Have you been feeling stressed out lately? Well, take some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. Stress, in particular, workplace stress has become such a widespread problem that the World Health Organization calls it the “health epidemic of the 21st century.”

These days, many people are overwhelmed by their busy lives. They are feeling the pressure from work, family life, and other activities. All this activity is leaving them stressed and anxious. They know they need to relax, but they don’t know how. They are beginning to realize some of the health consequences of chronic stress, such as poor physical health, emotional disorders, and strained relationships.

The good news is that dealing with stress is a lot simpler than you might think. One of the simplest and most effective methods for stress relief is relaxation meditation.

In this article, I will discuss some of the health consequences of stress, what exactly relaxation meditation is, and how to practice it for stress relief. I will finish with a few sample relaxation meditations I found on YouTube, so you can get started immediately without any fuss.

Consequences of Chronic Stress

A great deal of research has been done on the effects of chronic stress. Here is a sample of some of the short-term and long-term effects.

Short-Term Effects of Stress

On your body, stress can cause headaches, muscle tension, chest pain, tiredness, lower sex drive, digestive problems, and difficulty sleeping.

On your mood, stress can cause restlessness and anxiety, depression, irritability, lack of motivation, inability to focus, and the general feeling of being overwhelmed.

On your behavior, stress can cause you to eat more (or less), anger outbursts, withdraw socially, and use substances, such as alcohol, tobacco, or drugs.[1]

Long-Term Effects of Stress

In the longer term, stress can have several consequences. It can diminish your mental abilities, such as concentration and memory. This can lead to poor judgment and decision-making.

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Stress can also affect your physical appearance. It can cause wrinkles, puffy eyes, adult acne, and hair loss. Stress can also cause your skin to appear dull and dry.

Heart problems are a common effect of chronic stress. It causes inflammation of the arteries around the heart, which makes the heart work much harder.

Several of the short-term effects of stress, such as sleep and digestive problems, will also persist over the long term. In addition, stress can weaken your immune system and leave you more vulnerable to illness, and make healing more difficult. All these effects of stress will essentially shorten your life span.[2]

What Is Relaxation Meditation?

Relaxation meditation is a term to describe several types of meditation. Their purpose is to help you relax your body and mind in order to relieve stress and anxiety.

To do relaxation meditation, you can listen to some slow relaxing music, or the sounds of nature, such as ocean waves. You can also do a self-guided body scan.

Here, you essentially sit quietly and move your attention to each body part and consciously relax your muscles in the process. There are also various forms moving meditation. I’ll describe all of them soon.

Benefits of Relaxation Meditation

Relaxation meditation, if done regularly, is one of the most effective methods for stress relief. In fact, it is so effective that sometimes just one session can completely relax a person who is all stressed out.

I’ve had people come into a corporate meditation session overwhelmed with stress, and after the session come up to me amazed that they are completely relaxed.

Stress relief through relaxation meditation is an effective way to avoid the health consequences of chronic stress described above. It will improve your mental abilities, such as concentration, memory, analytical thinking, and creativity. And as your mind relaxes, you will begin sleeping much better at night.

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Furthermore, relaxation meditation will improve your mood, which will lead to better interactions with others, especially loved ones.

How to Practice Relaxation Meditation

1. Guided Imagery

Probably the most popular form of relaxation meditation for stress relief is the guided imagery. This form of relaxation meditation consists of relaxing music, and/or sounds of nature, and a person’s voice to guide you on an imaginary journey.

It usually starts with a little mindful breathing, followed by a body scan to physically relax your body. Then the meditation focuses on relaxing your mind by taking you to an imaginary place that is safe, comfortable, and happy. It’s like going on a short vacation from all the things that are causing you stress.

The meditation generally uses a countdown to get you to this place, and includes a set of affirmations to help you relax. The countdown is almost hypnotic, and helps you assimilate the relaxing affirmations more effectively.

Once you reach the imaginary safe space, you normally stay there for a short period in order to let your body and mind relax further. After a while, the voice will slowly guide you back to where you started by counting up with more positive affirmations.

The reason the guided imagery form of relaxation meditation is so popular is because it is quite effective, and you don’t have to do anything except listen to the meditation and follow the guide.

2. Moving Meditation

Moving meditation describes a variety of different movements that are used for stress relief by calming the body and mind, and developing awareness. Some examples are yoga, tai chi, qigong, and walking meditation.[3] The great thing about moving meditation is that not only will it help you relax, but it will also help you stay physically active.

I recommend doing some form of moving meditation when you are too restless to sit still. You can either do a combination of both moving and sitting meditation, or an entire session of moving meditation. Both methods will help you relax.

I will sometimes start my meditation session with about five minutes of tai chi, then five minutes of walking meditation, and the remainder of the session in sitting meditation. This is a great way to work your way back into your meditation routine if you haven’t meditated for a few days.

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3. Self-Guided Relaxation Meditation

Some people are more inclined to do their own relaxation meditation. What they generally do is start out with a body scan, where they consciously relax the muscles in each body part.

After completing the body scan, they may then sit quietly for a few minutes following their breathing. They often play some relaxing music in the background.

6 Relaxation Meditation Examples

Here are a few of the best relaxation meditations I’ve found on YouTube. Some of them are so relaxing that they will put you to sleep.

Body Scan Meditations

1. Body Scan Guided Sleep Meditation (Lauren Ostrowski Fenton) (1 hr.)

This is a nice relaxation meditation that starts out with a body scan, and then leaves you with the soothing music to lull you into a deep relaxation. You can either listen to the entire hour-long meditation, or just part of it.

2. Guided Body Scan Meditation for Mind & Body Healing (Michael Sealey) (30 min.)

This is another relaxation meditation with a body scan. Michael Sealey has a deep soothing voice that makes it easy to relax.

 

Guided Imagery

3. Guided Imagery for Relaxation (Mark Connelly) (10 min.)

Here is a short guided meditation that takes you on a journey through a tropical forest. The guide is a female with a soft and soothing voice, and the sounds of nature make you feel like you’re really in the forest.

 

4. Guided Meditation For Anxiety & Stress (Jason Stephenson) (30 min.)

Jason Stephenson has some of the best quality meditations on YouTube. His voice is soothing, and he has the right choice of background music. This meditation takes you on a journey through the night sky.

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Relaxation Meditations for Sleep

5. Guided Meditation for Sleep… Floating Among the Stars (Jason Stephenson) (1 hr. 2 min.)

Here is another quality recording by Jason Stephenson. This meditation guides you into a deep relaxation as you float among the stars.

 

6. Guided Meditation – Blissful Deep Relaxation (The Honest Guys) (18.5 min.)

In this meditation, the music is soft and slow-moving, with gentle waves in the background. This is a relatively short meditation you can comfortably listen to right before you go to bed.

 

In addition to the above free guided-meditation, I’m also producing my own CD Inner Silence: Guided Relaxation Meditations for Inner Peace and Restful Sleep. If you’re interested, check it out here.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve read this article, it’s probably because you’re feeling a little (or a lot) overwhelmed, and in need of some stress relief. Maybe you have a high-stress job, or a lot of family commitments. Whatever the reason, you’re probably looking for a simple method for finding stress relief.

The health consequences of stress are many. It affects your body and mind. It also affects your mood, which has a significant impact on your relationships. And over the long term, some of the damage to your body may be irreversible. Put simply, stress keeps you from truly enjoying your life.

Relaxation meditation is a simple and effective method for stress relief. As you can see, there are a variety of different forms of relaxation meditation. You can either listen to a guided meditation or some relaxing music, or you can learn to practice one of the various forms of moving meditation, such as yoga and tai chi.

So, don’t postpone your happiness. Try one of the meditations above, or find one you like, and start enjoying your life stress free.

More Tips on Meditation

Featured photo credit: Amelia Bartlett via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Charles A. Francis

Author, meditation teacher, and director of the Mindfulness Meditation Institute

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

How to Clear Your Mind and Be More Present Instantly

How to Clear Your Mind and Be More Present Instantly

You may be wondering how to clear your mind. Maybe you are facing a tough presentation at work and really need to focus, or perhaps you’ve got a lot going on at home and just need to relax for a few minutes. Whatever the reason, having a clear mind can help you find your center.

The only problem is that you can’t completely erase the thousands of thoughts you have each day. The goal is to be able to observe those thoughts without engaging with each one of them.

The good news is that clearing your mind and returning to the present moment comes from a simple act of acknowledging that you’re overwhelmed in the first place. A path to better mental health and overall quality of life starts here.

What Happens When You’re Not Present?

We’ve evolved to keep looking and working towards a future goal. The very nature of our careers is to make sure that we’re setting ourselves up for the future. Our thoughts and, therefore, our habits and actions consistently point in the forward-moving direction, whether it’s in your relationship, career, or goals.

The point at which this becomes harmful is when we become too stuck in this forward motion and can’t reduce stress in the short or long-term. The result of this is burnout.[1] It’s a term that is most often used in the workplace, but burnout can happen in any area of our life where you feel like you’re pushing too hard and too fast.

The idea here is that you’re so engrossed in the forward movement that you take on too much and rest too little. There is no pause in the present because you have this sense that you must keep working.

On a physical plane, the body takes a real hit with burnout. You feel more muscle fatigue, poor concentration, insomnia, anxiety, poor metabolism, and so much more.

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These symptoms are the body’s way of throwing you red flags and warning you that you must slow down. But because your mind is so preoccupied with this forward momentum, it disconnects you from listening to your body’s signals. The only time you really hear them is when the signals are too loud to ignore, such as during serious illness or pain.

As we can see, not being present is something that snowballs over time. Eventually, it can cause serious mental, emotional, and physical ailments. 

To help you deal with this, you can check out Lifehack’s Free Life Assessment to see where you may be off balance. Then, you can check out the points below to keep moving in the right direction.

How Do We Come Back to the Present?

Answering this question will answer the question of how to clear your mind because they go hand in hand. There are many tools you can use to begin a mindfulness practice.

To reiterate, mindfulness is simply defined as the act or practice of being fully present.[2] Tools that allow you to step into this practice include meditation, journaling, a body-centered movement practice such as Qigong, or simple breathing exercises.

Underneath it all, however, is one technique that acts as a universal connector, and that is acknowledgment. This term may not sound like a technique, but its power truly flourishes when put into practice.

For us to come back to the present moment, we have to acknowledge that we have trailed off into the past or the future. Likewise, for us to clear our mind, we have to acknowledge that our mind is overwhelmed, distracted, or scattered.

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This simple act of pausing and catching ourselves in the moment is how we can build our acknowledgment practice. So, the next time you find yourself overwhelmed at work with mental to-do lists, pause. Acknowledge your state of mind and say to yourself that you’re overwhelmed. This sends a signal to your whole being that you’re aware of what’s going on.

It cuts the cords of illusion, denial, and ignorance. You are now building your awareness of yourself, which is an incredibly potent gift.

How to Clear Your Mind

Now that you’ve acknowledged where you are and how you feel, you can take action and learn ways to clear your mind. You can take a few moments away from your desk or to-do list, and practice something to ground yourself back into the present moment.

1. Take a Walk

Grounding yourself can be as simple as taking a walk and admiring the changing of the leaves. This practice is also known as “forest bathing,” and it doesn’t necessarily need to take place in a forest. It can be in your favorite park or even walking around your town or neighborhood.

Bring your attention to the senses as you enjoy your walk. Can you tune in to the sounds of your footsteps on the earth? Can you notice the smells and take in the sights around you while staying present in the moment? Can you touch a leaf or the bark of a tree and allow the texture to teach you something new?

Such a practice does wonders in clearing your mind and bringing you back to the now. It also connects you more deeply to your environment.

2. Box Breathing

As you’re learning how to clear your mind, a mind-clearing practice may look like sitting down and going through a nourishing meditation or breath practice. Breathing is, honestly, the easiest and best way to clear your mind. Even taking a few deep breaths in and out and feeling and noticing the breath will bring you right back to the present moment.[3]

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In yoga, we call this breath Same Vrti, meaning a 1:1 breath ratio. It can also be translated as “box breathing.” The idea is to make the length of your inhales and exhales the same, as this allows you to take in more oxygen and slow down the chatter of the monkey mind. It also kicks on the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest and digestion, offering many health benefits in the long run.

This will allow your heart rate to slow down so that you can reduce any anxiety you may be feeling. It also aids in digestion, as the metabolism is back on track, and helps you physically process food and drink properly.

3. Add Meditation

how to meditate and clear your mind is also helpful when you want to clear negative thoughts and relieve stress. In fact, following your breath is a meditation in itself. Adding a visual, like imagining gentle ripples on a lake or clouds passing along a beautiful blue sky, can give the mind something to attach to without running through the train of your thoughts.

On the other hand, if you are mentally overwhelmed and meditation sounds like more stress, tuning in to a guided meditation session can be alleviating. It often helps to hear the voice of a teacher or guide who can walk you into more peace and contentment with their words and energy. If you can’t find such a guide in a local studio, turn to the many meditation apps on your phone, or YouTube.

4. Write Your Thoughts

Alternatively, another powerful practice for when you’re learning how to clear your mind is sitting down and writing out all of the thoughts in your head. We call this a “brain dump,” and it is an effective method for simply releasing your thoughts so that you can mentally breathe and process things better.

Grab a piece of paper and write out all of the thoughts that are pressing for your attention. The idea is not to analyze the thoughts or fix them, but to give those thoughts an exit so that you can move on with your day without fixating on them aggressively. This can look like a laundry list of thoughts, or a diary entry.

Afterward, feel free to close your journal or rip up the paper as part of your stress management. You don’t need to hold on to what you wrote, but it does help to see the expression of what you’re holding on to mentally. Likewise, this practice is very potent to do at night before bedtime. So many of us struggle to sleep soundly with many thoughts bouncing back and forth, and this exercise before bed can allow us to enter a deeper level of rest.

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Regardless of what you do, understand that practicing mindfulness is a lifelong process. With life’s ups and downs, it’s stressful to attach yourself to the practice of being mindful and in the present moment because it’s never guaranteed that you will be present for 100% of your life.

In this practice, what matters more than anything is intention. Our intention of staying present and sticking to our mindfulness practice is what will encourage us to keep coming back to it, even when we forget.

Final Thoughts

With the thousands of thoughts that we have in our head each day, it can sound overwhelming to even tackle this and try to learn how to clear your mind. The technique, however, is powerful, simple, and effective.

It all comes down to first recognizing and acknowledging that we are overwhelmed, stressed, or far away from the present moment. That acknowledgment acts as a wake-up alarm, inviting us to examine our state of mind and take action.

In this way, not only are we clearing our minds in a manner that works for us, but we’re also building our self-awareness, which is a beautiful and powerful way of being in the world.

More Tips on How to Clear Your Mind

Featured photo credit: Elijah Hiett via unsplash.com

Reference

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