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Last Updated on March 16, 2020

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

How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Future 5 Ways Mindful Breathing Calms Your Nerves How to Stop Intrusive Thoughts from Eating You Alive 20 Best Guided Meditations for Sleep and Insomnia How to Cope with the 5 Common Stressors In Life

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Last Updated on October 5, 2020

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss (The Ultimate Weight Loss Hack)

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss (The Ultimate Weight Loss Hack)

Intermittent fasting weight loss is a type of diet that’s rapidly growing in popularity and becoming the way to lose weight. Scientists and nutrition experts like it, too. New books and articles on the topic are being published daily. Intermittent fasting is also popular with followers of the Paleo diet since our ancestors appear to have eaten this way for thousands of years.

I’ve been following this type of diet myself for 2 years. Doing so helped me lose and keep off 70 pounds without ever having to count calories, limit carbohydrates, or eat 6 to 7 meals a day.

This article teaches you all about intermittent fasting weight loss and details why it is one of the best weight loss diet hacks around. Once you finish, you will be able to implement into your diet and experience the benefits it offers almost immediately.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

As you may have figured from its name, intermittent fasting weight loss is a diet plan where you set fasting periods during the day. This is usually between 16-20 consecutive hours, but it can be as little as 12 hours or as much as 24 hours (or even 36 hours).

While fasting you can eat and drink low calorie or calorie-free foods. Think coffee, tea, water, and vegetables.

The more time you spend fasting every day, the better your results. You can do these fasts as often as you like. Again, the more often you do so, the better[1].

Getting Started With Intermittent Fasting

Following this diet plan is super simple. All you have to do is choose a period of time during the day that you will fast. This should be between 16-20 hours.

The longer you fast each day, the better. Don’t worry about calorie restriction or measuring carbohydrates. Just focus on going about your day until it’s time to eat.

It’s best to choose a set period of time to conduct your fast. I like to fast from 8 PM to 4 PM the following afternoon. I’ll then have my first meal of the day and a snack or two a few hours later. Once 8 o’clock rolls around, it’s back to fasting.

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My experience with intermittent fasting is that it’s best to start with a 16 hour fast (i.e. 8PM one evening to 12PM the next day) for the first 1-2 weeks. Once you are comfortable with this schedule, you can increase the amount of time you spend fasting. Do this by adding 30 minutes to each fast until you get to where you are fasting for 20 hours at a time.

You don’t have to fast every day in the beginning either. You may be more comfortable breaking in slowly with 2 or 3 days per week, or trying alternate day fasting. Add additional days of intermittent fasting as you become more comfortable with this style of eating.

Tips To Make Intermittent Fasting Easier

1. Drink Plenty of Water

Squeeze a little lemon or lime juice into your water to help get rid of any cravings you experience. You can also drink coffee, tea, or other calorie-free beverages. After a few weeks, you will find that intermittent fasting keeps you from craving sugar entirely.

2. Take in Caffeine in the Morning and Early Afternoon

The caffeine in coffee and tea may actually make intermittent fasting weight loss a little easier since it’s good for curbing your appetite. Be careful not to overindulge as this may lead to you feeling a little too wired. I also recommend these natural energy boosting tips to keep you going during the day.

3. Avoid Artificially Flavored Drinks

One type of calorie-free drink that should be avoided are diet sodas and other beverages that use artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Sweet & Low. Studies show that the can actually stimulate your appetite[2] like a drink that contains sugar and cause you to overeat.

4. Don’t Gorge at Your First Meal

The first meal after your fast should be the amount of food you typically eat. Binging will only make you feel awful and diminish the benefits you get from the fast.

To avoid this, try creating meal plans, at least for the first few weeks. This will help you get into the rhythm of eating regularly portioned meals during your eating window.

5. Minimize Processed Carbohydrates and Sugars

While intermittent fasting does make it possible to eat a little looser than normal, you should still eat as little bread, pasta, rice, etc. as possible.

Focus instead on eating protein from beef, fish, or pork, carbohydrates from vegetables, fruit, and sweet potatoes, and healthy fats from foods like almonds, avocados, fish, and olive oil.

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You can find some carb sources that will aid your weight loss journey here.

How Intermittent Fasting Helps You Lose Weight

Eating this way has many benefits with regard to weight loss. The first is that when you’re fasting, your body will be forced to use its stored body fat for energy. Burning calories this way, instead of from the food you’re eating throughout the day, will help you experience significant weight loss, but specifically lose weight from any excess body fat you’re carrying.

This means that you won’t just be thinner, but you will also look better and be much healthier than if you lose weight the old-fashioned way[3].

Intermittent fasting can help optimize the release of the key fat-burning hormones in your body. This is especially true for the two most important hormones: human growth hormone (HGH) and insulin.

Human growth hormone plays a key role in turning on your body’s fat-burning furnace so that it gets the calories you need to work and play from stored body fat. Studies show that fasting can significantly increase the production of HGH[4].

The influence intermittent fasting weight loss has on insulin is just as impressive and possibly more important. Keeping your insulin levels low and steady is key to losing excess fat and keeping it off.

Diets that are rich in processed carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice) and simple sugars (candy, cookies, and soda) have the opposite effect. They cause your insulin levels to rapidly spike and then crash every time you eat one of these foods. The net result of this phenomenon is that your body will store more of what you eat as excess body fat instead of burning it off as energy.

Chronically elevating your insulin levels like this can also lead to the development of type II diabetes, obesity, and other chronic health problems. Intermittent fasting easily solves this problem.

One study found that men who participated in intermittent fasting had “dramatically lower insulin levels and significantly improved insulin sensitivity”[5].

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This happens because you’re not giving your body food, so it will not produce insulin, allowing insulin levels to balance out until you eat again. This helps your body stay in a calorie and fa-burning state. You’ll also find that it gives you more energy throughout the day.

Another great weight loss benefit of intermittent fasting is that hunger pangs and cravings that may normally plague you throughout the day will be reduced, if not altogether eliminated. This is probably due to its ability to balance your insulin and blood sugar levels and, in turn, help correct other hormonal imbalances.

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss FAQs

Now that you know what intermittent fasting is and how to get started, it’s time to answer your other questions.

Below are answers to the questions frequently asked about intermittent fasting. These answers should help you and make getting started a lot easier.

How Much Weight Will I Lose?

The amount of weight you lose with fasting is determined by how often and long your fasts are, what you eat afterward, and other factors. Fasting for 16-20 hours a day can help you safely lose 2-3 pounds of fat every week.

While losing this much weight every week is great, it’s how it makes it happen that’s really cool. Losing weight with intermittent fasting means that you will never have to count calories or plan and prepare several meals a day.

Can I Work out While Fasting?

Yes, you can. In fact, doing the right type of workout while fasting will help you lose weight faster and even build muscle.

The best workouts to do while fasting for weight loss are 3-4 intense strength training workouts weekly. This means anything from standard strength training to kettlebell or body weight workouts.

Focus on doing 3-4 total body exercises per workout with as little rest as possible between sets. Doing this will help you burn more calories during and after your workout. You’ll also build muscle, which will help you look and feel better as the weight comes off.

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Won’t I Lose Muscle When I Fast?

First of all, you aren’t fasting long enough for your body to start breaking down muscle for energy. You have, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of calories from your stored body fat to use before that will begin to happen. Studies actually show that even after fasting for 3 days, no muscle is lost.

Is Fasting Safe?

As long as you are healthy, not pregnant, and aren’t taking medications, fasting is safe. Like all diets, you should discuss it with your doctor before beginning an intermittent fasting style of dieting.

I also feel that it may not be smart to follow this type of diet when you’re especially stressed. Since this diet can be a little stress-inducing at first, doing so when your ability to be relatively stress-free and rested probably isn’t a good idea.

Are There Any Supplements I Can Take to Make Fasting Easier?

As with any other weight loss plan, it’s a good idea to take a few nutritional supplements to ensure that your daily requirements are met. This includes a once or twice daily multi-vitamin, fish oil, and vitamin D.

I’ve also found taking 10 grams of branch chain amino acids before and after my workouts really helps, too. They’re great for giving you more energy during your workout and decreasing post-workout muscle soreness.

For supplements to specifically help with digestion, check out this article.

Conclusion

Now you know what intermittent fasting is and how it can help you lose weight quickly, safely, and pretty much effortlessly.

If you want to give it a try, find a fasting schedule that fits with you lifestyle and give it a go.

More About Intermittent Fasting

Featured photo credit: Toa Heftiba via unsplash.com

Reference

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