How To Incorporate Stress Relief Meditation Into Your Day
There’s no manual for dealing with your mental health during a pandemic. Over the past few years, it makes sense why everyone’s been feeling more stressed, overworked, overwhelmed, and overall burnt out. While stress is normal, it can negatively affect several areas of your body and have more serious repercussions on your health. Because of this, it’s important to take the time to practice stress relief throughout your day or week. One of the best ways to reduce stress in the body is to incorporate stress relief meditation into your day. The term “meditation” can seem intimidating and give you the impression that you won’t have enough time in your schedule to practice stress relief meditation, but it’s a lot more accessible than you may think! Here are all the must-know facts and how-to’s when it comes to stress relief meditation.
- Stress relief mediation refers to meditation performed for the purpose of refocusing, reducing anxious thoughts, and overall reducing stress levels.
- Current research supports theories that just 10 minutes of daily stress relief meditation can help reduce overall reduce stress. It can also reduce feelings of depression and anxiety, prevent insomnia, and improve concentration.
- To successfully meditate, you should find a comfortable and calming area, set a timer, and practice breathing exercises. You can also follow a guided meditation online that will further help you relax your mind.
What is stress relief meditation?
Stress relief mediation refers to meditation performed for the purpose of refocusing, reducing anxious thoughts, and overall reducing stress levels. Meditation has been around for thousands of years as a spiritual practice with religious ties that were used to deepen understanding of sacred forces (1). As meditation became a more mainstream practice alongside yoga, research has shown that consistent meditation is an effective tool to manage stress over time and alleviate stress symptoms. Not only that, stress relief meditation has also been associated with:
- Reduced feelings of depression
- Reduced feelings of anxiety
- Decreased pain levels
- Preventing insomnia
- Promoting relaxation of the body and mind
- Improve concentration and focus
- Improve emotional regulation skills (2)
In fact, Harvard neuroscientists have discovered through brain scans that stress relief meditation helped relieve stress after just eight weeks of consistent practice (2). This research came after Harvard neuroscientist, Sara Lazar, discovered changes in her mood and ability to handle stress after practicing meditation in her yoga class.
Through her study, she found that the amygdala, or the part of the brain which is important for anxiety, fear, and stress, got smaller when a group went through weekly stress relief meditation classes and practiced 40 minutes of meditation at home every day. Eight weeks sounds like a lot, but a study conducted three years later through the meditation app Headspace showed that meditation was able to reduce stress in users by 14 percent over just a 10-day period (3).
Is stress relief meditation time-consuming?
While the study mentioned above referenced 40 minutes a day as a starting point, Lazar actually found that the average amount of time used for meditation by the study group was 27 minutes a day. On the other hand, there are meditation professionals who suggest only 10 minutes a day of stress relief meditation can have a significant benefit on stress levels and concentration. According to Lazar, there is not enough scientific evidence to support the theory – but that was in 2015. Now, there has been more research done that supports theories that just 10 minutes of daily stress relief meditation can help refocus your thoughts, reduce anxious thoughts in stressful situations, boost concentration, and overall reduce stress (4, 5).
Whatever your schedule looks like – if you only can spare 10 minutes or are able to dedicate up to 30 minutes or more of stress relief meditation – it’s definitely possible to incorporate meditation into your day without sacrificing other important tasks. Meditation doesn’t have to be a time-consuming practice but instead can serve as a great way for you to take some time out of your day to breathe, reflect, and refocus.
How to practice stress relief meditation
As you get ready to incorporate some meditation into your day, here are some tips to help you start:
- Find a quiet and comfortable place to meditate. If you could be in nature, that’s great! But you can also create calming areas in the comfort of your own home by setting the vibe with a candle, diffuser, calming music, or whatever makes you feel most relaxed.
- Set a timer. If you’re just beginning, starting with shorter time limits and gradually increasing can be a benefit. If you only have a set time slot to incorporate meditation into your day, set your time for the appropriate time. It’s easy to get lost in your thoughts when meditating and lose track of time, so a timer will be crucial.
- Stay grounded. When meditating, it’s important to ground yourself and make sure you’re in a relaxed position for maximum benefits. This could mean sitting on a chair with your feet on the floor or sitting/kneeling on the floor (6).
- Practice breathing techniques and exercises. Be mindful when breathing to elicit a calming response in your body. One breathing exercise you can try while practicing stress relief meditation is to breathe in while counting to four, hold your breath for four seconds, and breathe out for eight seconds. With long exhales, you are able to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and reduce your heart rate and blood pressure (7).
- Follow a guided meditation if you need a place to start. If you’ve never meditated before, you might feel like you need a guide. You’re in luck! There are certified yoga instructors and meditation experts that put together guides online to help lead you through your meditation if you’re not able to attend a class. Check out this 10-minute guided meditation by yoga instructor and reiki master Susy Schieffelin!
- Remember to be kind to your mind when you notice yourself losing focus and having wandering or anxious thoughts. Especially if you’re beginning, this is completely normal, so don’t feel discouraged. If your attention wavers, return to focus on your breathing.
Written by Selena Ponton