How to Reduce Stress with Meditation

Meditation can be a powerful tool to help you reduce stress. It can help you trigger your body’s relaxation response, a state of deep physical rest that lowers blood pressure, relaxes muscles, slows your heart rate, deepens your breathing and reduces the levels of stress hormones in your blood. Follow these simple steps to reduce stress with meditation.

1) Set Aside Time to Practice

Meditation has the most stress relief benefits when it’s done regularly, preferably everyday. Set aside a time each day to practice your meditation ritual. You’ll need about 20 minutes of quiet time in a comfortable place, at a time of day when you’re not sleepy.

2) Practice Deep Breathing Exercises

Deep breathing exercises are easy to learn and can be practiced alone as a form of meditation. To practice deep breathing, sit in a comfortable position with a straight spine. You may sit in a chair or in a cross-legged position on the floor. However, you may want to support your spine by leaning on a wall or using a meditation chair. You may also recline on the floor or on a firm mattress–though there’s a higher risk you’ll fall asleep in this position.

Inhale through your nose. Your stomach should lift as you exhale, but your chest should remain mostly immobile. You can place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest.

Exhale through your mouth. Contract your abdominal muscles to push air out of your lungs. Again, your abdomen should move, but your chest should not.

Continue to breath in this manner for 20 minutes. Count to four as you inhale; count to six as you exhale. Via this method, your exhalations will become longer than your inhalations, leading to deeper relaxation.

3) Perform A Body Scan

Before you end your meditation practice, you should perform a body scan. Body scanning is a mindful meditation technique that helps you focus on areas of tension in your body. Body scanning is a good way to relieve stress and anxiety.

To perform a body scan, you’ll focus your full attention on your body parts, one at a time, and in sequence. Start with your feet, and say to yourself, “I am aware of my feet.” Focus all of your attention on your feet. Pay attention to what your feet feel like, inside and out. Spend about 10 seconds, or one complete inhalation and exhalation cycle, on each body part. Move from your feet to your ankles, calves, knees, thighs, hips, abdomen, chest, shoulders, upper and lower arms, hands, neck and face.

When you find an area of tension in your body, allow that body part to relax. You may find that as you perform body scans more frequently, that you hold tension in certain areas of your body.

As you perform your body scan, resist making judgments about the feelings and sensations you experience in your body. Remain focused in the moment and accept your feelings and sensations without bias.

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