Friday, January 27, 2017

Meditation and Stress Relieft - Part 2 of 4

Last week was part one of my four-part series on managing stress through meditation, mindfulness and yoga.

This week let’s tackle meditation. Many people hear the word meditation and envision sitting cross legged, straight backed, arms lightly on knees and chanting. And it can be that; if you'd like. But it doesn't have to be.
Reaching a meditative state is different for everyone, and it is important to find a method that works for you.

Studies show that people who meditate for 20 minutes, three times a week:
  • exhibit improved attention,
  • can sort things out better,
  • stay on task, and 
  • are more present in the moment.  

Meditation is simply engaging in mental exercise (as concentration on one's breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of refocusing your thoughts and letting the background noise and distractions melt away 

Last week I suggested starting with the Relaxing Breath Exercise, or 4-7-8 breath. As someone who has been meditating for years, I still practice this breath. Most often it is in line at the grocery store, while driving or while in the starting corral of a distance race. .
Repeat the following sequence 3-4 times (or more), until you start to feel your body enter a relaxation state.
*Exhale completely out of your mouth.
*Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
*Hold your breath for a mental count of seven.
*Exhale completely through your mouth, to a count of eight.

Guided Meditation
When I meditate, this is often what I turn to. Following the soothing voice of someone else helps the outside noises and inside thoughts fall away. I am able to turn my focus inward and truly concentrate on the mind-body connection.  

You can find many apps to lead you through guided meditation; some of the apps I have found helpful in reaching a meditative state are Simply Being, Calm, Headspace, and Buddhify. 

If you subscribe to iTunes radio simply doing a search for guided meditation will bring up a library of songs, albums and even radio stations.

Hint: I also use meditation when I need an energy boost mid-afternoon. Instead of a 20-minute cat nap I will follow a 20-minute guided meditation and normally end refocused and refreshed - give it a try!

Meditation isn’t a one size fits all approach and it takes practice. Start with a few minutes a day, using the breathing or muscle relaxation techniques I have already shared.

Keep trying – you’ll find your peace soon enough!

Addendum on coloring:
Following a recent presentation I got a few questions about adult coloring books and their use as a form of meditation. After some research, here’s what I found:

Coloring is not considered to be meditation, but it does have some similar characteristics like switching our brains off and focusing only on the moment. My guess would be this is why coloring is good for sleeping.  It can be a great first step to meditation. A few articles I found used the term “adult relaxation trends” (similar journaling or activity books).

Even though coloring is considered meditation, some links have been found between coloring and health benefits like reduced anxiety, increased focus and increased mindfulness. Doodling, consequently, does not have the same effect.

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