Using Meditation for Relaxation

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In today’s stressful society, meditation is a common prescription doled out by the self-help gurus all over the world to help cope with stress, improve mental health, and move forward in life.

If you’re new to meditating, you may have a picture in your head of a monk chanting while sitting for hours in lotus pose.  You might also be thinking, “I could never sit still and clear my mind”.

I assure you, though, that meditation can be practiced by anyone.  Even practicing 5 minutes every day can start to add up to great benefits.

Feeling Comfortable with Meditation

The first step is to become comfortable with the idea of meditation.  Even though it is such a simple practice – just sit still – it is REALLY hard to do that at first and also kind of frightening!  Knowing that this really is an activity that needs to be practiced, can help you avoid some frustrations around the idea of “I’m not doing this right and it’s not working, etc”.

So, I’ll be honest…. My mind races for most of the day –  going from one thought to another, and circling back around.  Sometimes it feels like a hamster wheel just spinning away….

I used to get so upset and disappointed that I couldn’t meditate “The Right Way” because I had a constant dialogue going on in my head.

But everything changed for me when I heard Esther Hicks say that you ARE NOT trying to make your mind go blank in meditation, you’re just trying to replace your emotionally stimulating thoughts with some less stimulating ones.

For  example, if you focus on that constant dialogue going on in your head, it tends to stimulate your emotions – making anger, sadness, embarrassment, etc. rise, instead of going away.  The object is to find something else – positive or just uninteresting – so that your emotions and mind can settle.

Think about a feather pillow exploding and all the feathers flying up in the air.  Well, if you turn on a fan, they will never stop moving.  If you just allow stillness, the feathers will eventually all settle.  It’s the same with your thoughts.

How Should I Begin a Meditation Practice?

My advice is to jump right in!  Start today – right after you finish reading this article!  The more you think about it and agonize over the “right way” to meditate, the less likely you are to try it.

Find somewhere comfortable and quiet that you can sit or lay down.  If you’re comfortable on the floor, feel free to sit cross-legged, with your legs out straight in front of you, or sitting up on a pillow or blanket.  Feel free to sit on a chair – try to use a straight back chair in order to not fall asleep.  If sitting is just really uncomfortable for you, lay down in a bed or on the floor.

(Here is a great trick to not fall asleep if you lay down: bend your arms at your elbows so that your fingers are pointing up to the sky.  You’ll feel if your arms start falling….and this will usually keep you awake.)

Ways to Focus Your Attention

Turn on some calm, relaxing music, or sounds of nature from YouTube to give your mind a sound to focus on.  You could also focus on any sounds you hear in a room – maybe the hum of a heater or air conditioner, or a fan, or a noise machine.

You can also concentrate on the feeling of your breath moving your chest up and down.  If you need something to keep your mind from wandering while using this method, you can add a label to your inhales and exhales – for example – rising and falling, in and out, up and down.  Find anything that resonates with you.

Try counting the length of your inhale & exhale.  As you focus on your count, try to make the inhale and exhale the same length.  Start with a count of 4 – working your way up to 5 or 6 or 7.  Evening out your breath tells your nervous system that it can relax.

Incorporate some movement and link your movements and breath.  You can use any movement, big or small.  (This is why yoga is sometimes referred to as a “moving meditation”.

If these ways are just not working for you, try a guided meditation from YouTube.  Please click HERE and let me know in the comments if it worked for you!

Other Tips for Meditating

Start slow….  Set a timer for 5 minutes to start and gradually increase as you become more experienced.

Notice any small improvements in your peace of mind during the day that you can start attributing to meditation.  The improvements that you notice will keep you motivated to practicing every day.

Just like your hair – you’ll have good days where you can focus and it makes you feel peaceful afterwards, and you’ll have some not so good days when your thoughts force their way in.  But remember, you will get better with practice – even just a couple minutes every day of taking a time-out from your thoughts will benefit you.

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8 comments

  1. Thanks for a great post on meditation. This is something I really need to get into!! Do you ever use any meditation apps? Are they worth using or is it better to be a bit more old school?

    1. Hi Chris, you’re welcome! Meditation is really helpful on so many levels! I currently use the app called Insight Timer, and I really like it. It is a free app that you can listen to, but they charge you to download the meditations. There is a lot of variety. My daughter (12) likes the Calm app and listens to the music as she falls asleep.

      As far as your question about if they are worth using – For me personally, I find it more calming to follow along with another person’s voice than it is to do “old school” meditation and just be quiet. But as with anything else, it’s definitely a personal preference. Try different ways and see what works for you!

  2. I really like that bit about replacing the antagonizing thoughts with calming thoughts, not simply emptying the mind. I’ve contemplated meditation, but never tried it. After reading this, I just might!

    1. Hi Nicole! Yes, I found that so helpful as well when I heard it. It was an eye opener for sure. Please give meditation a try…and let me know how it works out for you!

  3. I love meditations. There’s so much stress in the world and meditation seems to be the only thing that helps. I just drift off into another world and when I return, the stress seems to have disappeared.
    I meditate every day in the afternoon and it’s the best part of my day!

    1. Hi Rob, it’s wonderful to hear that you meditate every day! It really does help with stress, and I wish you the best of luck as you continue on your meditation journey!

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