Stress cannot be avoided entirely. It visits us every so often and almost takes away all the peace and happiness in our lives. Sometimes, it can be life-threatening if we are faced with serious problems and keep ignoring the stress that comes from them.
People deal with stress differently. Others decide to talk to other people and feel a bit better, others decide to watch movies and shows on TV while others choose to sleep. And while these are seemingly okay methods, there are other better methods that are natural and specifically aimed at getting our minds and bodies in deep relaxation.
Here are 8 effective relaxation meditation techniques we can work with to reduce high-stress levels in our lives.
Visualization, which is also known as guided imagery, is a technique that involves visualizing or creating mental situations and sceneries in our minds that are relaxing that in turn bring a calming and relaxing effect on us and help us let stress, anxiety, and tension go.
Here, we can visualize any kind of scenario we individually feel brings relaxation effects on us. The scenario or environment could be our favorite “chill” spot, coastal areas with beaches and oceans, the woods where there is peace and quiet with sounds of leaves and breezes and cooling wind, or any other environment we feel we personally find to have a soothing effect.
As we visualize these places, we are supposed to engage all our senses, that is, sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. Assuming we are walking down quiet paths in the woods, we should visualize the whole scenario in our minds as if we were actually there, walking. We should smell the fresh air, feel the wind blowing against our bodies, see the greenness of leaves and trees, and how the path we are walking meanders through the woods, and hear the chirping of birds, and croaking of frogs in the nearby river or stream.
We should take in everything.
We can also use the help of sounds from nature sounds videos to help influence our minds more. We can choose to do this alone, that is, by closing our eyes while seated comfortably somewhere, and doing it. Or, we can choose to use visualization-based apps and audios to lead us through the calming environment.
Visualization gives the impression of changing our environment from a stressful one to a more peaceful and serene one, which then allows our minds and bodies to be at ease.
2. Deep Breathing
Deep breathing is another method that helps us detach ourselves from the overwhelming thoughts, feelings, and sensations we may be having. Here we take long deep breaths slowly and we direct all our focus on the breathing process.
We begin by breathing in, beyond the normal inhalation, to the point where we feel our chests have expanded and opened up to take more air in. And then we should slowly breathe out letting little air out until we get to the endpoint and have to breathe in again to continue with the process.
As we breathe, our attention and focus should be on the activity of breathing and the effects that it brings to our bodies. When our minds wander and we take note of that, we should slowly redirect our attention back to the practice.
Repeating this 3 to 5 times allows us to bring down the fight or flight response that comes from the sympathetic nervous system, and which also enhances vagal activity. Moreover, it reduces breathing rate, heart rate, and balances our blood pressure (1).
3. Breathe In. Hold. Release
This is another form of breathing exercise with a slight variation from the previously discussed technique. Here, we add short pauses between breaths so as to help us calm down and reset our brains.
Ideally, the technique involves four steps. The first step is breathing in continuously for four seconds, taking a pause for four seconds where we hold our breath, breathing out for four seconds straight, and then taking another pause for four seconds before repeating the process.
Whenever we feel stressed or overwhelmed by anger or anxiety, we can use this method to help us let go of the overwhelming feelings that can make us naturally react in a way we will regret and be able to be more composed and emotionally grounded.
4. Practicing Gratitude And Gratitude Meditation
Another great method to melt off most of the stress we may have is by reflecting on the good things we have amidst our problems and being grateful for them. Often we get caught up in the things we are trying to make work in our lives and how difficult and disappointing the process is, that we forget the few things that are going well for us.
Gratitude helps us to appreciate where we have come from and what we have at that moment. And this not only makes us feel we have grown and developed but also helps to give us the inspiration to keep going and to stop getting too worried and stressed about what we have.
A great way to practice gratitude is by keeping a gratitude journal, where we take time every day and note down the things we are grateful for in our lives. The things may be as grand as having a happy healthy family or as small as eating our favorite chocolate. Talking to someone we have not talked to in a while is also something to be grateful for.
Another better approach is to immerse ourselves in gratitude meditation. Gratitude meditation can be practiced daily and the good thing about it is that it brings long-term benefits. We can spare as little as 5 minutes per day to do gratitude meditation and it can totally transform our lives.
5. Body Scan Meditation
Body scan or body scan meditation is a practice that allows us to get into deep states of relaxation by observing our bodies. We direct our attention and awareness to various parts of our bodies and observe them without judging or labeling how we feel about them.
We begin by first laying down somewhere flat, it can be on the floor or our beds. We then take deep breaths as we focus on the breathing process. We remain aware of how air gets into our bodies and how it goes out as well as the changes that come from it.
From there, we direct our attention to our feet. We begin with the right foot and we simply imagine the air flowing in and out of our right foot. We take note of the thoughts, feelings, and sensations we have when our focus is on that part of our body. After about 5 seconds, we move to the left foot and climb our way up to our heads.
After we are done with every part of our bodies, we remain in the same position quietly and still, as we observe how our whole body feels, and then we finish the practice.
6. Yoga, Qi gong And Tai Chi
Yoga is a practice that works with deep breathing combined with a number of poses that involve remaining still as well as moving about. There are many types of yoga out there but the best ones for handling stress include Hatha yoga, Satyananda, and power yoga.
On top of dealing with anxiety and stress, yoga can also help with improving balance, strength, stamina, and flexibility. The best way to practice yoga is by taking local yoga classes from credible organizations or being trained by a certified, qualified, and experienced yoga instructor.
Qi gong is a traditional Chinese practice that uses relaxation, breathing exercises, meditation, and body movement to help with improving our balance, blood circulation, and alignment. It gathers your attention and focus and directs it to the movements which allow you to get away from the stressful thoughts you may be having.
Tai Chi is a form of ancient Chinese martial arts that uses slow body movements that flow from one pose to another. It encourages focusing our minds on our breathing and movements so as to remain in the present moment.
The good thing with Tai Chi is that it can be done by anyone including old people as it is a slow practice that doesn’t demand much physically or mentally.
It is important to note, however, that if you have any health conditions, you are advised to visit your doctor to make sure you are fit enough to get involved with the 3 mentioned practices.
7. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a neat way to relax both our bodies and minds. With this technique, we aim to intentionally get muscles tensed and relaxed progressively to help us get to know what, muscle tension, as well as complete muscle relaxation, really feels like.
When we do it together with deep breathing, we can easily be able to manage our stress and anxiety since we will be able to know which group of muscles in our bodies become tense when we are stressed and anxious and we can get them to relax, which in turn also relaxes our minds.
Progressive muscle relaxation, just like body scan meditation, begins from the feet upwards. We first ground ourselves and gather our focus through slow deep breathing. After a few seconds, we direct our attention to our right foot and slowly get the muscles of that foot tensed.
We should squeeze in the muscles as much as we can and then remain in that tense state for 10 to 15 seconds. After that, we should relax the muscles and remain in a relaxed state for a couple of seconds.
From there, we should move to the left foot and do the same, and then go to other parts of our bodies all the way to our faces.
This practice requires some practice to completely get used to it and with time we get to really understand how relaxed or tensed our muscles are at any time.
8. Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation, just as the name suggests, is a meditation practice that is aimed at helping us remain present and aware for long periods. It helps us let go of the past or future based thoughts that keep us from enjoying the present moment.
Quite often, thoughts about what is going to happen in the near future are what make us stressed or anxious especially if we are anticipating something bad might happen. And by learning to be aware of them and letting them go, we get the ability to remain present, calm, and peaceful.
Here is a complete beginner’s guide on mindfulness meditation, all its benefits, and how to get started with it.
All these techniques are easy to do and can be done within a couple of minutes with almost instant results. We encourage you to pick one or two techniques you feel are best suited for you and work with them when you are stressed and see their effects on your life.
Also, we encourage you to take up meditation as a habitual practice, if you haven’t already started. Meditation is a great way to help you remain calm, peaceful, and happy in the long term. By meditating daily, you get to maintain peace of mind and composure among many other benefits that meditation offers.
We highly recommend reading our beginner’s guide to meditation to understand it better.
Which relaxation techniques do you work with when you are stressed? Please let us know in the comments below.