How to lower stress – part 1: meditation

Deutsch  Polski

dsc_0208The newest polish radio commercial of a herbal pill to calm down gives a simple answer to the question “how to deal with stress?” -“fast!”. It sounds wonderful but does not exclude risks. After taking that don’t-care-pill, you shouldn’t wonder you ignored your professors question during an exam because you thought it was stupid (true story). Not to mention physical adverse effects of any pills, even herbal. There are other methods to lower stress levels that are quick and proven – I mean meditation. Before you start searching for a close button ASAP you just need to know that if you want other results than before, you need to do something you’ve never tried before.

I used to think meditation was only for monks and that average people who practice it are day-dreamers or want to run from reality. Those weren’t the only prejudices I had against meditation. Once I found out about the benefits of meditation I still thought it was not for me, it was too mystical, I didn’t have a few hours spare, the beach is too far and sitting cross-legged is painful. It turns out, I have wasted a lot of time for excuses and thinking, instead of just trying it. Because meditation is tremendously valuable when it comes to our happiness. Here are some of the advantages of practicing meditation:

Lower stress and anxiety

Who doesn’t experience stress may be the first to cast a stone. Maybe you – making career in a corporate environment? Perhaps you – entrepreneur breaking through the business jungle or maybe you – stay home mum with 100 unpaid jobs who ONLY sits with the kids at home? This post just became a comedy by accident. We all experience stress and a meditation session can lower it in just a few minutes.

Better relationships

It’s not a joke – one of the advantages of meditation are better relationships. There are meditation exercises focused on relationships than can work miracles. Michael Acton Smith and Alex Tew write in their book ”Calm” about their way to achieve a peaceful mind. They propagate mindfulness and say that daily meditation and journaling helps to stay calm and happy. Btw. the authors aren’t hippies (that was how I saw meditating people earlier) but they’re successful entrepreneurs.

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You can find several meditation methods in the book. I would like to present you the one that focuses on relationships. Everything starts with ourselves. Sit comfortably in a quiet place and activate positive feelings towards yourself. Just think of something you like about yourself or about something you’re proud of and contemplate it for a while. Then say positive affirmations to yourself, for example “may I be happy” or “may I be healthy” or “may I be safe”. Just say what you wish for yourself and repeat it several times. Now imagine a person close to you and direct positive wishes towards them. Repeating this exercise daily will improve your relationship.

Better focus

The phones, the emails, the reminders… they’re all buzzing and making sounds and distracting us all the time. That causes an unceasing anxiety and it’s hard to let go of it. Because of it we are not able to concentrate on 1 task when necessary. Daily meditation improves your ability to stay focused.

A change of perspective, less anxiety, lower depression

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Meditating makes a positive impact on how we feel and that has a great influence in the long term on our overall health. In situations of a crisis a new perspective can work miracles. It’s easier to find it with a calm mind and breath.

A shot of creativity

Many creative teams work with meditation on daily tasks. Are you stuck in your creative work? Sit down and start meditating! New ideas will come to mind.

How does it work?

I have a question for you – what advice would you give to a younger version of yourself? Let’s say 5 years ago, knowing what you know now, how things turned out and what has happened. Most of the people would tell their younger selves to stay calm and not worry so much because everything will turn out great and how it’s supposed to be. Worrying is counterproductive and stress doesn’t add anything positive to your life. When we meditate we realize at some point that there is an innate and steady quality in us we can always go back to. We just forget sometimes. When we focus on our breath we know it will never let us down and that’s the first step to a calm mind. The founders of the headspace app (hedspace.com) compare this to a blue sky that is always somewhere above despite of the storms or how many clouds (chaos) cover it. Meditating doesn’t chase away the storms in our lives but gives us a new perspective and helps clearing our minds so that we are capable of dealing with obstacles that come across.

How to start?

If you don’t know how to start and you doubt in your ability of sitting quietly and do nothing for a few minutes, I can only recommend a phone app I mentioned before – headspace. It will guide you through a 1 minute meditation and teach you the necessary techniques.

dsc_0236af you want to try yourself: sit down comfortably and take a few deep breaths. Close your eyes and notice how your body feels and how your mood is. Don’t judge, just observe. Then focus on your breath for about 10 minutes. Notice where you feel it in your body. Let your thoughts come and go and keep coming back to your breath. By the end notice how you feel now comparing to the beginning of the exercise. I guarantee you’ll feel a lot better!

Meditation seems to be so easy that it’s hard to believe it can actually work and have such a tremendous positive impact on our life quality. Despite appearances, making a pause to sit down and do nothing but breathe is not mainstream at all. It’s more of a rebel act in today’s world. Nevertheless, for more productivity and mindfulness it’s worth taking the time.Because the more mindful we are the more joy we experience in our daily lives. All you need is a quiet moment for yourself.

What are your ways to decrease stress levels?

See you soon!

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