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How Meditation Reduces Stress

Meditation can sometimes seem like an esoteric activity done by bearded gurus on remote mountaintops. Fortunately for us, meditation can actually be done anywhere, at any time, by any person. The act of meditating for even just a few minutes a day can reduce stress levels measurably.

Here’s how.

You’ve probably heard about the “fight or flight” reaction a body triggers when it hits stress. This is the rush of adrenaline which courses through our system, so we can race away from that saber-toothed cat or stand to fight off a hungry coyote. Even though we now live in a world where our stresses tend to involve traffic jams and grumpy family members, our body hasn’t evolved to match. It still prepares us for the extremes.

But just as the body has one set of actions which instructs it to ramp up our breathing and heart rate, our body also has an opposite set of actions which instructs it to calm and relax.

These are the actions which are the focus of meditation.

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Breathe Slowly

Breath is a critical core component of our body’s systems. A mere five to ten minutes without oxygen can be enough to kill the average person. Because of that, a full, deep, steady intake of oxygen is a natural calming agent. It is a sign to our body that we are safe and secure.

Concentrate on your breath. Feel it come in to you, long, deep, with the air moving past the edges of your nostrils. Let your diaphragm pull the air in until your stomach distends. Pause for just a moment to relish that feeling.

Then slowly exhale, exhale, squeezing out all the old, dead air. Release those toxins.

Pause. Repeat.

Relax Each Muscle Group

A warrior preparing to stab a spear into a woolly mammoth needs every muscle primed to make that dangerous leap. To release stress, we must do the opposite. We need to release the tense muscles and let them move into a healing state where they can repair and recover.

Start with your toes. Tense your right toes and then release them. Feel the ease of the release. Move up. Tense your full right foot and then release. Work your way up your right leg. Then work your way up your left leg. Continue your way up through your body.

Not only is this healthy for your muscles, but the act of focusing in a sequence builds your ability to focus in general. It trains your mind to stay engaged and attentive on improving your well-being.

These types of activities can be done practically anywhere at any time. You can squeeze and release your hands while driving in traffic. You can breathe deeply while participating in a stressful meeting. The more you build your toolbox of options, the more you can find ways to add meditative aspects to your world. This will help you reduce stress and handle life with focus, calm, and directed energy.


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