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We live in such a fast paced world that we rarely take time for ourselves. We spend our days running here and there, constantly connected to an activity or device, and then another night comes and we are exhausted. This type of lifestyle can cause stress and anxiety to build up, which over time can contribute to illness.
When we are "in the thick of it," it may feel like there is no other way; that our responsibilities to our family and our job demand we are "on" all the time. It becomes very easy to fall into this pattern and increasingly more difficult to change it. In the rare moments of quiet and calm, rather than turning off, our bodies and our minds begin frantically looking for something else to do. We have trained ourselves to DO rather than REST. And it's taking a toll.
You've no doubt heard that meditation and guided relaxation have the power to rid the body of accumulated stress (both mental and physical), while strengthening the entire mind-body system to work more efficiently.
Researchers all over the world are studying and recommending these approaches, as the link between stress and illness strengthens, and these non-medical methods prove more and more effective. But you're probably left wondering, "How do you do this stuff?" Or, you may be thinking, "I'm not into all that 'woo woo' crap." Totally get it. Been there.
But, here's the deal: stress will literally kill you. And, it will suck the life and joy out of every moment until it does.
So, we can both agree that sucks and we'd rather have a better time with the little time each of us is given, right? And, if there is an effective, easy, and actually enjoyable way of making that happen, what the hell are we waiting for?
By simply closing your eyes and breathing deeply, you can reset your stress response. Imagine the long term effects of taking up a regular practice of relaxation, visualization, and/or meditation!
The benefits are far reaching and not only promote improved health, but also greater clarity, energy, mental awareness, confidence, creativity, and fulfillment in life.
There are thousands of articles about these techniques, but a basic overview follows here:
Meditation involves the release of all conscious attachments and can be guided or unguided. The practice is usually seated and the practitioner is asked to "steer" the mind away from distraction and back to a single point. This can be the breath, or a repeated prayer or mantra. It has its roots in and is generally taught as a spiritual practice, however, mainstream offerings have incorporated the teachings with additional practices like visualization and deep relaxation.
Visualization is a powerful stress-reducing tool, and is a good introductory platform for beginners if meditation feels too difficult, initially. Visualization, also referred to as "guided imagery," involves focusing your attention and imagination on behaviors or events you’d like to have occur in your life. Guided imagery techniques can be combined with deep relaxation to direct the body toward deeper healing.
Relaxation, or deep relaxation, combines the above techniques, and is a guided, progressive process. Some therapies use voice, while others use music or specific sounds and images to bring the body and mind into a slow, deep state of relaxation. The body's stress response is gradually lessened by focusing on positive, calming points of reference.
Begin by trying one or more of these techniques for just 15 minutes, once or twice a day. Harvard researchers found that yoga, meditation and even repetitive prayer and mantras all induced the relaxation effect. The more regularly these techniques are practiced, the more deeply-rooted the benefits will be. In our experience working with clients, these techniques can be so life changing that staying on a regular routine with it is easy!
Here are some questions to ask yourself when you first start out:
What inspires me?
What gives me hope?
What gives me joy?
What touches my heart?
What heals my heart?
What do I want most in my life and what must I let go of to have it? (whoa- that's a big one!)
Whether you're ready to dive into the deep (relaxation) end, or you simply need to take a few minutes every day to be still, by incorporating one or more of these techniques you will be on your way to greater health and vitality. A worried, anxious mind creates a sick, fatigued body, and while you may not be able to control what happens to you, you can change the way you respond.
If you don't believe us yet, take the next 5 minutes, shut down your phone, computer, kids (ironically, electronic devices can be very effective in keeping them quiet for this purpose), and just...breathe. Don't worry about the thoughts- they will come. Continue to settle in and release the tension in your body. Notice how you feel when you are done. You may discover increasing levels of calm, non-reactivity, and joy. Don't way we didn't warn you!