Stress is a necessary element to foster creativeness, wisdom and survival of the fittest. But when stress reaches high levels it can have detrimental effects on the human body. One can distinguish negative stress from healthy one when high levels of anxiety and tension seems to upset the balance of a stable nervous system.  Whenever you become a victim of overpowering stress, relaxation techniques can help you in generating a relaxation response, a state that is opposite of a stress response and helps one in calming down. A variety of relaxation techniques are present that can help you in producing relaxation response.

People usually associate relaxing and resting with a state of complete body rest in the form of sleeping or lying on the couch. The truth is that you can perform de-stressing exercises in a number of ways by devoting 10, 20 or 30 minutes, of your daily life routine in performing relaxation techniques and achieve significant health benefits.

Relaxation Technique that Best Suits You

There is no universal relaxation technique that applies for everyone. With variations in lifestyle, age, gender, preferences, fitness profile and responses to stress, different people prefer different relaxation techniques. The best technique for you is the one that compliments your lifestyle, keeps you focused and helps in generating an effective relaxation response. People who are willing to combat stress and anxiousness with the right tools should consider meditation for producing a relaxation response.

Meditation – a Tool for Stress Relief

Meditation has been practised as a de-stressing technique for over thousand years now. It can be described as mind-body harmonising medicine. By taking a few minutes from your busy schedule for pure indulgence in a focused state of tranquillity and peace you can enhance the physical and mental health of your body. The main purpose of meditation is to detach you from all the worldly stress factors that are hampering productive thoughts and enter a relaxed state of mind.

Benefits of Meditation

Meditation helps one in focusing on the positive aspects of life. By generating feelings of calmness and peace it enhances the physical state and emotional well-being of your body. A number of advantages of meditation are highlighted as below:

  1. Develop a positive outlook towards stressful situations
  2. Enhance concentration and focus on present
  3.  Boost up your self-awareness
  4. Divert attention from negative thoughts to positive ones.

Meditation also has medicinal significance and helps in curing a number of stress-related diseases. The followings conditions have shown a positive recovery response with respect to meditation:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Allergies
  • Sleeping disorders
  • Pain
  • Substance abuse
  • High blood pressure
  • Auto-immune conditions, such as eczema

Types of Meditation for Stress Relief

Mantra meditation

A meaningful and positive phrase that gives a sense of amity and tranquillity of mind is repeated over and over again. This meditation technique is helpful in situations when you want to distract yourself from negative thoughts of failure, despair or hopelessness.

Visualisation meditation

This type of meditation is also known as guided meditation and visualisations of a comforting and peaceful location is formed in your mind as you meditate. Visual sense is further aided by the other four senses being touch, taste, sound and smell. The person forms a mental image of peaceful locations such as a beach or mountains and a therapist may add a soothing music to further make the visualisation process seem more real such as sound of waves in a visual beach setting.

Mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness can be described as the experience of focusing on the present moment, non-judgementally. By concentrating on the moment-to-moment feelings you free yourself from negative thoughts concerning the past and the future.  By broadening the horizons of your conscious awareness, you learn to live in the present to the fullest. Meditation is used to cultivate mindfulness for anxiety, overwhelming stress, depression and other states of imbalanced nervous system. Some forms of meditation include bringing your attention to a present-day single repetitive action such as your breathing, a repeated phrase or focusing on an object, such as a candle.

Transcendental meditation

With the aid of a repetitive phrase, sound or word you can concentrate your conscious awareness in generating a relaxation response. Transcendental meditation removes any distracting and negative thoughts from your mind resulting in a state of tranquillity and harmony.

Yoga and Tai Chi

While Yoga and Tai Chi are not pure forms of meditation, they have aspects of meditation in their philosophy. Yoga includes controlled deep breathing and physical exercises while engaging in stationary and moving postures. It helps in combating stress factors and also helps in developing stamina, flexibility and body balance. Tai Chi is also a form of meditation exercise that consists of a group of people moving in synch. Through Tai Chi you practice self-paced slow body movements that help in enhancing your concentration level, developing a relaxed state of mind and generating a conscious flow of vital energy throughout one’s body.

Tips on How to Meditate

There are several elements that help in the generation of a powerful relaxation response through the technique of meditation. If you are wondering how to meditate with successful results then below are some pointers that can help you:

1. Deep and controlled breathing

Whenever you meditate, it is important that you observe the quality of your breathing. Deep, steady-paced breathing through the expansion and contraction of diaphragm muscles results in effective oxygen distribution to all body cells. Make sure that you do not use neck, shoulder or upper chest muscles for breathing as this will result in ineffective oxygen delivery. Start by observing your breath without necessarily changing it. As you observe your breathing, it is a common response that your breath will start to naturally move into a more relaxed cycle.

2. Focused concentration

The main element of meditation is focused conscious awareness. To learn the art of focusing on objects, repetitive mantras or words and deep breathing you need to make sure that your thoughts are not hampered by worldly distractions. In order to achieve a state of inner and outer peace you need to free yourself from all the stress factors. The process of meditation is not about stopping your thoughts or having a blank mind, but rather it is about bringing yourself back to the object of focus, such as your breath. Even if you do this hundreds of times during a sitting session, this is the process of meditation.

3. Quiet setting

You will find it easier to concentrate when performing meditation away from all distractions such as cell phones, doorbells, television and life’s day-to-day distractions. A quiet setting also helps in cultivating mindfulness and inner peace and you will find yourself to be more attentive towards your body sensations. Some people prefer meditation in natural settings such as parks, the beach or woods to avoid traffic noise and other urban life commotions.

4. Comfortable posture and position

There are no restrictions associated with the body posture and position while performing meditation. You can stand up, sit down, lie down or walk while meditating as long as you find your comfort zone in that particular position and posture. If you feel discomfort or pain at any time throughout your meditation, it is perfectly OK to re-adjust your body position to a more comfortable position.

Many people can enjoy the health benefits of meditation, but are intimidated by incorrect notions that meditation and mindfulness is extremely difficult and challenging. If you’re interested in learning how to meditate in an effective way, you may want to consider joining a meditation group or participating in a mindfulness course or workshop. You may want to investigate MBSR- Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, as it is a course that is run in many parts of the world and teaches you the specific skills of meditation without any religious affiliations.

Australia Counselling can link you with professional counsellors, psychologists and therapists that use mindfulness and meditation approaches in their work. Visit our meditation page and mindfulness page to see counsellors that work with these approaches in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and regional areas of Australia. A number of our counsellors and psychologists offer training in meditation with MBSR and mindfulness workshops. Visit our public workshops page to find a workshop near you.