Research shows that daily meditation is highly effective for reducing stress. According to Harvard University, meditation can reverse the body’s stress response, which includes elevated blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature.1 Regular meditation has also been found to improve the way your body and mind respond to stress moving forward.
Meditation isn’t complicated, and you don’t have to be a guru to do it right. Just follow these steps:
- Find a quiet place, and sit comfortably. Close your eyes.
- Breathe slowly and deeply. Focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your body.
- Allow your mind to go blank as you continue to focus on your breathing. Find yourself in the present moment, where thoughts of the past and worries about the future cease to exist.
- When a conscious thought enters your mind, simply acknowledge it without judgement, and send it away on your exhale.
- Start with just five or 10 minutes a day, and work your way up to 20 minutes or more.
Meditation can be tough at first. Clearing your mind of conscious thought isn’t easy, and in the beginning, you’ll find thoughts forming quite frequently. It’s okay. Just send them away, and bring your attention back to the present moment and back to your breath. After a week or two of daily practice, meditation will become much easier, and you’ll start noticing the benefits.
Deep-breathing exercises reduce your stress on the spot. Deep breathing lowers the level of stress hormones, which reduces your blood pressure, muscle tension and breathing rate.
Whenever you’re feeling stressed this holiday season:
- Breathe in slowly and deeply, letting your abdomen expand fully.
- Hold the breath for five seconds.
- Exhale slowly. Visualize your stress leaving your body with the exhale.
- Repeat until you feel calmer and more relaxed.
Exercise is a powerful stress reducer, and it’s been clinically proven to reduce depression and anxiety as effectively as medications. Aerobic exercise lowers stress hormone levels and increases the production of endorphins, the brain’s feel-good chemicals. Exercise relaxes you, promotes better sleep and improves self-confidence. Any type of exercise works to reduce stress. Walking, jogging, biking, swimming, yoga and dancing are all excellent exercises for reduced stress and a better mood. Strive for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
Mindfulness is the act of focusing your attention on your thoughts, emotions and sensations in the present moment, without judgment. Staying in tune with your thought patterns and emotions helps you self-regulate your state of mind. It helps you avoid automatic, self-destructive reactions to triggers and instead choose to react strategically. Awareness and acceptance of your thoughts and emotional state without judgment helps you let go of negative emotions and make better decisions.
Research shows that mindfulness also:
- Reduces cravings, even when you’re feeling negative emotions
- Reduces anxiety and stress
- Promotes self-compassion and self-love
- Promotes a higher level of self-awareness
This is part two of five in the series Staying Sober Over the Holidays. Next, read Staying Sober Over the Holidays, Part 3: Evaluate High-Risk Gatherings.