Meditation exercises to reduce stress

Meditation exercises to reduce stress

I am a person that tends to be in her head way to easily and that stresses way too much at times. That’s when I use these meditation exercises to calm down and make more rational decisions.

Set up you meditation moments

One of the most important things in meditation is the set-up. You want to be comfortable and relaxed, but you don’t want to fall asleep. That’s why I often choose between two options. One option is to use a sitting position with my legs crossed over each other on my bed. The other option is to lie down on a thick carpet or yoga matt. It differs per exercise which position I prefer, so I’ll tell you per exercise.

The more experienced you become, the less the environment will matter to you. However, in the beginning, I would also urge you to find a quiet, peaceful place to meditate. It’s very easy to lose your concentration in the beginning and you want to avoid that as much as possible. Otherwise you’ll not reap the benefits of meditation and you’ll be more likely to quit this great habit. Although some people benefit from having a pleasant scent around them during meditation (like incense), I would also recommend a relatively odourless environment for the same reasons.

Another important thing in the set-up is clothing. Although it’s more important when you’re actually moving, in meditation, a comfortable outfit is also essential. Nothing will annoy you more than a label sticking in you or your pants being a little bit too tight around the waste when you’re trying to concentrate. Therefore, in the beginning, I would recommend to change into comfortable clothing. Once you’re more experienced, this won’t be this much of an issue any more, since you’ll be more trained in concentration.

Start with the tangible results

The first thing I always start with is to relax my muscles. I feel like my muscles always take the first hit when I’m stressed and therefore, I feel like it’s the first place to start when trying to relax. This is an exercise I prefer to do lying down. In this exercise, I visualise a white stream coming in from the top of my head. This stream is cleansing and relaxing everything and with every breath I take, it goes a little further. The stress is visualised as sort of a black mist and leaves my body under my feet. The further the white stream goes, the more of my body is relaxed. It starts at the top of my head and continues to my jaw, my shoulders, my chest, arms, stomach, and so on. In the beginning, it takes a while to get through my whole body, but practise makes perfect and now, I’m much quicker. It’s all about concentration. This also work when I’m in pain for some reason. I visualise the pain going out into the ground from under my feet and I feel less pain.

Let the music guide you

If you find that you don’t have enough concentration for this, you can also use music. It works basically the same as the exercise above, but instead of letting your breathing guide you, you let the rhythm of the music guide you. I personally prefer Debussy’s Arabesque’s. Whenever the music goes up, I intentionally tense up my muscles and whenever it goes down, I relax them. By tensing them up first, it’s easier to let it go.

Breathe

The next thing I do is to slow down my breathe. The first exercise already made me focus on my breath more, so this is easier. I still lie down during this exercise. I try to take long breaths and breathe out slowly as well. Both take about 5 seconds. When I feel like all thoughts are out of my system except my breathing, I can continue to the next exercise, which I often sit up for.

Into the woods

The next exercise is one to actually solve problems in my life. The reason why I only start with this now is that I don’t want stress to influence my decisions. Therefore, I had to get rid of that first. This exercise sounds really strange, but I’ve had so many epiphanies using this that I want to share it with you.

Imagine you’re walking in the woods. You hear the birds and animals, you feel the little twigs and the dirt under your feet and next to you, there is a little stream of water. Feel the water, see the rocks underneath it. You can take a few minutes to really imagine the details of this scene, otherwise it won’t work. When the scene is well established, you can start following the stream. Once you’ve been following the stream for a while, you see the trees open up. You find a field of grass in the middle of the woods and the stream runs right through. Go to the middle of your side of the field and sit down. I often imagine myself sitting down cross-legged since it’s also my real position.

After a while, you want someone to come up to you on the other side of the stream. That someone can be anyone, a friend, a family member, a clone of yourself or even an animal. For me, it’s someone different every time, depending on the problem I have. The strange thing is that I never know who will come out of those woods beforehand, the person is created in my subconscious and I can only meet them when I’m in a deep meditative state. When the person sits down in front of me, I talk to the person. I explain the problem in as much detail as I can and somehow, this person will often talk back to me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t really hear a voice, but it’s a way to let my subconscious come through to speak to me. This exercise helps me a lot when my conscious mind is too confused or emotional to know what to do. When you feel like you’ve got everything you need, you thank the other person, stand up and walk away. With this, you slowly wake yourself up again. This exercise asks for a lot of practise and concentration, but it works wonders for me when I’m overly stressed and when I don’t know what to do.

Affirmations

What also works for many people is to use affirmations. Affirmations are basically sentences that you repeat until you start believing them. Examples are:

  • I can do it
  • I am relaxed
  • I am capable
  • I am a good person
  • I am beautiful

It can help to boost your confidence. I personally only use them in times of need, but some people also like to do them every morning for a positive start of the day. You can also write them down if you find specific ones that work for you.

Mantra’s can also work. These are mere words that you echo whilst breathing. They can also just do sounds. I often just start humming, because I like the base it creates.

Confidence boost

The last exercise I like to use when I feel stressed is another visualisation exercise. It is especially helpful when I’m stressed for something specific, like giving a speech for a group of people. I visualise me standing there, exactly how I want it to go. I say all the perfect lines, the crowd nods and laughs when they should and at the end, I feel relieved and satisfied. By envisioning this before it happens, you will feel much more confident. In addition, famous athletes also use this technique, since it also helps with their actual performance. In other words, envisioning the task going well increases the chances of it going well, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy!

I hope these exercises can help you reduce your stress levels and boost your concentration to actually get more things done. Have you ever meditated before and if so, what meditation exercises did you use? Let me know in the comments below! And if you liked this, please subscribe to my blog or follow me on InstagramPinterest and Twitter, so you’ll never have to miss a new post!

Lots of love,

Lisa

Ps. I have put a couple of affiliate links in this article. This means that I earn a small commission if you buy something. This way, I can keep this blog going. However, if you don’t want to buy from my link, don’t feel pressured to do so!

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Hi there! My name is Lisa and I am the author of Mind and Body Intertwined. I have a bachelor's and a master's degree in psychology. During my study, I found out how much the mind and the body are connected and it fascinated me, which is why I started my blog. Would you like to join me on this little corner of the world?

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22 Comments on “Meditation exercises to reduce stress

  1. I have started getting into affirmations lately! Great post!

    Amber – The Unpredicted Page

  2. I absolutely love meditating but I usually just do guided meditation on youtube etc. I love the sound of the Into the Woods exercise you described, I will 100% be trying that out!

    Thank you so much for sharing,

    Em x
    https://planningwithem.com

    • I hope you’ll love it as much as I do and I wish you so much good luck!

  3. I’ve been trying to meditate more but it’s been a little tough because I can never seem to stop thinking all the time. When I do manage to do it, thought it feels so much better afterwards and since I’m fairly new to doing it, I’m still learning a lot about it and this post was very helpful and informative. Thank you for sharing! 💗

    • That’s great, the first few times are the hardest! Ones you’ve found a way to get into your quiet zone, you’ll do great! That’s why I always start with some concentration exercises, that way my mind can’t wander!

  4. This is a lovely post, I am so happy I came across it. I love meditation but I find that I have a short attention span and can’t focus for long enough. These tips are amazing and I love the affirmations! Thank you for sharing

    Em x

  5. Oh wow I am putting this one in my bookmarks to keep! Just reading it I already felt so relaxed and for someone who has such a hard time meditating you make is seem so possible! I am going to practice this one for sure!!! Thank you for such an amazing share!

    • Thank you so much, you’re too sweet! I really hope it’ll help you as much as it helps me!

    • I can imagine it does! And you barely lose time doing it and it can be done anywhere. I hope the rest will help as well!

    • That’s so cool! I’d never heard from them until recently but it sounds like a great idea 👌🏻

  6. I’ve never really done mediation before, as it doesn’t tend to work for me, and certain methods can trigger psychotic episodes. However, I do need to learn more about it for my placement, so this has been quite useful. Thanks for sharing

    • I can imagine some things might indeed not be for you, maybe you could try it with a coach or something?

  7. I hope you’ll find a way! And it’s natural to be struggling in the beginning, I was to. I wouldn’t last longer than 5 minutes back then. Practice makes perfect, so don’t be too hard on yourself!

  8. I really struggle with meditating, though I am trying to make a habit of it. I’ve found guided meditations really help me, and I love the ones on the Meditation Minis podcast!

    These are some great suggestions, though! I’ll try and see if something sticks. 🙂

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