How to Meditate, Reduce Stress, Practice Mindfulness

Stress management doesn’t have to be complicated or mystical. Meditation and mindfulness are now being regularly used in medicine. This is a common-sense approach that explains how to meditate in plain language. You will learn a simple method to relax your body and mind.

The Key to Meditation

The key to meditation is to relax your body first, and your mind will follow. Do not try to relax your mind.

Your body and mind are in constant communication. If you can relax one, you will relax the other. But it is hard to relax your mind. The more you try to relax your mind, the more tense you become. It can feel like you’re chasing your tail. Therefore, relax your body first, and you will be surprised at how your mind will follow.

Try This Simple One-Minute Experiment

  • Sit in a chair with both your feet resting comfortably on the ground. Imagine your legs and feet becoming heavy. Mentally scan the soles of your feet, and feel each point where your soles touch the ground.
  • It’s important that you use your senses to feel your body touching the ground. Don’t try to visualize it – feel it. Do this for a few breaths before moving on.
  • Next, imagine your whole body becoming heavy and loose. Mentally scan the points where your body touches the chair. Feel your seat and hips touching the chair. Do this for a few more breaths before reading further.

If you did this simple experiment, you’re already breathing more slowly and feeling more relaxed. What’s amazing is how quickly you can relax once you know how.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is relaxed awareness. It is the state of being aware and in the moment, instead of wasting energy dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. During meditation, you practice being mindful, so that you can be relaxed and aware during the day.

Mindfulness is different from concentration, which is focusing on just one thing. For example, you can focus on the flickering light of a candle. But when you focus on just one thing, you become unaware of your surroundings.

Mindfulness is a model of how to live life. If you are aware but tense, you are hypervigilant, which makes you inefficient. If you are relaxed but unaware, you are unproductive. Relaxed and aware is the sweet spot. You can accomplish things, but you are relaxed enough to enjoy life.

How to Meditate - Practice Mindfulness: Step-By-Step

1. Start with a Quiet Place

Pick a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. It’s hard to relax if you think you might be interrupted at any time.

2. Find a Comfortable Position

There are three basic positions to choose from. You can relax lying down, sitting on the floor, or sitting in a chair. All are equally good. Find a position that is comfortable for you. It’s not about the position.

3. Choose Something to Focus On

Relax your body - and your mind will follow. To relax your body, focus on feeling grounded and centered. You become grounded by scanning your body and feeling where your body touches the ground. Engage you sense of touch. Feel the weight of your body. Don’t try to visualize it – feel it.

You become centered by turning your focus inward, which turns your mind away from your distractions. Meditation is active. You don’t just sit and try to relax. You actively relax.

4. Stay In the Moment

The goal of meditation is to practice being relaxed and in the moment. The more you practice feeling relaxed and in the moment during your meditation, the easier it will be to feel that way inn the rest of your life.

But your mind is a noisy place. When you try to meditate, your mind will try to resist by jumping from thought to thought.

It helps to say something that will hold your focus. Choose something that is easy to repeat, silently to yourself. It could be anything. “Use your senses. Feel grounded.” “Let go of fears.” “Let go of resentments.” It could be an affirmation: “I am calm.” “I am strong.” It could be something simple like, “Let go.”

In traditional meditation this called a “mantra,” but a simpler name is “focus words.” Say them as quickly as you need to stay focused, but not so quickly that you lose sight of the main objective, which is to feel grounded and centered. Meditation is not silent.

5. Don’t Try to Empty Your Mind

It is impossible to empty your mind. An empty mind isn’t good for anything. This is probably the most common misconception about meditation. People think they’re supposed to empty their mind. The goal is not to empty your mind. The goal is to practice being relaxed and in the moment.

During meditation, you practice filling your mind with the moment. Your senses exist in the moment, and when you focus on feeling grounded and centered, you connect with the moment. The purpose of the focus words is also to fill your mind with the moment. Don’t try to empty your mind.

6. Let Go of Distractions

It’s normal to be distracted every few breaths. The other misconception about meditation is that you will eventually enter a state of serene bliss. The reality is that your mind will be distracted all the time, and you will constantly struggle to stay focused and in the moment.

When you are distracted, don't get frustrated, and don’t try to relax your mind. Instead return to feeling grounded. Feel the weight of your body on the ground, and you will gradually begin to relax again.

Usually you will be distracted because you have stopped saying your focus words. Distractions are so subtle, that it will take a while before you even realize that your mind has wandered off.

7. Mindfulness

Mindfulness is being aware and relaxed in the moment. During meditation, you will become aware of the negative thoughts that distract you, such as anxieties, fears, resentments, sadness, remorse, or cravings.

Mindfulness will show you the recurring themes of your negative thoughts. This is why meditation is more than just a way to relax, it transforms your life. Understanding your thinking is the first step towards changing it.

One distraction that deserves special mention is being in a rush to relax. When you meditate, it’s normal to start to think about everything else you should be doing. When you notice that, simply let that thought go and return to feeling grounded and repeating your focus words.

8. Your Practice

Start meditating for 10 minutes a day and let your practice grow gradually. There is no right amount of time to relax. It depends on your schedule.

The longer you relax, the better you will feel. Most people settle on 20 to 40 minutes a day as a good balance between self-care and other obligations. But 10 minutes a day is good too, if that’s all you have.

When is the best time to relax? It also depends on your lifestyle. Most people prefer to relax in the morning when there are fewer distractions. Later in the day, it seems there is always something important that makes you postpone meditating for another day.

9. Test Mediation for Yourself. Don’t Just Accept It

You don’t have to believe in meditation for it to work. It works because it is scientifically proven to change your thinking. But it’s important that you decide for yourself.

Once you have practiced meditation for a few weeks, try the following experiment. Stop doing it for a few days and see what happens. Within a day or two, you will begin to lose your emotional memory of how it feels to be relaxed, and your tension will start to build again. A few days later, little things will begin to irritate you. A couple days after that, you’ll be back to your old self.

10. Make it Your Own

You don’t learn how to relax. You practice being relaxed. People are able to lower their blood pressure through meditation. But if they don’t relax every day, their blood pressure will start to climb again. When you’re under daily stress, you have to practice being relaxed to stay relaxed. Don’t think of meditation as a chore. It is a gift you give to yourself.

How Meditation Works

You develop an emotional memory of how it feels to be relaxed and in the moment so that you can access it later. How can relaxing for 20 minutes a day help you feel relaxed the rest of the day? You practice being relaxed during a meditation session, so that it’s easier to let go of negative thinking and be in the moment during the day. Your relaxed feeling will spill over to the rest of your life.

You become aware of your negative thinking. If you have many worries or fears, you will often be distracted by worries or fears as you try to meditate. If you tend to anger quickly, you will be distracted by resentments. Becoming aware of your negative thinking, gives you the opportunity to change it. Changing your thinking will change your life.

Mind-body relaxation is a mirror of your life. Whatever makes you tense in your life, will also make you tense when you try to relax. The way you let go of your negative thinking during meditation, is how you will let go of your negative thinking in the rest of your life.

Change Your life

If you relax for 20 minutes every day for a month, you will feel more relaxed. If you relax every day for year, it will change your life. The benefits of meditation are real. It will improve your mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing.

Last Modified: September 10, 2018