Have you ever:
I have. That was when I realized I was burning out and needed to make changes now, not someday. It was time to push the reset button and use meditation to de-stress.
I remember the first time I tried to meditate. I fell asleep. And the second time and the third time. It was great for resting!
On the other hand, I felt frustrated. So much for achieving all of the reported benefits of meditation.
I needed the results now, not after practicing the skill for years. I guess I just didn’t have the patience of a yogi. So, I went looking for fast, easy solutions.
The good news is that I found them, and they have helped me tremendously get through some very trying times in my life. And they can help you too.
Meditation is about focusing on becoming calm and relaxed. It truly doesn’t have to be hard, time-consuming, or boring. It doesn’t even need to be done sitting or lying in one position.
Here is a compilation of 12 tried and true –perhaps unconventional — meditation tools to help you calm the monkey mind chatter of overwhelm. They can kick your brain back into gear and get you moving toward calm, clarity and balance.
They are fast, easy, and require no prior experience in meditation. Enjoy!
When experiencing stress, worry or anxiety, your body tenses up in anticipation of the need to fight or flee.
Unlike running short-term from a saber-toothed tiger, however, you tend to maintain your state of stress so that your muscles can’t relax and recuperate. The longer you tense your muscles, the more likely you are to cause a physical condition or chronic pain.
In addition, your body posture and actions influence your emotions. For example, if your muscles are relaxed, you are too.
By consciously relaxing certain key muscles, you can reverse your emotional tension.
First, you need to know a) when your muscles are tense, and b) how to consciously relax them.
However, most people aren’t even aware that they’re walking around with their shoulders up by their ears and scowling.
The purpose of the following exercise is to create awareness of your body’s state of tension and stress, then release it.
See how much better you feel already? I recommend that you routinely monitor and correct yourself, for instance, every time you look in a mirror.
A yawn forces you to take a deep breath, slow down the breathing, and to exhale fully. This counteracts the fast, shallow breathing experienced with stress and anxiety.
Open your mouth wide, yawn loudly with a big sigh, and stretch your arms above your head and out to the sides. Make sure to stretch out the back and shoulder muscles – key places where tension can build up.
Your body’s body language speaks to you as well as others.
Try these two different postures and see which feels best to you:
The first posture makes you feel inferior and depressed, whereas the second makes you feel confident and upbeat.
The same holds true for smiling. If you consciously smile, you are actually sending the message to your brain that you are happy. If you are a habitual scowler, put a pencil between your teeth for a while and notice the difference!
Add in Exercise #1 to be even more relaxed, calm and confident.
If you are hurrying because you’re late, you are reinforcing that fight-or-flight reaction.
Therefore, slow down your pace, even if it seems counterproductive at the moment.
Even though you may arrive a bit later, you will be calm, cool, and collected.
Add in Exercise #7 to boost your calm, relaxed feeling.
When you’re feeling tired and stressed, just the added stimulation of things going on around you can feel overwhelming. Blocking out some of the outside “noise” can decrease your stress triggers and induce relaxation.
Rub your hands together to make them warm. When your palms are warm, close your eyes and place your hands over your eyes with your fingers on your forehead and palms resting on your face.
Sit quietly for a moment and enjoy the touch of your hands on your face and the peaceful darkness.
During the stress response, blood flows to the major muscles to allow them to act, but blood flow to the hands and feet can be decreased. This is why our hands and feet feel cold when we’re stressed.
The act of shaking a body part improves blood flow and encourages tense muscles to relax. To induce the relaxation response, shake your hands. You can even shake your whole arms and shake your feet and legs if you want.
The following simple exercise can be done anywhere, whether you are sitting inside at your desk or forest bathing doing a walking meditation.
Mindfulness is simply the act of focusing on the present moment so that you release past negative memories like the fight you had with your coworker or future worries like your bills which are piling up.
You use all of your physical senses to engage your focus on the here and now: sight, hearing, smell, touch, what you’re feeling inside, and even taste when possible. You allow your thoughts to drift through your mind without trying to control them.
To start, simply state to yourself:
3 things I hear are…. e.g. children laughing
3 things I see are…. e.g. birds flying
3 things I feel on the outside are… e.g. the cool breeze on my face
3 things I feel on the inside are…. e.g. I am hungry
3 things I smell are… e.g. cooking food
3 things I taste are… e.g. food I am eating (texture could be used for inner sensations)
Proper breathing is the foundation of all relaxation and meditation.
However, when you are stressed or anxious, your breathing changes. You begin to take short, quick, shallow breaths. You use your accessory muscles of breathing, such as your neck muscles, and you don’t exhale fully.
In your caveman past, this was to allow your body to engage in an intense physical activity for survival. This is okay for the short term. But over time, it can lead to tension headaches, diaphragm spasms, and anxiety attacks.
Proper breathing is an excellent way to manage stress because it stops this negative cycle and calms the body.
What is the best way to breathe then? And how do you know if you’re breathing properly? The following is just one way to re-educate yourself to breathe properly and de-stress quickly:
1. Diaphragmatic breathing exercise: Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. When you breathe in, you should ideally feel your belly expand fully and only then your chest.
2. This is a routine of slow in- and out-breaths, where the in-breath is to the count of 3, and the out-breath progressively increases from the count of 3 to 6 then back to 3 (in cycles of 3 repetitions). The counting focuses the mind on the relaxation and breath, rather than on intruding thoughts. With practice, it also trains the mind to relax as soon as the deep breathing starts. This is a great beginner step. Once you get the hang of it, you can progress to the next step.
3. Inhale slowly to the count of four. Pause to the count of three. Exhale slowly to the count of five. Repeat for a minute or two.
One of the fastest and easiest ways to relax is simply to focus on breathing with a long, slow out-breath. This is great for all times in your life when you need to lower your stress temperature quickly.
Positive thoughts make you stronger and healthier: your muscles, your organs, and your immune system. They also relax you.
One of the best, easiest and fastest ways to do this is to focus on what you’re grateful for.
List everything you’re grateful for, every morning when you wake up and every evening before you go to sleep. This puts you in the optimal frame of mind to start and end your day.
Next, focus on at least 5 things you appreciate about someone who is increasing your stress levels. You may not feel you can come up with even 5 points initially. Stick with the exercise anyway.
Repeat 1 point, 5 times, if that is all you can conjure. If you can’t even think of one thing, make something up that you would like to be true, and keep repeating it.
The goal is to start the momentum of thinking positively in order to reduce the tension when you’re thinking of them.
Do the same for any stressful situation. Make a list of at least 5 things you appreciate about it.
At the very least, you can say you’re grateful for everything you have learned about the situation and about yourself after having gone through it.
**Create a story if you need to, even in the moment of the situation. For instance, if someone cuts me off in city rush hour traffic, I will make up a story about that person such as, “Oh that’s Bob. He just found out his mother has been taken to the hospital and he’s rushing to get there.”
It takes the sting out of the situation and personalizes it so that you’re not experiencing road rage at some nameless faceless person.
This is one of the simplest relaxation techniques to learn.
Whether you are sitting, lying or even standing:
Gently shrug your shoulders, then drop them.
You can create your own non-structured meditative activities. Choose any activity you enjoy in which you can lose track of time. This might be painting, playing music, hiking, reading or more. The very act of immersing yourself in it is meditative.
The Healing Energy Light Process (HELP) meditation is a quick, effective method to dramatically release negative stressors and emotions like anxiety, tension, anger, guilt, shame, depression, fatigue, and physical pain.
Because it is designed to be performed standing or sitting, this can be done almost anywhere, anytime. No experience is needed.
Just follow along with the instructions. Once you get the hang of this exercise, you can do it on your own in just a couple of minutes or less.
Do you still think meditation is too hard and takes too much time and energy?
Can you take 2-20 minutes per day (or even less) to implement these easy, fast tools to calm your monkey mind chatter?
Are you ready to commit to changing your life for the better?
Remember, relax and have fun with the journey.
Even if you’re eager to try all of them at once, start by doing exercise #1 the first day, then add in exercise #2 the second day, and so on until you’ve completed the first 6 exercises. Then, try one of exercises #7-12 daily. While they are all amazing tools, you may find one or two that you resonate with more.
By adding only one of these quick exercises at a time, you’ll effortlessly build the foundation of the habit needed to get you the results. By day #13, you’ll have made great progress.
Lather, rinse and repeat with these tools for at least a month.
Looking back, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see just how much calmer and balanced you feel. Just maybe, you’ll then be eager to look for more meditations and activities to continue your meditative journey.
If you have a technique which has helped you in the past, please post in the comments below!