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Mindfulness and meditation for stress reduction

Woman meditating by the lakeYou may have seen a recent study from University of Waterloo that found that 10 minutes of meditation can help anxious people focus in stressful situations. The study of meditation and mindfulness is promoted by many as an effective tool for anyone’s self-care arsenal. But you might wonder what exactly meditation and mindfulness are.

Meditation is the process of taking time to focus your mind as a way to relax. According to Edmund J. Bourne, author of The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, meditation, “allows you to expand your awareness to the point where it’s larger – or more spacious – than your fearful thoughts or emotional reactions.” (Bourne, 2005) Mindfulness is the process of “silently witnessing the ongoing stream of your inner experience with complete acceptance and without judgement.” (Bourne, 2005)

There are many different techniques for meditation and mindfulness exercises, including the following:

  • Progressive muscle relaxation
    This exercise type teaches you how to relax your muscles using a two-step process of tensing particular muscle groups in your body, and then releasing the tension and noticing how your muscles feel different when you relax.

    You can find a progressive muscle relaxation video from our Strengthening Motivation seminar, on our YouTube playlist.
  • Mindful breathing
    Maintaining a calm controlled breath can help you feel more grounded in the present. A mindful breathing exercise follows a script to help you focus on your breathing, allowing your mind to focus only on that process, and helping you to let go of any intrusive thoughts that might occur during the exercise.

    You can find a mindful breathing exercise from our Cultivating Resiliency seminar, on our YouTube playlist.
  • Guided imagery
    Guided imagery exercises consist of a series of directed thoughts that guide your imagination toward a relaxed, focused date. This relaxed state can help you feel more in control of your emotions and thought processes.

    You can find a guided imagery exercise from the Managing Emotions seminar, on our YouTube playlist.

Meditation and mindfulness practices work best if you are able to do them regularly. Even if you aren’t particularly anxious or stressed out right now, meditating in times of calm can make it easier for you to deal with times of high stress. There are many different recordings of mindfulness and meditation exercises out there, and some can be found in apps like the Stop, Breathe, and Think app, or as online videos.

Want to learn more about mindfulness and meditation? Each of our Coping Skills seminars includes a mindfulness or meditation exercise and can help you build your toolbox of skills for self-care. You can complete them in-person or online.

Sources:

Bourne, Edmund J. “The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook.” New Harbinger Publications, Inc. Oakland, California, 2005.