Meditation has many wonderful benefits for stress management. One of the most valuable aspects of meditation is that it can build resilience over time, but it can also help one feel less stressed in minutes if used as a tool to simply relax your body and mind. It can also help you to get into the practice of responding to the challenges in your life from a more relaxed, mindful place rather than reacting to life’s challenges out of fear, and it can help you to get in the practice of letting go of grudges and redirecting yourself away from rumination.
Despite the many benefits of meditation, it can be an intimidating practice to begin. Perhaps surprisingly, many people don’t try meditation because they believe it’s difficult to practice or only effective with regular, lengthy sessions. Not true! Meditation can be practiced in many ways, so there is bound to be a collection of techniques that resonate with each individual, and with each person’s situation. (For example, if you are a bath person, a tub meditation may be the perfect thing for your next bath; chocolate lovers may greatly enjoy a chocolate meditation. Those who like to move may prefer a walking meditation.) And while you can receive the biggest gains from meditation with frequent practice, just five minutes of meditation actually can bring quick stress relief. So if you only have five minutes for meditation, here’s how to make them count:
Steps for a Quick Meditation
- Set aside time. Set a timer for five minutes, so you can relax and not worry about staying in meditation for ‘too long’, missing appointments. (If you have an iPhone, the Healing Music application can be used as a timer, though the regular timer that comes with most phones can also be useful.)
- Relax your body. Just close your eyes and relax. Take a few deep breaths from your diaphragm and release the tension in your body. Try to visualize the tension leaving your body from your head to your feet, either as imagining that the stress is literally draining from you through your toes, escaping your body with every breath, or simply melting away.
- Clear your mind. When you work on clearing your mind of thoughts, rather than focusing on ‘thinking of nothing’, focus on ‘being’, and when thoughts enter your mind, gently acknowledge them and let them go, returning your focus to the present moment again. If you focus on how well you are doing this, that becomes the focus. If you accept that constantly bringing your mind back to the present moment is the meditation, it will be much easier to keep your mind still.
- Keep going. Continue this for five minutes, and return to your day feeling more relaxed and refreshed. Simply focus on the sensations you are feeling in your body, focus on your breath, or focus on letting go. Try this meditation regularly, and you should feel less stressed overall.
- Be sure you’re in a comfortable position; little nagging discomforts like scratchy clothes or an awkward sitting position can be a distraction from meditation.
- Don’t get too focused on whether or not you’re ‘doing it right’. (This can actually make meditation more stressful!) Thoughts may often enter your head; the process of redirecting your focus to the present moment is where the benefit comes.
- Playing meditation music or using aromatherapy can enhance your practice. They aren’t necessary, but they can add to your experience if you can conveniently incorporate them.
- Meditation has been used for both short-term calming (it can reverse your stress response pretty quickly) and long-term resilience (regular practice can help you become less reactive to stress!), so frequent meditation is a wonderful and effective stress management tool.
- For best results, try to fit in longer meditation sessions (like 20 minutes or more) a few times per week. Then, you will be more practiced with meditation in general, and these 5-minute sessions will have more of an impact when you need them!