- Relaxing with sustained concentration
Techniques from Mind Tools
As with our next tool (self-hypnosis),
meditation has a popular image that can
lead to it being dismissed as a less-than-serious
stress management tool. This is a shame.
Good research has been conducted into meditation
that shows it is a useful and practical
technique for managing stress.
As with the next two tools, meditation
is a good way of relaxing during, and at
the end of, a stressful day. It is something
you can learn to do yourself, or may be
something you prefer to learn in classes.
Some of the key research on meditation
was carrier out by Dr. Herbert Benson
of Harvard University. His book on
Relaxation Response”, was
published in 1968. In a series of
experiments into various popular meditation
techniques, Dr. Benson established
that these techniques had a very real
effect on reducing stress and controlling
the fight-or-flight response. Direct
effects included slowed heartbeat
and breathing, reduced oxygen consumption
and increased skin resistance.
Using the Tool:
The idea behind meditation is to consciously
relax your body and focus your thoughts
on one thing for a sustained period. This
occupies your mind, diverting it from the
problems that are causing you stress. It
gives your body time to relax and recuperate,
and to clear away stress hormones that may
have built up.
There is nothing mystical about meditation.
On the contrary, it is something that you
can do quite easily by following these steps:
- Sit quietly and comfortably.
- Close your eyes.
- Start by relaxing the muscles of your
feet and work up your body relaxing muscles
(a technique like Progressive
Muscular Relaxation can be useful
- Focus your attention on your breathing.
- Breathe in deeply and then let your
breath out. Count your breaths, and say
the number of the breath as you let it
out (this gives you something to do with
your mind, helping you to avoid distraction).
Do this for ten or twenty minutes.
Focusing on breathing and counting breaths
is just one way you can occupy your mind
during meditation. Other approaches are:
- Focusing on an object:
Here, you completely focus attention on
examination of an object. Look at it in
immense detail for the entire meditation.
Examine the shape, color differences,
texture, temperature and movement of the
object. Objects often used are flowers,
candle flames or flowing designs, but
you can use other objects equally effectively
(for example alarm clocks, desk lamps
or even coffee mugs!)
- Focus on a sound:
Some people like to focus on sounds they
make. The classic example is the Sanskrit
word “Om”, meaning “perfection”.
Whether or not this is practical depends
on your lifestyle.
- Using Imagery:
This can be a very refreshing and pleasant
way of meditating. Here, you create a
mental image of a pleasant and relaxing
place in your mind. For more information,
article on imagery.
- Listening to Meditation Scripts:
You can access a useful library
of meditation scripts by clicking here.
Most of these are chargeable, however
you can listen to the free (and beautiful)
"Secret Garden" script by clicking
However you do it, it is important to keep
your attention focused. If external thoughts
or distractions wander into your mind, let
them drift out.
Meditation is a useful and practical relaxation
technique. To use it, sit in a comfortable
place, close your eyes, relax your body,
and focus your concentration on something
for a period of time.
By meditating, you rest your body, allow
stress hormones to subside, and occupy your
mind so that unpleasant, stressful thoughts
do not intrude.