Whether you’re dealing with a difficult moment in recovery or just stressed out from a busy day, a quick meditation exercise can soothe frazzled nerves. And no, you don’t need to be familiar with meditation to feel the benefits of these short exercises. In particular, you may benefit from deep breathing.
Deep breathing helps you get more oxygen into your body reminding it to relax and slow down. This style of deep breathing is also known as diaphragmatic breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing means contracting your entire diaphragm rather than breathing into your chest, which can produce shallow breathing resulting in less oxygen reaching your body and brain.
By bringing your attention into the present moment, you replace competing stressors with specific action.
When we don’t get enough oxygen, our bodies are likely to feel tight and restricted making us feel more anxious. Diaphragmatic breathing lets our mind slow down and physiologically forces us to relax by bringing down our heart rate, blood pressure and resetting our breathing to its natural rhythm. Other meditation-based exercises, like sensory check-in’s and body scans, help you focus on the present. By bringing your attention into the present moment, you replace competing stressors with specific action.
There are a myriad of breathing and relaxation techniques. Our suggestions below can be done nearly anywhere and completed in less than ten minutes. We hope they bring you a renewed sense of peace.
1. Zen Word Breathing
Start this exercise by picking a word that brings you joy. Lie down and place one hand over your stomach and the other over your chest. Breathe in and out through your nose. Focus on bringing your breath into your diaphragm by watching the hand on your belly move up and down. If the hand on your chest is rising when you breathe, you’re not breathing into your diaphragm. As you breathe in, count to one in your mind. As you exhale, say your word in your mind. Continue to breathe in and out for ten counts total. This exercise will identify superficial breathing and train your body to breathe deeply by using your diaphragm.
2. Alternate Nostril Breathing
Alternate nostril breathing lowers stress levels and helps the body regain its natural rhythm. To do this exercise, hold one nostril closed with your thumb and breathe in through the open nostril. Hold the breath for three seconds, let go of the closed nostril, close the other nostril, and then deeply breathe out. Continue this process for ten counts. This breathing exercise improves the mind’s ability to focus, supports respiratory functions, and rejuvenates the nervous system, according to the Chopra Center.
3. Sensory Check-In
If you suffer from anxiety or panic attacks, this is a good exercise to use for staying grounding throughout the day. Wherever you are, name five things you can touch, see, smell, and hear. For “hear,” if you’re outside, perhaps the five noises are birds chirping, kids playing, cars, construction, and music from a nearby coffee shop. Paying attention to the sensory components around you help bring the mind into the present moment. It pushes away any building anxiety by simply focusing on what’s around you right now.
4. Body Scan Release
This exercise works best if you’re laying down, but it’s also possible to do seated. Once in a comfortable position, close your eyes and scan your body starting with your toes releasing sections as you scan upward toward your head. Focus on how each body part feels as you will it to release. By the time you’ve moved to your knees, you’ll feel a difference. Move to your hips, stomach, chest, shoulders, and down your arms all the way to your fingers. Come back to your neck and to your face: Cheeks, forehead, and eyebrows. The more precise you can be about the body part you’re focusing on, the stronger the release will be. This exercise is great to do at night once you’re in bed to calm down a stressed mind and body.
5. Thought Dismissal
This exercise may be frustrating at first, but it will help you gain the important meditative skill of letting go. Set a nearby timer for five minutes and sit or lay comfortably. The goal of this exercise is not to remove all thoughts but to kindly acknowledge them and move on. As you rest, pay attention to what thoughts arise. When they inevitably show up, greet them, say hello, and tell them: I will get back to you when I am finished meditating. Visualize each thought as a puppy. It’s cute and you want to play with it but your hands are full. Stay still for five minutes greeting and saying goodbye to thoughts you don’t need at the moment.
Knowing when you need a break and taking one is one of the most powerful things you can do to support your mental health. When stress and anxiety get to be too much, it’s easy and understandable to break down. But by utilizing relaxation techniques on a daily basis, some of those breakdowns may be avoided. The results from tuning into our bodies and taking just a few minutes to reconnect can be invigorating. Try checking in on yourself using these exercises and then let us know how it worked for you on Instagram.