Do you use meditation as a vitamin or an aspirin? Ideally, meditation is to be used to create an established sense of peace, not to treat a stressful situation when it arises.
Though meditation can prevent reactivity and the build-up of stress, sometimes you need a quick fix, a prescription for peace, especially if you are feeling trapped in a stressful situation and it’s not always prudent to stop everything you are doing and sit down and meditate. Here are a few simple practices I teach that you can do to find some peace. No one even has to know you’re doing them.
Practice each of these exercises below as you read them. Each takes less than a minute. You’ll have them on hand when you need to refresh your attitude or shift your body’s stress response.
· Close your eyes: You can usually close your eyes without being noticed, even if for only a half a minute. Try it now. The outside world takes a backseat while you go within. You almost instantly regain a sense of balance and relaxation.
· 30-second body scan: Bring your attention to how your body feels, sitting or standing, right where you are at this moment. With your eyes open or closed, scan your body from the top down, front and back, relaxing as you go. Relax your forehead, your eyes, your mouth, your tongue, your jaw. Lower your shoulders and relax your belly. Bring your attention to your hands, then your feet. In less than a minute, you can feel better from the inside out.
· Feel your breath: You can find inner peace with your eyes open, too. Focus your attention on your breath as you slowly take in a deep breath through your nose, then, let it out slowly through your nose. Pause for two seconds, then repeat. Holding the breath after you exhale helps counteract stress patterns of shallow breathing or holding the breath in. In, out, hold, repeat.
· Count your breaths: Eyes open or closed, it might help to silently count your breaths. In, count one; out, count two. Count your breaths all the way to ten. The mind might wander, but simply keep focusing back to your breath and counting. This calms your nervous system.
· Pay attention to each one of your senses: What are you hearing in this moment? What are you feeling? What are you seeing? What do you taste? What do you smell? By paying attention to your senses, your focus can shift back to the present moment just enough to relieve stress.
· Say a prayer or affirmation: Silently repeating a prayer or an affirmation can immediately shift your focus from a stressful situation to peace. Slowly say a prayer in your mind or repeat an affirmation.
All is well, I’m doing the best I can
Peace can be found here and now
This too shall pass
, are good examples. You can also choose a single word, like
One, Relax, Trust, or Calm
. Repeat seven times.
· Smile: Give yourself a smile (don’t grimace.) Smiling releases endorphins that reduce stress and help you feel better. Studies have shown that even faking a smile can lead to feeling happier. Even if it feels strange at first, make it a point to smile more often.
· Slow down: Do one thing at a time, move a little slower than usual. Get up from your chair more deliberately or walk a bit more slowly—you’ll find that this helps ease the tension, brings you back to the present moment, and relaxes your mind and body.
· Excuse yourself: If you’re unhappy in the moment, or if you’re around people who are unhappy, the discomfort can be contagious. Whenever you notice signals of stress in your body, simply excuse yourself, “I’ve got to get back to a project,” and walk away. That project is your inner peace. Go outside, back to your desk, or head to the bathroom. Once there, use one of the above techniques.