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April 22, 2018: Moments of Zen

This week, we’re talking about finding moments of zen in your daily life. We all need to find small moments of peace in each day to stay positive, energetic, and healthy. Today, we’re going to look at a few options for adding those moments into your daily life.

Why we need to find time for peace

Our bodies and minds require down time, and relaxation or simply just moments of peace, are something we need daily. Adding some of these moments into your daily schedule can keep you healthy and from burning out. Additionally, benefits of allowing yourself some time to relax, even briefly, include:

  • Increasing productivity
  • Improving focus
  • Making you more creative
  • Increasing energy

Your prefered moments of peace my differ from other people’s. Some like to recharge with friends at happy hour. On the other hand, introverts like me prefer to recharge with alone time. Decide what peace means for you, and honor that. Meditation isn’t for everyone, and you shouldn’t feel guilty if it isn’t your thing. Speaking of guilt...

You’re trying to reduce your stress and anxiety here. It isn’t self-indulgent to allow yourself some time to relax and recharge. Being busy isn’t a badge of honor, my friend. If you decide to take a moment of peace, don’t tell yourself you don’t deserve it or you don’t have time for it. What you truly don’t have time for the the week you need to take off when you burn yourself out.

Moments of zen when you’re short on time

Deep Breathing: With its focus on full, cleansing breaths, deep breathing is a simple, yet powerful, relaxation technique. It’s easy to learn, can be practiced almost anywhere, and provides a quick way to get your stress levels in check. Deep breathing is the cornerstone of many other relaxation practices, too, and can be combined with other relaxing elements such as music.

How to practice deep breathing (just one of MANY ways):

  1. Sit comfortably with your back straight. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
  2. Breathe in through your nose. The hand on your stomach should rise. The hand on your chest should move very little.
  3. Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little.
  4. Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Count slowly as you exhale.

Focusing: Select a small personal object that you like. Focus all your attention on this object as you inhale and exhale slowly and deeply for one to two minutes. While you are doing the exercise, try not to let any other thoughts or feelings enter your mind. If they do, just return your attention to the object. At the end of this exercise you will probably feel more peaceful and calmer. Any tension or nervousness that you were feeling upon starting the exercise should be diminished.

Humor Therapy (my favorite): Humor therapy is the use of humor for the relief of physical or emotional pain and stress. It is clinically proven to be effective in combating stress, although the exact mechanism is not known. Experts say a good laugh relaxes tense muscles, speeds more oxygen into your system, and lowers your blood pressure. You can watch videos on YouTube, listen to a funny podcast, or look at a humor website.

Quickie Meditation: The goal of meditation is to find a way for you to not pay attention to thoughts that you find disturbing or stress-inducing. You will want to train your mind to briefly clear itself from disturbing thoughts. When you are trying to relax your mind and an intrusive thought enters, focusing your attention on a word, phrase, sound, or repetitive movement helps you to temporarily let go of the invading thought.

How to practice a quickie meditation (again, just one of MANY ways):

  1. Sit in a comfortable position.
  2. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Let your breathing be slow and relaxed.
  3. Focus all your attention on your breathing. Notice the movement of your chest and abdomen in and out.
  4. Block out all other thoughts, feelings, and sensations. If you feel your attention wandering, bring it back to your breathing.
  5. As you inhale, imagine the word “peace”, as you exhale, say the word “calm.” Draw out the pronunciation of the word in your head so that it lasts for the entire breath. So, it would sound like c-a-a-a-l-l-l-m-m-m. Repeat this or another word in your head as you breathe to help you concentrate.
  6. Continue the exercise until you feel very relaxed or hit your time limit.

Moments of zen when you have a little more time

Imagery (guided in a meditation audio or on your own like described here): Imagery involves creating mental pictures that calm you down and relax your mind. Choose a setting that is calming to you, whether a tropical beach, a favorite childhood spot, or a quiet forest. Close your eyes and let your worries drift away. Imagine your restful place. Picture it as vividly as you can - everything you can see, hear, smell, and feel. Imagery works best if you incorporate as many sensory details as possible. For example, if you are thinking about a dock on a quiet lake, see the sun setting over the water, hear the birds singing, smell the pine trees, feel the cool water on your bare feet, and taste the fresh, clean air.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Progressive muscle relaxation is a muscle relaxation technique involving the systematic tensing and relaxing of muscle groups.

How to practice progressive muscle relaxation:

  1. Sit or lay in a comfortable position. Allow your arms to rest at your sides.
  2. Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply
  3. Clench your hands into fists and hold them tightly for 15 seconds. As you do this, relax the rest of your body. Visualize your fists contracting, becoming tighter and tighter.
  4. Then let your hands relax. On relaxing, imagine all of your muscles are soft and pliable.
  5. Now, tense and relax the following parts of your body in this order: face, shoulders, back, stomach, pelvis, legs, feet, and toes. Hold each part tensed for 15 seconds and then relax your body for 30 seconds before going on to the next part.
  6. Finish the exercise by shaking your hands and imagining the remaining tension flowing out of your fingertips.

Spontaneous Writing: Writing your thoughts about things that are troubling you can reduce your anxiety and help you sort things out. To do this, you should write or type continuously for 10 minutes. You can pretend you are writing to a friend, or family member, or even to the person who is involved in your troubling thoughts. Write what you feel. If you run out of things to say, just repeat what you have already written. Let go of detail to grammar, spelling, or sentence structure. Avoid censorship of your words...just write the thoughts that appear in your mind. Refrain from reading anything that you have written. Delete or discard your writing when you are finished.

Extended Meditation Session: Same as Quickie Meditation, but taking your time to have a longer session.

Exercise/Stretching (of course!): Get active for 10-15 minutes, like walking, jogging in place, or stair climbing. Afterwards, stretch for 2-3 minutes. It doesn’t have to be a full workout. Just get the blood flowing.

Other assorted ideas from my friends:

  • Taking a bubble bath or hot shower
  • Sitting and doing nothing
  • Knitting or a repetitive task that doesn’t take thought to do
  • Drawing, coloring, or painting
  • Cooking
  • Gardening
  • Dance party
  • Time with pets
  • Calling your BFF
  • Naping
  • Reading

And here are 52 more ideas from She Knows!

Next Sunday, we’ll talk about how you are exactly where you need to be in your life. That may be at your goals, or it may be at the very beginning of the process or anywhere in between. We’ll discuss how any point on that path is the right one.

Do you have a friend who could stand to G(her)ST? Feel free to forward this!

I hope you have a wonderful week,

Kelly

Kelly Morgan, Ph.D.

Tsirona - www.tsirona.com


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