6 Simple Ways to Incorporate Meditation Into Your Life to Relieve Anxiety and Stress

Guest article by Nancy Monson, www.nancymonson.com

About 15% of adults ages 60 and up and 30% of adults ages 45 to 59 suffer from anxiety, and women are especially prone to it. One way to combat anxiety: Practice meditation. A study released by Georgetown University found that meditation can be a self-controlled, non-drug treatment to reduce anxiety, which overall affects about 40 million Americans. Other research shows that regular practice relieves stress, improves mood, treats heart disease, lessens chronic pain, helps people sleep and calms stomach distress.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says meditation is the fastest-growing health trend in America, and the number of meditators has tripled between 2012 and 2017. In addition, the  Global Wellness Institute reports that meditation is expanding beyond traditional forms like transcendental meditation to a more personalized model as research demonstrates how different types can affect specific disorders like anxiety and depression.

I know what you’re thinking: Who has the time or the patience? But it is not as hard as you might think to integrate simple forms of meditation into your daily life.

Here are some ideas:

1. Use a smartphone app like Simply Being or Headspace to get into a calm zone and/or ease yourself into a restful sleep.

2. Practice mindfulness meditation, a simple form of meditation where you focus on what’s happening right now in the present, whenever you feel yourself getting frantic, distracted or upset. 

3. Memorize a short poem to repeat when you’re stressed out. Forget the traditional advice to adopt a single-word mantra like “om.” Repeating a short poem can be a way of meditating, too, and does a better job of making you focus and push away distractions. I like to repeat this prayer that Buddha gave to his followers to say when they were afraid: “May I be safe and protected from all danger and harm. May I be happy and peaceful of heart and mind. May I be strong and healthy of body. May I live with ease of well-being.”

4. Do deep breathing, like Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 exercise, whenever you’re waiting in traffic or on a line:

  • Put the tip of your tongue on the ridge behind your top front teeth and keep it there for the duration of the exercise
  • Close your mouth and inhale through your nose to the count of 4
  • Hold your breath for a count of 7
  • Exhale through your mouth, making a whoosh sound, for a count of 8
  • Repeat three more times

5. Take a mindful walk on a forested trail, the beach, or in a park. Recently, some doctors have started making prescriptions for 30-minute walks in nature, according to research presented by the Global Wellness Institute. especially because there is good medical evidence to show brisk daily walks outdoors can benefit a range of health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain cancers.

6. Take up a meditative hobby like the structured drawing technique called Zentangle®. The technique was developed by artists Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts, and it’s not only fun, but it can be a great stress reducer. It doesn’t require artistic experience, so it is accessible to all. The technique looks complicated, but once you learn the steps to draw the “tangles” on paper tiles, you can create beautiful drawings.

If drawing isn’t for you, find another hobby or creative activity you can get behind. There’s lots of good research to support the therapeutic benefits of creativity.

Bio: Nancy Monson is a health coach, writer, and artist. Her articles on health, nutrition, spas and travel have been published in major US magazines and websites such as AARP The Magazine, Family Circle, Fitness, Glamour, HealthCentral.com, NextAvenue.org, Redbook, Shape, USA Today, Weight Watchers Magazine, Woman’s Day and Women’s Health. She is also the author of Craft to Heal: Soothing Your Soul with Sewing, Painting, and Other Pastimes, about the therapeutic benefits of creative activities.

Photo by Xevi Casanovas on Unsplash