Stress Reduction: Mindfulness Meditation for Beginners

person wearing hood meditating in forestStress is a daily concern for many of us. From the moment we wake up until the time we go to bed, we are constantly rushing to get from place to place, fighting with traffic, struggling to meet deadlines, and attempting to complete everything on our to-do lists. This continual battle takes its toll on both our physical and mental health and can lead to numerous ailments and diseases.

Being in a state of stress signals the body to go into fight-or-flight mode—which is the response we need when we are running away from a charging lion, but inappropriate on an ongoing basis. This type of pressure causes stress hormones to be released that are designed to assist us in responding quickly to a difficult situation, but can lead to illness when the tension continues over a long period of time.

One of the easiest and most effective methods proven to successfully reduce stress levels is mindfulness meditation. Just a few minutes each day can drastically improve our overall health; however, many people are concerned about their ability to learn to meditate effectively. The following are some simple steps for achieving stress relief through mindfulness meditation techniques:

  1. Pick a time when you will not be interrupted. The best times tend to be first thing after waking up or right before going to bed.
  2. Be consistent. Meditation is most beneficial when done on a regular basis, so try to dedicate some time every day to your practice.
  3. Start with just five to 10 minutes a day. Mindfulness meditation can be very effective, even when you have only a few minutes to practice. As time goes on, however, you may want to try to build up to 20 to 30 minutes a day, which will make your practice even more beneficial.
  4. Sit in a comfortable position. Sitting either cross-legged on a cushion on the floor or on a straight-backed chair with legs uncrossed and feet flat on the floor is best. Keeping your back straight is important.
  5. Start by tuning into your breath. Take several deep breaths to settle in. Follow your inhale as your breath flows into your chest and then all the way down into your abdomen. Allow all the tension to leave your body as you exhale.
  6. Do a scan of your body. Start with your toes, feet, and legs, and slowly work your way up your body until you reach the crown of your head. Pay attention to any sensations that you feel and just soften into them, allowing them to be present.
  7. Remain focused on your breath. After becoming mindful of any sensations in your body, continue to focus on each breath you take. Counting each inhale and exhale can help you to remain present, rather than becoming lost in your thoughts. If any thoughts do arise, try to remain an outside observer instead of getting caught up in them. This may require more of an effort initially, but will become easier as time progresses. Whenever you do catch yourself wandering off in a daydream, simply bring your awareness back to counting your breath again.
  8. Become aware of your surroundings. Notice any sounds in your environment. Can you hear the hum of the air conditioner or heater in the room? Are there cars driving by outside or any birds chirping nearby? Really tune into all of the sensations in your body, the rise and fall of your breath, and the sounds all around you.
  9. Maintain present moment awareness. Our stress levels are linked to our fears and anxiety about the future, as well as our ruminations about the past. When we are able to focus on radically accepting what is arising in this moment, rather than worrying about the past or future, we can drastically reduce our stress and become more centered and at peace.
  10. Practice short periods of mindfulness throughout the day. Take short breaks during the day whenever you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, and bring your attention inward to your breath and the inner sensations of your body. Closing your eyes for a few moments at your desk can be helpful for clearing your mind and gaining a different perspective.

So often, we spend our lives anxiously focused on reliving the past or worried about the future, rather than being truly aware of the beauty of the present moment. Learning to live from a more mindful perspective can be extremely beneficial in decreasing our stress levels, improving our physical and mental health, and helping us to become more appreciative of the simple pleasures in life.

If you would like a little more help getting started, you may want to look into joining a meditation group in your area, or you could choose to work with a therapist who has experience with mindfulness-based techniques.

© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Wendy Salazar, MFT, therapist in San Diego, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • cadence

    January 5th, 2015 at 10:43 AM

    Good tips Wendy!

    I got interested in yoga in my early twenties and now mindfulness is a part of my daily routine. I highly recommend it for anyone to try. It will make you feel better in your body.

  • Patricia

    January 5th, 2015 at 10:54 AM

    hehehe thanks for clarifying for beginners because that is definitely where I will be starting from!

  • Glenn

    January 5th, 2015 at 3:51 PM

    For me I have this problem with always feeling like things have to be all or nothing, like I am all in or all out. Looking at the suggestion to start out for five or ten minutes the thing that I naturally think is that well if five or ten can do me good then why not start out with 20? But I know that this is something that will take time for me to become accustomed to doing, and that just like anything else, practice is what is going to help you best get to a point where you are comfortable and confident with the process.

  • sally

    January 6th, 2015 at 3:47 AM

    And something that is super important for me is that I have to be somewhere where there are very few distractions. I can’t practice focusing on me in the here and now if I can also hear the kids arguing about whose turn it is to play on the computer. I almost have to go to the basement and hide somewhere quiet to really be able to get in the zone and focus on the important things.

  • Dawn

    January 6th, 2015 at 10:41 AM

    When I do take the time to meditate I immediately feel all of the stress in my day just flowing out of me. It almost feels magical in some ways because that really lightens my load and makes me feel more positive, energized almost. If you have never tried this process for stress relief I would highly recommend it. Typically I am a pretty hyper person and did not think that I would ever have the ability to let go, but I was convinced that stress was going to cause me to die young and I didn’t want that. I know that the time I spend taking care of myself in this way is going to mean a whole lot more years in life later on that I have saved for myself.

  • steph

    January 8th, 2015 at 3:23 PM

    Like the song in Frozen- LET IT GO!

  • Leah

    January 12th, 2015 at 3:39 PM

    Such wonderful tips for someone like me who is looking for new ways to deal with life but not really sure how to do that. I think that many of these will help me to really focus on those things in my life that I do need to work on and will help me with dealing with the masses of things that I have to deal with on a daily basis. This could be my little time out that I have been looking for.

  • #ThinkTherapy

    April 26th, 2015 at 1:06 PM

    Great tips – after practice it will only take a breath or two to make it all fall into place.

  • Kathleen S.

    June 24th, 2015 at 7:46 AM

    Hi there! Great article you have, I would also want to share my thoughts that Meditation indeed has positive effects not only in the body but also in the mind, a total holistic wellness that brings us to know our inner-self better. It gives us a peace of mind that helps us have a much better perception about our lives.
    Thank you and have a great day!

  • Jerri

    February 29th, 2016 at 3:35 PM

    So excited to start using the techniques for myself and to share them with my brother who recently had a major stroke.

  • Chris

    July 8th, 2016 at 3:40 AM

    Hello, I am new to meditation and really interested in stress relief method, can anyone help me?

  • Anthony

    July 8th, 2016 at 4:05 AM

    Meditation doesn’t require any specific tool or place, anyone can practice it!

  • Joey K.

    June 13th, 2017 at 7:09 AM

    Meditation is the first basic step for the people who feel heavy stress and/or depression. Thanks for the tips wendy.

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