Tag Archives: meditation

06 Feb

Meditation Made Easy: Some Apps, Books, and YouTube Videos

Last week, I discovered my 9 year old son had fallen asleep with his iPad and earphones, so I asked him about it the next day. He confessed he listens to peaceful music sometimes to help him get to sleep. It sounded like it puts him in a relaxed meditative state. I have to admit I was surprised. As progressive as I try to be, looking up an “app” on a phone to play relaxing music or meditate didn’t even cross my mind. Brilliant! If someone had offered me quick yoga poses or meditations that I could download on my phone while I was at the office, I think my performance and stress level at my past job would have been significantly different. I managed to get through it and performed well but it always seemed much harder and more stressful than it had to be.  Could a simple app like one of these make a difference? The answer is “yes”!

Many of us suffer from worry, stress or anxiety, in various forms at different times of our lives. My sister says “we need all the help we can get”.  And so this month, I am promoting the idea of a support system, instead of the traditional New Year’s Resolution. This promotion is not for an in-person support system, although that’s always helpful, but rather, an electronic one in the form of apps, and YouTube videos. And I’ve thrown in some books, a bit more heady, (about Buddhist practice and philosophy), but helpful in understanding the ongoing and complex relationship we have with our mind. We are naturally complex beings, so even simple things can be difficult sometimes.

Below is a short list of apps for phones, videos on YouTube, and books I have found helpful. I have tried, read and watched all of them. This list is by no means comprehensive or a review/endorsement of the products/services listed, but merely an example of how many resources there are to help us along the way. Additional note:  I usually offer a book recommendation but this month, since the theme is primarily digital, I’ve offered instead, a list of CD’s that are great for meditation and visualization exercises.

Meditation has moved way beyond the iconic image of a Yogi chanting “om” under a tree (with funky guitar music playing in the background). You don’t have to be spiritual or religious to meditate. You also don’t have to commit to anything except yourself, and a minimum of 5 minutes. (It is recommended to not try meditating while driving . . .) Basically if you can breath, you can meditate. Basically, it’s finding a quiet space, a few minutes and breathing. It’s that simple. It can be done in all sorts of ways. Some wake up and meditate; some have a formal routine of going some place to meditate with others. Others do it before bed or during a break while at work.

Meditation has been definitively proven to lower heart rates and decreases the experience of stress a person feels.  It has also been repeatedly found to help individuals find a sense of peace, which can decrease anxiety. The breathing techniques in the meditation process increase oxygen to the brain, effecting the actual synaptic functioning of the brain. Some studies have found that leaders and college students (taking tests) have shown more clarity and decision-making after meditating before an event.

A meditation practice can start anytime. I find if I can take a few minutes (literally 5-10 minutes) to invite a new simple habit it into my busy life, if it’s easy, I like it and it has a reward (like helping me feel better) it’s easier to continue the habit.
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Meditation Resources

Apps to Help You Meditate:

OMG. I Can Meditate! App:
This app has an immediate start with a nice short visual tutorial. It also offers hundreds of meditations for various things a person may be struggling with.
For iPhone: OMG. I Can Meditate! on the Apple Store
For Android: OMG. I Can Meditate! on Google PlayV

Welzen App:
Also user friendly, is subscription based: with a package of 5 free sessions available, the rest are purchase as you go.
For iPhone: Welzen app on the Apple Store
For Android: Welzen app on Google Play

Spotify:
Free and pay subscription options available, user friendly, short meditations.
For all devices visit Spotify.com to download.

Videos On YouTube to Learn Meditation:

Benefits Of Meditation – TOP 6 BENEFITS video by Improvement Pill

How To Meditate For Beginners – A Definitive Guide video by Improvement Pill

How to Meditate and Why Most People Fail video with Noah Elkrief

Books to Explore More:

Dancing with Life: Buddhist Insights for Finding Meaning and Joy in the Face of Suffering, Phillip Moffit, 2008, Rodale Publishing, NY

Grace Unfolding, Psychotherapy in the Spirit of Tao-te Ching, Greg Johanson and Ron Kurtz, 1991, Bell Tower, NY

11 Apr

12 Ways to Relieve Anxiety and Stress

12 forms of anxiety and stress relief to care for ourselves.

Prayer

The beauty about prayer is that you can do this anytime, anywhere. To me, having anxiety while having faith is one of the truest paradoxes of being human. So talk it out. Ask for what you need. Have faith that someone is listening!

If you don’t believe in a higher power, know that your thoughts and prayers are not wasted, they are clearing the way to set your true intention, which is one of the steps that leads to taking action, taking your power back and achieving your dreams.

Deep Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises help lower heart rate, decrease stress and calm the mind and body. (Meditation exercises also incorporate breathing exercises, which often include the act of focusing on your breath).

Deep Breathing resource:
Example of exercises from Dr. Weil

Also called “relaxation exercises”, this name implies a task which becomes a repeated pattern of behavior. To see and feel results, I recommend trying this for 14 days minimum. They say it takes 21 days to change behavior, so 21 days is also recommended. Incorporate it into your morning exercise routine, or while on a break at work.

Relaxation Exercises resource:
For more information about relaxation exercises, see the Mayo Clinic’s recommends in Relaxation Technique 

Life Coaching

A great way to get support, develop a better understanding of yourself and achieve your goals.

Life Coaching resource:
Check out my website for more information about life coaching.

Meditation

Meditation is a great way to slow things down. Similar to relaxation exercises, studies have shown that a regular pattern of meditation (which includes deep breathing!) can literally change the synaptic functions in the brain. This translates to better use of logic and problem solving skills, and possibly a better outlook on life! It is also a great way to access the wisdom that is inside each of us. You don’t have to be a spiritual guru or someone seeking enlightenment to meditate. You simply just have to have the desire and willingness to try! How much meditation is defined by what is right for your mind, body and life style. Remember, it’s not quantity but quality that counts.

Meditation resources:
A great website that talks about this process is How to Meditate.

Another good read is 5 Reason’s to Meditate by Pema Chodron [PDF Download]

A great book is How to Meditate by Pema Chodron :

Journaling

Talking about what is happening in a safe forum is a great way to relax, think about what is happening, and validate how you are feeling.

Journaling resource:
Life Hack has a great article on how 6 Ways Journaling can Change your Life.

Aromatherapy

I think this name makes the experience and process sound much more formal than it really is. Also called “alternative medicine”, I thought you had to take a class in it to be versed but what I found out was that basically you can light a scented candle and you are practicing aromatherapy, lol! Phew! It’s anything that offers scents and healing, for mind, body and spirit. Buy some scented oils or a peppermint foot scrub and you’re on your way!

To this industry’s credit, there are many ways to offer healing and relaxation for the body, as well as many professionals trained in this area. How would it feel to promise yourself a warm bubble bath with lavender scented bubbles in candle light with soft music in the background? What are you waiting for? You deserve it!

Aromatherapy resource:
Find out more on Aromatherapy.com.

Counseling

Our culture has developed a stigma about counseling, but you don’t have to have something “wrong” with you to see a counselor.

Freud actually started working with clients simply to bring the unconscious into consciousness. Some of the clients he wrote about had a certain pathology that happened to interest him, which became more well known. But they were not all of his clientele.

Therapists now-a-days offer a myriad of short and long term therapy options to offer support. It’s ok to learn about yourself and better your life.

Good therapy can help relieve anxiety, and address the negative impact stress and anxiety can bring about on the mind and body. It’s wear and tear you don’t need. If you are suffering from ongoing and/or severe anxiety, therapy is a great way to help yourself. You can get ongoing support and resources to relieve the symptoms and keep them at bay!

Many insurance carriers cover therapy costs now (often with a copay). You won’t know if it works until you try!

Exercise

I think we all know the benefits of exercise on the mind and body, ad naseum. Yes, it’s good for the heart, as well as, the mind! AND how quickly we can let this practice go, only to be replaced by our love of eating and watching tv . . . or making excuses. As the old Nike ad used to say “Just Do It!”

Perhaps it’s time to find a new form of exercise. And if you can get outside to do it, even better! Researchers are now studying the positive effects of nature on the brain. Go meditate with a tree! Or by a tree . . . or hug a tree . . .

An yoga/walking exercise resource:
For those that can’t turn their thoughts off while they walk, try a Walking Meditation:

Creative Visualization

One of my favorite authors is Shakti Gawain. Her book on “Creative Visualization” is one probably one of my top 5 favorite books of all time, that I frequently recommend to people. The idea of focusing on intention and visualizing what you want is paramount to achieving your goals. Visualizing is an active mind exercise that helps you clarify what your goal is. This is the primary tool (next to prayer and meditation) I use to help me better understand myself, get clear about my goals and manifest them into physical form. I can’t recommend this book enough.

Creative Visualization resources:
Find out more about the author, Shakti Gawain on her website.

Read more about the author and her other well known book in this Huffington Post article by BJ Gallagher.

Hobbies and Interests

When was the last time you sat down and focused on something fun?

One of the tasks when doing meditation or relaxation exercises is to be present in the moment. In this moment now. A great way to do that is to focus your thoughts and energies on a hobby or interest. One preferably that does not include media (easy to get distracted!).

Things like gardening, sports, reading, flying a plane, making a sculpture, cooking a meal, etc are the things that interest you and can provide a break from that nagging in your mind.

Literally, the medicine here is to get your mind off of it! You know yourself the best. What interests you?

Get a Hug!

Some day I would like to create a foundation and call it “the Hug Foundation” and I will get all the people around the world that like to give hugs moving into action giving hugs. Wouldn’t that be glorious? Think of all the healing that could happen! In the meantime, take a small step for yourself or for someone else, ask for a hug!

Connect with a Friend

When was the last time you went out lunch with a friend?A business lunch doesn’t count (unless you’re using it as a tax ride off :^)

As humans, we need to connect, we need to talk, express ourselves, hear what’s going in with others, tell our stories, laugh and have fun. We not only require that to live, but to live a balanced life.

The most successful people I know frequently talk about their relationships, not only because it’s valued support which has helped them get them where they are, but good healthy relationships bring a balance into our every day living.

Take your partner out to dinner. Go for a walk with a friend. Ask for time with your child. Go have coffee with an in-law. Put the phone away and connect.

The internet is filled with creative souls who have put together published lists of ideas for things to do! Some of these lists have saved me as a parent countless times!

For an example here’s a great list of 50 Things to do for Free or Cheap.

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