Music has so many profound influences on the human psyche. It is a terrific physical motivator during exercise. It sometimes evokes powerful memories and emotions and can even prompt listeners to dance or sing along. One of the most important and beneficial uses for music, however, is stress management and reduction. Soft, soothing music has a unique ability to calm the mind and body, and also provides a variety of positive physical and psychological effects.
I write frequently about how to deal with stress using mindfulness meditation. In this series of articles I’m going to go deeper into the practice of mindfulness meditation so you may more effectively include some part of the method I will describe in your daily practice for health and wellbeing. If you don’t already have a daily practice, please follow this series to learn three very simple techniques that will have you reducing your stress in no time at all.
I’ll be focusing on one technique at a time. Before I introduce the first technique, I’d like to give you a little insight into how we typically experience stress and especially how we learn to respond to stressful events in life.
When you are feeling stressed it is because you feel that you cannot control outcomes that you would like. Most of us aren’t really aware of the actual causes of stress. We experience all manner of negative feelings – stress, discomfort, anger, sadness, frustration – in response to events, situations and the behavior of others in our lives.
Most of us believe that external events, situations and behaviors “cause” our distress, and therefore they must be controlled, managed or eliminated somehow in order to reduce our stress. We soon discover it’s not possible to manage all of the things in our lives that bother us. So, we become discouraged believing that we must either put up with ever increasing stress or numb out in some way (often with alcohol or food – also known as “Happy Hour.”)
Here’s a little model I use to show how stress really works. Instead of the external situation directly causing our stress there are two intervening steps to consider:
We often become aware of stress when we notice our actions or the reactions in our bodies.
We miss the whole intervening process of observation, thought and meaning making, and emotions. It’s not the event, itself that causes stress, it’s our take on it, which then tells us how to feel about it and ultimately how to respond.
Focusing on the negative, distressing aspects of an event or another person’s behavior, or interpret situations as threatening, causes the stress hormones to flow freely. On the other hand, if you manage your thoughts to be at least neutral or find positive aspects of the situation you will experience far less distress.
You have no control of the many situations going on around you that seem to be the cause of your stress.
However, the one thing that you do have control over is how you decide to think about those situations. That is the bottom line.
Managing your thoughts is tricky if you haven’t even been aware of having them. That’s where Mindfulness Meditation comes in. Mindfulness helps you to slow down long enough to become aware of what is happening in your mind, body and emotions where you have more control. Mindfulness meditation helps you to become aware of how your body responds to stress, the emotions you are having and of the thoughts that trigger your emotions.
Mindfulness Meditation Technique #1:
Sit down (right now) and take 5 deep breaths.
Now focus on your breath going in and out.
Notice it without identifying it as “Am I doing this right or wrong?” Many people stay in their heads when first doing this, so practice on noticing your breathing as is goes in and out, without judgment.
Simple? Easy? Yes it can be. Practice is the key. Do this throughout your day. Set an hourly timer if you want to remind you of this practice.
Doing frequent deep breathing sessions will help you focus in the moment and allow you to notice your thoughts, emotions and tension in your body.
In the next article I will discuss how long held beliefs shape our stress reactions and the second Mindfulness Meditation Technique.
Check out Donna Marie’s upcoming experiential workshops at https://dealwithstresstoday.com/events-calendar/