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Beat stress with meditation and muscle relaxation

13 November, 2019
A man doing meditation

Throughout our lives, we all encounter stress, loss and trauma. Our brain stores these events within memory cells and muscles until we consciously release them. When we store stress hormones in the body, they can cause health problems including insomnia, lowered immune system, anxiety, eating disorders, or depression.

One of the body’s reactions to fear and anxiety is muscle tension, as this is what biologically helps the body prepare for potentially dangerous situations. By including meditation and muscle relaxation into our day, we have a tool to interrupt negative thought patterns to create stillness within. This pattern-breaker can help reverse negative thinking patterns, retraining our brain to relax, release and cope better.

And, most importantly we learn to let go and give our mind and body the rest it needs. In this article, we’ll look at progressive muscle relaxation, which is a good place to start if you’re looking to get into meditation.

What’s in it for your mind and body? Five reasons to get started with meditation and muscle relaxation:

  • It can help retrain shallow breathing to deep breathing, helping to reduce stress, improve posture, strengthen respiratory muscles and lower blood pressure.
  • It resets the mind and body, helping to stop negative rumination.
  • It releases tension which can lead to aches, pain and exhaustion.
  • It can help offset cognitive decline as we age.
  • It can help you accept things beyond your control and let go.

Let’s do some Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

Progressive muscle relaxation (also known as PMR) involves tensing particular muscles and then relaxing these muscles. Before trying PMR, be cautious of physical injuries, select your surroundings (minimise distractions) and make yourself comfortable.

You can practice PMR at your desk, at home, in bed or even on your daily commute to work.

Method

  • Breathe deeply filling the lower belly with air, then breathe out continuing rhythmically.
  • Begin from the muscles on your head, then face, neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, hands, back, stomach, pelvic area, buttocks, thighs, calves, ankles and feet.
  • Tighten the muscle and we mean really squeeze it (but not to the point of pain). Tell the brain, “this is tight”.
  • Then really release and relax the muscle and tell the brain. “this is relaxed”.
  • If you feel an area remaining tight, use the area as a focus in your meditation practice until you can feel a release.
  • Once complete, remain seated allowing yourself to become alert and present.

Did you love this activity?

Read some of our other blogs with healthy mind activities to try.

Mindfulness and mindful eating: An activity to get started

Got a snack? Let’s try mindful eating


All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified Health Care Professional.


Sources

https://www.headspace.com/meditation/stress

https://www.headspace.com/meditation-101/what-is-meditation

https://www.healthline.com/health/breathe-deeper-improve-health-and-posture

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2017/02/13/mindfulness-meditation-helps-quell-negative-thoughts-monkey-mind

https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/meditation-may-offer-relief-for-late-life-depression-and-anxiety

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180130123735.htm

https://headspace.org.au/blog/mindfulness-magic-all-the-ways-progressive-muscle-relaxation-can-help/

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