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How to De-Stress in 1 Minute
Picture this: Sixty seconds of inner quiet. Of not trying to multi-task a thousand responsibilities. Of not projecting yourself into the future. Sixty seconds of listening instead of talking — or lovingly wrapping a gift rather than Grinching your way through the chore.
Believe it or not, a focused 60-second meditation stops the forward momentum of anxiety and nervousness that's so pervasive in our world. And anybody, regardless of schedule, can do it with some practice. "Take just a moment of quiet — even one brief minute of serenity is powerful," says busy mom, leadership trainer, personal development coach and spiritual counselor Dawn Groves, author of Meditation for Busy People. "You don't have to set aside a whole day for meditation," she adds. "Instead, grab what's fresh and useful from a short meditative break, and take that calm into the continuing action of your life."
Are You Too Busy?
The speed of our culture has trained us to multi-task, juggling many activities in hopes that we're being efficient.
"Busy people tend to worry about tomorrow rather than being in the here and now," says Groves. "As a result, they lose the color and freshness of life. Good things like eating a juicy apple or hearing a great piece of music happen in the moment, not tomorrow. If we're always projecting, we miss the joy of present time."
Busy-ness also induces stress and makes it hard to effectively communicate with others because you're not focused on the moment. Fortunately, meditation is a natural antidote for a busy lifestyle since it:
Retrains you to live in the present.
Gives you the focus to concentrate on one thing at a time.
Helps you deal with immediate, concrete problems rather than being distracted by nebulous worries.
Teaches you to slow down and cope with the non-specific anxiety that plagues most of us.
Helps you respond more creatively to pressures that usually elicit habitual, knee-jerk reactions.
Trains you to be comfortable with a quieter, more serene mind.
You can enjoy an oasis of peacefulness even in the midst of the busiest schedule. "We think meditation has to be hard or take a long time to achieve to make a difference in our lives," says Groves. "It's the 'feel the burn' mentality, but it's not applicable here." Instead, a moment or two of stillness helps clear your thoughts before a difficult phone call, calm you before a presentation, or maintain your equilibrium before facing hordes of Christmas shoppers.
"If you open yourself to a new way of viewing life, even for 60 seconds, you've made an enormously powerful start," Groves notes. First, in order to achieve a moment of serenity from the whirlwind, practice some meditation basics such as focusing on your breath.
Three Steps to Nirvana
Once you've been able to take 60-second calming meditations on a relatively regular basis, try Groves' three-step Meditation for Busy People. She recommends spending three or four minutes on each step. But if you're new to meditation or find it hard to relax, try meditating in tiny increments — two or three minutes total — and gradually increase the time you practice.
1. Relax: Slowly scan your body, releasing muscle groups one at a time. After a week or so, this process becomes easier as your body remembers how to relax automatically. Once that happens, you're ready to practice it in a 60-second scenario. Just take a couple of deep breaths and your body will unwind within seconds.
2. Center: Focus your attention completely on each inhalation and exhalation. If your thoughts wanders, bring them back to the breath. This mindfulness will calm you and bring you into the present moment.
3. Release: During this meditation wrap-up, return to waking consciousness by gradually coming back into awareness of your body and surroundings. Take a deep breath and wiggle your fingers and toes. Acknowledge yourself for taking time out and consider what you've accomplished with the experience. Now you're ready to continue your day with fresh insight.
Regardless of duration, Groves suggests you follow a structure such as the above to stay focused.
The Power of Being in the Moment
Commit yourself to this practice for at least a month, then continue from there, says Groves. "Meditate for 10 minutes a day, even if you have to shut yourself into the bathroom to do it," she urges. "Learning to meditate is like developing any new skill like playing the piano or learning how to skate. There's a clumsy, awkward growth stage when you have to be patient with yourself. Remember, you have to go slowly to achieve change." Stick with the 10- to 20-minute meditations, she promises, and you'll soon be ready to do effective 60-second meditations following the same three steps - calming, watching the breath, and releasing - whenever stress rears its head.
Finally, give meditation a chance. You may not feel results immediately, but as you practice it more, you'll notice that you're not as caught up in daily dramas and you're able to step back from stressful situations and see your path more clearly. Perhaps you'll cultivate patience when you're stuck in traffic, or you'll find the resources to creatively redirect your kids' energies when they're quarreling.
"Through meditation, we develop appreciation for the process of living, not just the end result. It's the getting there that counts - the actual practice itself," Groves emphasizes. "The decision that you're going to take time every day to meditate builds character and the skills that enhance your life."