How To Do Nothing And Be More Effective
One would think that at the end of a long day, lying down in bed would trigger the mind to relax and find sleep easily. Not so for many people.
Sometimes that sacred time where we should be letting go of thoughts and stress is full of nonstop thoughts, worries, and to-do lists. That is where daily practice of meditation/mindfulness/relaxation comes in.
No matter what you call it, the letting go of thoughts and being fully aware and present in the moment brings a relaxation response that maximizes performance.
There have been studies in college students, athletes, and other performers that indicate multiple benefits for those who practice meditation.
In this article, Doug Dupont talks about working with athletes and helping them practice the relaxation response through meditation and mindfulness. He cites research where the scientists measured exactly what parts of the mind and body of the athletes were affected by meditation.
They found that those who meditated on a regular basis reduced their stress and energy output. At a cellular level, they found that meditation actually seemed to protect mitochondria, the energy producing parts of our cells, from stress. It also benefitted sleep.
He ends his article by stating, “Less Stress (read: better recovery) and more energy both mean better quality workouts and competitions. Over the long term you won’t find a cheaper and simpler athletic booster.”
If performance is a part of your life – whether it is onstage performance, public speaking, or simply everyday activities that require overcoming a certain amount of anxiety – you could benefit from meditation if you do not already practice it.
If this is a new concept for you, you may need help cultivating the discipline. For me personally, I base my meditation on scripture from the Bible and being in God’s presence (Psalm 104:34, Psalm 19:14).
Not everyone is comfortable with faith-themed meditation so your practice may just begin with guided muscle relaxation and beginning to clear out thoughts. Many people simply start with meditating on a word that brings them comfort and makes them feel safe and peaceful.
Gratitude is another great foundation for meditation.
Whatever your focus, the main idea of meditation is to become mindful of your thoughts, feelings, body, and surroundings. Done on a regular basis, it will help you focus better in your day-to-day life, sleep better at night, and overcome anxiety.
Here is a quick and easy meditation to practice that can be done anywhere:
1. Focus on your breathing. Breathe in deeply, bringing fresh oxygen to your brain and muscles. Breathe out all the way to the bottom of your stomach, expelling all tension with each breath. Breathe slowly, pausing after each inhale for a moment, then allow all stress to leave with your exhale.
2. Relax your body: Sit comfortably in a position where your entire body can be relaxed. Bring your focus to your feet: how they feel, being grounded to the floor, safe and secure. Draw your attention to the rest of your body part by part: your lower legs, upper legs, lower back, abdominal muscles, shoulders, arms, neck, hands, fingers, and finally your head and face. Focus on each part for several seconds, releasing stress and tension you may be holding there.
3. Address your thoughts: As you relax, notice any thoughts going through your head. Don’t judge them, just notice them and allow them to pass through. If your to-do list won’t stop haunting you, keep a pad of paper beside you when you practice this daily. Write down anything that you are afraid you will forget as it comes to you. Then release it to the paper and let it go until after your meditation time. After five minutes, bring your awareness back to your surroundings and gently begin to move and wake your body up.
As you practice, the number of anxious thoughts that pass through will lessen. Like anything else, it will take practice, but when you get better at it, you will be able to tap into the stillness and peace any time you need to throughout your day.
You will become more productive, more energetic, and less anxious when you attempt new or intimidating things in your life.
If you would like an extended version of this relaxation, I offer “Be Here Now,” an audio download of a 17-minute guided meditation. It is a bit more in depth and will allow you to close your eyes as you listen to the gentle directions toward stillness and peace.
Do you regularly meditate or practice relaxation? What benefits have you gained from it?
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