Category Archives: Mindfulness

I Am My Own Best Friend

i am my own best friendI am just amazed at how often I hear the phrase, “I am my own worst enemy,” or some other similar phrase implying the ideas of being self-critical or self-sabotaging. I wonder to myself how might someone’s life look different in the days and weeks ahead if they could turn this statement upside down. What would happen if instead, we stated, “I am my own best friend.” 

How would that change the way you live? Here’s how you can change your thought process:

Kristin Neff has been researching self-compassion for many years now, and she has shared this in a TedTalk on her website. She shares that self-compassion has 3 key ingredients, which are:

  • Self-kindness – treating you like you would treat a good friend
  • Common humanity – recognizing that we all suffer
  • Mindful awareness – connecting with/being in the present moment, without judgment, and without a need to hold anything or push anything away.

So, with self-kindness, it sounds simple enough, but unfortunately, we have a lot of programming in which we are self-critical, always on guard for the moment that we are going to screw up. We would never treat our friends like this and we could really benefit from changing this pattern with ourselves.

The idea of common humanity is really helpful too. When we recognize that we are not the only ones suffering, and even realize that everyone suffers from time to time, maybe we can feel less alone. This could give us another reason to lighten up and be kinder to ourselves.

The third component is mindful awareness. With mindfulness of the present moment, we can be more fully connected to our lives and to our thoughts and feelings in each moment. Rather than trying so hard to avoid our difficult thoughts and feelings, we could hold them more lightly and not be so overwhelmed by them.

If we could be our own best friend then we would always have someone to do things with!

Doing my best to live life on Purpose! -Terri Mudge

Life Coaching Made Simple

WhLife coachingat do you want your life to be about?  What gets in your way?

Have you ever stopped to answer these questions? Or do you just keep going along, like most people – doing what comes next, the next obligation, the next task that is pressing in your household, or even the next fun event?

Of course, we can’t just stop fulfilling our responsibilities or doing the things that matter, or can we?

And yet what happens if we don’t stop? Well, ‘Life happens’ and our time gets filled up with things that don’t necessarily matter.

I have a few friends that have retired in the last few years, and it has been interesting to see what happens with the large amount of time that they thought they would have. It was filled up quickly… and not necessarily with things that they wanted to be doing.

But even in our mid-life or early, adult life, I just don’t think people put enough time into answering this question for themselves. It seems that we just go along with whatever life happens to offer us, kind of letting life make our decisions for us.

So, Life Coaching can be about taking some time for yourself to explore these questions. Basically, a life coach helps someone bridge the gap between where they are and where they want to be.

So, here’s a sample of the kinds of things that we would do. First, we look at where you are today, by exploring what’s important to you in several life domains {work/fun/family/friendships/health/personal growth}, and then we ask if you are living up to your hopes for each of these areas. If you are not, then we look for the barriers that get in your way. We all have barriers that we will face, especially if we are moving out of our comfort zone into new, challenging situations.

Life Coaching Example:

Let me offer an example.  I have had a desire to be a public speaker for some time. Yet, I also have a rather significant fear of getting in front of people. You might say I have a love/hate relationship with public speaking. So, in order to move forward towards my goals, I have had to push through the barrier of these fears.

In my case, I used several strategies. For example, I joined a Toastmaster’s group so that I had to practice speaking (to a small group) on a regular basis. I put in some stretch goals, like scheduling a speaking engagement about 6 months away, so that I would have something to shoot for.

Then, I continued to work on my skills on a regular basis, and with the encouragement and feedback from the Toastmaster’s members, I was able to build my skills and confidence. I continued to have issues with anxiety. And I still get butterflies every time I speak, but I also have a clearer presentation style, because I have practiced many, many times. And it feels really good to have followed my dream.

Also, I always keep in mind why I am doing it. If I begin to lose motivation or think about quitting, then I just go back to my journal notes where I had written about my goals and values and why I was doing this in the first place.

Here’s another example:

For someone considering a job change, it is quite difficult to imagine the future and a lot of fear comes up. Again, first examine your values that are involved, and then see what small steps you will need to get you there, and when motivation falters, go back to your values and renew your resolve. It also helps to have an accountability partner, or a supportive cheerleader.

Another example might be exercise and/or diet goals. As you probably know, many people have goals in these areas, and many people fail in reaching these goals. Again, the system is the same, it’s important to know why you are doing this, so you make a statement about the values involved. The next step is to make a plan, and to have routines and supports to make this easier. The final step is to plan for relapses, with methods for getting back on track.

So, one of the things that I do as a Life Coach is to help people to see what it is that they actually want to ‘be about’ in the world. What I am talking about today is that we need to take the time to stop and assess what our goals are, asking what type of lifestyle do I want to have, and how is my current schedule/habits/choices matching up with that ideal life?

As a Life Coach, I use structured and creative methods to help people explore what they want to add to their life and what they want to discard. I help you to get motivated to do the things you want to do more of and to develop the skills to push through the challenges of behavior change. It’s not easy to change habits, but it can be well worth the effort, especially if we can begin to enjoy the life we want to have even sooner!

Doing my best to Live Life on Purpose.

 – Terri Mudge

 

What To Do When You Have Too Much to Do

~ Zen Habits By Leo Babauta ~

Working Hard When You Have Much To DoI recently read an article on Leo Babauta’s site about 5 Tips For When You Have Too Much To Do. In this article, Leo also talks about strategies to cope with the dreaded ‘too much to do’.  He offers some great ideas to have an impact, for example, he again talks about doing ‘just one thing’. And I love that he also talks about choosing a task that has a lot of meaning for you.

You may have a lot of little things to do, like cleaning the kitchen, responding to e-mails, or other small tasks. He suggests using these small tasks as a break from doing the one more meaningful task. I really love this strategy, and besides, it even gives you a reason to avoid the dishes for a while!

Another great thought in this article is the idea to be happy where you are. That idea feels much better than worrying that there’s too much to do, and I’d rather just smile, and get done what I can.

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” – Leonardo da Vinci

 

 

Our Everloving Quest to Control Our Lives

~ Zen Habits By Leo Babauta ~

By Leo Babauta

Almost our entire lives are spent in a quest to gain control, security and comfort in our lives. Unfortunately, we never really get it, so we keep trying, relentlessly.

This is the main activity of our lives.

What would happen if we stopped?

We could be less restricted by fear, less anxious, less driven by the need for comfort … and more in love with life as it is.

You might be surprised by how much we strive for control.

The Ways We Try to Get Control

The basic nature of live is that it is everchanging, uncontrollable. When we think we have stability in life, something comes up to remind us that no, we don’t. There is no stability, no matter how much we’d like it.

And this kinda freaks us out. We don’t like this feeling of instability, of loss of control. So we do things to cope, out of love for ourselves. These are strategies for control, security and comfort.

Some examples among many:

  • We go on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Pinterest, because doing so is comfortable and feels like we know what we’re doing (a feeling of certainty, of things under control).
  • We make a to-do list or even try out an entire productivity or organizational system, because it feels like we’re getting things under control.
  • We clean, or declutter, or organize our desks.
  • We tackle email, because it’s out of control, and getting it under control sounds much less anxiety-inducing.
  • We procrastinate on a project that fills us with uncertainty, and procrastinate with our favorite distractions, which have less uncertainty for us.
  • We get frustrated with other people, even angry, because they’re acting in a way we don’t like (we don’t control that part of our lives, and it’s difficult for us) … so creating a story in our minds about how horrible they are and how right we are and how life would be better if they just did X, helps us to feel under control.
  • We try to organize the apps on our phone, to avoid dealing with our feelings of difficulty.
  • We plan, plan, plan. On paper, in our minds. Everything feels under control when we plan.
  • We research, google things, so we feel we’re gaining control over a topic.
  • We buy books to gain control over a topic.
  • We sign up for classes.
  • We make resolutions and goals and bucket lists.
  • We create systems.
  • We try to gain control over our health by creating a diet and workout plan.
  • Shopping feels comfortable.
  • Eating for comfort.
  • Drugs make us feel like we’re controlling our state of mind, including alcohol.

There are thousands more examples. Examine everything you do with this lens: is this activity a strategy to somehow gain control?

Now, I’m not saying these strategies are bad. They help us cope with difficult feelings. Some of them result in a healthy life. They all come from a place of love.

But it is good to be aware of this need for control, and perhaps this awareness can even help us free ourselves.

Why These Attempts at Control Keep Failing

So we do everything above, all day long, when things are feeling uncertain, uncomfortable, out of control, unsafe. They are strategies for control, security, comfort.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work.

Let’s say you make a to-do list and a plan to make yourself feel under control. Now you have to do the first thing on the list. But this makes you feel uncertain, because it’s a difficult task and you don’t know if you can do it. So you go to the easier things on the list … but the difficult task is still there, just put off for a bit, and you feel bad about it.

Eventually you run to distractions, or check your email, so you don’t have to do the task. Or you start cleaning up around your desk. You make some calls. The feeling is still there, though, in the back of your mind. None of the strategies work.

Or take another scenario: you’re feeling lonely. You don’t want to face this feeling, because it’s uncomfortable and you don’t feel under control. So you eat. Or you shop online. Or you watch TV, porn, Youtube. The feeling doesn’t go away. So you do it again. Or you turn to alcohol or drugs.

Maybe you get everything under control — you’re organized, have systems for everything, are spot-on with your productivity, have only healthy habits. Congratulations! You win! Except, things keep coming up that are ruining your perfect palace of control. You get anxiety until you deal with these things, and get control back. But when you were doing that, more things came up. People are calling, emailing, interrupting you, and you get irritated often because everything is getting messy. Your OCD is not resulting in a feeling of comfort and control, but just the opposite.

Finally, consider that you might feel things are stable, but then someone dies, you get injured or sick, a family crisis happens, you company goes into crisis mode, there’s a crisis in your country. Things are never under control, so you feel anguish because you thought you had stability.

Luckily, we have another way.

The Mindful Way

If life is uncontrollable, and because we don’t like the feeling of being out of control, we do all kinds of things to seek control … but it doesn’t work … what alternative is there?

We can practice mindfulness, and learn to accept the uncontrollable nature of each moment.

Start by just sitting still, and try to pay attention to the sensations of this moment, around you and in your body and even in your mind. Just notice what’s going on.

Then notice that your mind wants to run, to planning or worrying or getting a grasp on things. We run from this unknown, uncontrollable moment to a strategy of control.

Notice this urge to run, to control … and don’t act. Do nothing. Just observe, taking no action.

Notice how this feeling of being out of control feels. Where is this feeling located in your body? What is the sensation of it in your body? Is it one thing, or changing? Investigate with curiosity.

Be still with this sensation in your body. Practice with this a little at a time, for days, for weeks. You’ll start to get to know it intimately.

And then it won’t be so bad. You’ll learn to sit with this feeling of out-of-controlledness, and be OK with it. You’ll learn to trust in this moment, not to lead to an outcome you want (control!), but to turn out just fine.

You’ll need to do fewer things to get under control, to get comfort. You’ll still do some of them, because no one ever truly masters this (control!), but you’ll need it less.

And then what? What’s left when we don’t try to control? Love. We still act, but not out of a need for control. We act out of love for others and ourselves.

This is the other way.

Get to the Root of Work Stress

~ Zen Habits By Leo Babauta ~

By Leo Babauta

There isn’t a working person among us who doesn’t deal with stress — whether you’re an entrepreneur, a freelancer, working for a struggling startup, or clocking in working for a company, work stress is inevitable.

But where does this stress originate, and how do we deal with it?

Most guides to stress will give you some actions to take: exercise, sleep well, eat right, meditate, and do some yoga at your desk. These are all amazing, and you should do them.

However, I’m more interested in getting at the root of stress. Dig down, ferret out the cause, and work with that directly, rather than treating the symptoms. Only once you deal with the cause of stress can you truly be a master of it.

Cause of Stress

Let’s take a look at some things you might be stressed about at work:

  • Hard deadlines
  • Difficult co-workers or boss
  • Uncertainty about your job
  • Uncertainty about whether you can succeed at this project
  • Competition, office politics, interpersonal conflicts
  • Not having enough time for family or personal life
  • Being overwhelmed by too much to do

There are many more possibilities, but these are a good sampling. In all these examples, the cause is really the same thing:

We are attached to how we want things to be. We have an ideal about how each of these situations should be, and our clinging to this ideal is causing the stress.

Let’s take the uncertainty about the job. Of course, that’s not ideal, we would rather have a stable job that we don’t have to worry about. So reality is not matching our ideal (a stable job), and that causes us stress. We don’t like the present situation, and this not wanting uncertainty is causing us to stress out.

The same is true of each of the above examples — when a co-worker is not meeting our ideal, when we have an ideal that we won’t have too much to do, when our ideal of having easy-to-meet deadlines isn’t being met … we get stressed.

Unfortunately, this happens all day long, every day. Our ideals about reality are constantly not being met, and so we stress out. It builds up. It becomes a health problem.

So what’s the way to deal with this? Let’s take a look.

Dealing with the Cause of Stress

If our attachment to an ideal is the cause of our stress, then can we just not have ideals? Well, that would be ideal, perhaps, but no, I’ve found it impossible to not have ideals. The ideals come up, unbidden, in our active and ever hopeful minds.

The way to deal with the cause of stress is to 1) notice that you’re feeling stress or frustration, 2) mindfully notice your attachment to an ideal, and 3) loosen the attachment, finding love for the actual reality of the present moment.

Let’s look at these in turn.

First, you have to notice the stress. Learn to see your frustration or worry about something as a signpost, a flag that tells you what’s going on. In this way, stress becomes a positive thing, because it’s letting you know that something is going on. It’s like a notification system on your phone — instead of ignoring the notifications, as we usually do (we don’t like to think about stress), we can mindfully drop into ourselves and deal with it.

Next, you have to mindfully notice your attachment to the ideal. That means dropping in and saying, “Hey, things are meeting my ideal and it’s stressing me out — what’s my ideal?” It’s probably something that is more secure, stable, comfortable, controlled than what you’re currently experiencing.

For example, if you’re overwhelmed by too much work, your ideal is probably that you have a very controlled, comfortable amount of work, and that you’re on top of it all. That would feel much more secure, stable, comfortable to you.

Unfortunately, comfort and control and security aren’t what life provides us. It mostly provides us the very opposite — something chaotic, unpredictable, uncomfortable, unstable. And we can be upset by this, or we can embrace it. We can hate all of this about life, or we can love it. This is a choice.

Finally, we can loosen our attachment to this expectation or ideal. We can say, “This ideal is not helping me. Clinging to wanting things this way is actually harming me. I hereby open my heart to many more possibilities.”

That means we can be open to a less-than-ideal co-worker, who isn’t perfect and is struggling with his issues. We can be open to loving having too much work, more than we can possibly do, and having to prioritize and just focus on the important stuff for now. We can be open to the possibility that we’ll do poorly, or lose our jobs, because even then we’ll figure something out and life will be just fine.

Loosening our attachments is about realizing that life doesn’t have to be one way, our way, that we can be open to life’s way. It’s about learning to love everything, shit and all. It’s about being curious about life, about others, instead of judging life and other people as bad.

And then it’s about working from this place of peace and love. Have too much to do? Pick one task, and do your best with it. Have an annoying co-worker? Find compassion for her struggles, and be curious about what she’s going through, and talk to her compassionately and empathetically about your conflict with her. Worried about losing your job? Focus on doing your best, while preparing yourself for the possibility that you might need to find another job.

Many people won’t like this solution, because it means that they don’t get the ideals they want. Most of us want to control life to be the way we want. And that’s fine, if it works for you.

What I’m suggesting is being open to the many other possibilities, opening your heart to what life offers instead of what you want it to offer, being curious about what’s really in front of you rather than judgmental, and learning to love everything as it is.

How Awe Makes Us Generous

~ Greater Good Science Center ~

 

Child in awe

What do the Grand Canyon, Sistine Chapel, and gazing at distant stars all have in common?

They can awaken a deep appreciation for the world around us and inspire a profound sense of awe. This sensation is often accompanied by an awareness of something larger than ourselves—that we play a small part in an intricate cosmic dance that is life.

But is that experience strictly personal? New research from UC Berkeley and UC Irvine suggests that experiencing awe can actually prompt us to act more benevolently toward others. In other words, awe can help make the world a better place.

“For hundreds of years, people have talked about the importance of awe to human life and interpersonal relations,” says Paul Piff, an assistant professor of psychology and social behavior at UC Irvine. “And just now we are beginning to devise tools for testing it and understanding it.”

Piff and his team conducted a series of experiments to investigate the types of experiences that inspire awe, how awe facilitates positive behavior towards others, and how these effects are distinct from those of other pro-social emotions.

In the first study, participants were asked to rate the frequency that they generally feel awe, and then completed a test that measured generous behavior. Results showed that those who experience more awe tend to behave more generously, even after accounting for other positive emotions like compassion or love. While this finding was highly encouraging, the team had yet to prove that awe directly led to positive behavior towards others.

In a second study, participants recalled a time they felt awe—such as the view from a mountaintop or a brilliant ocean sunset—and then were asked to complete an ethical decision-making task. Once again, those who experienced awe demonstrated significantly more ethical behavior as compared to those who recalled other emotions such as pride.

Participants consistently reported that awe produced “a reduced sense of self importance relative to something larger and more powerful that they felt connected to,” says Piff. And subsequent analysis confirmed that this feeling of the “small self” was responsible for their ethical behavior. This seems to suggest that experiencing awe prompts people to help others.

Yet another experiment exposed different groups to an awe-inspiring nature video such as Planet Earth, a funny animal video, or a neutral video. Once again, people who experienced awe reported a feeling of a “small self” which triggered more generous behavior.

And these effects were shown to be applicable outside the lab, as well. After gazing up at a grove of towering eucalyptus trees for one full minute, participants were more helpful when a researcher “accidentally” dropped a box of pens on the ground than those who just stared at a large building.

But does awe continue to have its beneficial effects on social behavior even if the stimulus is threatening or isn’t associated with nature at all? Indeed, after exposure to videos of threatening natural disasters (e.g. volcanoes) or beautiful close-up slow motion footage of colored drops of water, participants also showed a greater tendency toward fairness when distributing resources between themselves and another individual.

“Even these minute droplets remind you of the intricacy and complexity of natural world, and in so doing bring about feelings of awe and the small self,” says Piff. “And that is one of the remarkable qualities of awe. You don’t have to climb a huge mountain and take in a grand view to feel it.”

Piff is now investigating whether awe can spread between people, the degree to which these positive effects are seen in those who vicariously experience awe, and if these effects apply universally across cultures.

“When people experience awe they really want to share that experience with other people, suggesting that it has this particularly viral component to it,” says Piff. “Maybe this is yet another way that awe binds people together—by causing people to want to share their positive experiences collectively with one another.”

 

5 Great Reasons to Meditate – Backed By Science

shutterstock_74158666-w~ By Terri Mudge ~

Stress is a real killer. Scientists have identified many of the biological factors linking stress to real medical problems including physical deterioration, adding to the risk of stroke, heart attack, infection, asthma and even making recovery from cancer harder. Chronic stress can come from the job, family issues, poverty, abuse, recurring pain, or even caring for a sick loved one and its effects can take their toll. The good news is that the bad side effects of stress can be turned around by implementing a few good habits.

The solution lies in taking control of your body to re-direct your brain into healthier patterns, that over time, increase your body’s ability to withstand life’s stresses. How does one do that you ask? Mindfulness, of course!

Here are 5 Reasons to Meditate Backed By Science:

  1. Harvard Medical School researchers have found increases in GABA (an inhibitory neurotransmitter) in people who Meditate, while those with depression or anxiety disorders have low levels of GABA.
  2. Yoga and Meditation provide the body a mechanism to alter their responses to bad experiences and improving the neuroplasticity of the brain. Studies show this leads to the ability to moderate bad habits, limit compulsive behavior and tame obsessive thoughts.
  3. Meditation has shown to increase the activity in the brain’s left pre-frontal cortex, the area of the brain associated with positive emotions in studies by Buddhist monks.
  4. Even more studies have shown that Meditation increases activity in the areas of the brain responsible for making decisions and paying attention.
  5. Yet further research has tied Yoga and Mediation to an increase in melatonin (a hormone intimately involved in regulating the sleeping and waking cycle) and regulating circadian rhythms (physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness). Essentially this means they lead to positive impacts on sleep and mood.

Not convinced yet? Listen to this broadcast from NPR about researchers who studied students practicing meditation for as little as 11 hours within one month. They found changes in brain connectivity were actually visible on a brain scan. Hear the whole story here.

The studies simply keep adding up! I’d say it’s time to embrace them and set a date with ourselves for some time alone. Being able to handle stress easier, plus getting improvements in our brain chemistry in the process? Why wait another moment?

Doing my best to live life on purpose!

Terri Mudge

Sources of information for this article came from:
The American Mindfulness Research Association
ScienceNews.Org: Chronic Stress Can Wreak Havoc On The Body

 

Being Mindful Will Help You Sleep and Reduce Stress

Stress Relief In BedFor a long while, I have been a student of Mindfulness. The practice of being in the moment and focusing on the here and now can have amazing benefits. One of the most important benefits is reducing stress.

I wanted to share this article by Rosie Osmun from Mindful.org that provides some great tips for beginners on how to reduce stress at bedtime every night.

Four Effective Bedtime Strategies for Reducing Stress

Here are four practices you can try if you need help falling asleep.

Stress affects half of all Americans, with women, younger adults, and people with lower incomes reporting the highest levels, according to the 2014 Stress in America survey by the American Psychological Association. Additionally, 42% of adults don’t think they are effectively managing their stress, and 40% say they lie awake at night because of stress.

Stress is one of the top contributors to insomnia, which impacts around 30% of US adults at any given time. If you’ve experienced a nerve-wracked night, it’s not too hard to understand why: high levels of stress makes it hard to mentally wind down, and it makes it difficult to physically relax before and during sleep as well.

The relationship between stress and sleep works both ways, too. Missing out on rest compounds stress and affects physical and mental health over time, which can create a cycle that exacerbates both problems. Recently, a study published in the journal Sleep found that how a person responds to stress may impact the development of insomnia. Having a few relaxation techniques in your mental toolkit can be helpful for those times when stress rears its head and keeps you up. Here are four practices you can explore if you need help getting some quality shut-eye.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation involves taking time be aware of your physical body and thoughts and accepting rather than judging those thoughts and feelings. There are variety of health benefits associated with mindfulness, and one of those is improved sleep. One 2015 study found that people in a mindfulness training program improved on sleep, depression, and fatigue measures over six weeks, compared to people in a sleep hygiene education program.

Mindfulness meditation can be practiced independently. The steps are simple: take a seat, pay attention to the breath, and when your attention wanders, return. Following a guided meditation can also be helpful for beginners.

If you prefer instructor-led learning, several universities and therapists provide mindfulness training programs based on the practice of meditation and mind-body awareness, aimed at reducing stress or for specific concerns like insomnia. (Find more helpful resources here.)

Deep Breathing

Since breathing is typically an autonomic function, it’s easy to overlook its role in relaxation. However, considerable evidence shows that depth and pace of breathing can affect things like heart rate and blood pressure. Certain breathing techniques involving deeper, slower breaths can be practiced for inducing relaxation.

Diaphragmatic Breathing: This technique is easy to try: sitting or lying down, inhale through your nose, counting to ten and focusing on drawing breath from your abdomen rather than your chest. Exhale slowly through your nose at the same pace, counting to ten. Complete the cycle five to ten times, repeating as often as needed. Research has found that even a single session of deep, slow breathing can reduce blood pressure and heart rate.

4-7-8 Breath: This technique was developed for inducing sleep and relaxation by Andrew Weil, based in yoga breathing principles. To try it: place the tip of your tongue behind your upper teeth. Exhale fully through your mouth, making a “whooshing” sound. Close your mouth, and inhale through your nose to a count of four. Hold your breathe for a count of seven. Exhale through your mouth making the whoosh sound for a count of eight. Repeat three more times.
Listen to Music

Have you ever noticed how certain songs can make you feel relaxed? It’s not just in your head—music really can help you calm down and fight stress. Music-based therapy is a professional clinical practice involving trained therapists, backed by significant research.

Music relaxation techniques have been shown to reduce stress and pain as well as insomnia symptoms. Listening to soothing music (Pachabel’s Canon in D in one study) may have a preventative effect against stress, and according to research, music may even be more effective the progressive muscle relaxation at anxiety and insomnia relief. A study of college students found that listening to classical music at night improved sleep and decreased depression compared to either audiobooks or nothing.

When choosing music relax to at home, it’s best to pick instrumentals with a calming pace, including classical, light jazz, and stringed tunes as well as nature soundtracks, depending on what you personally find most appealing. Lay back, turn out the lights, and focus on the melody and beat of the music.

Mindful Movement

Meditative movements like those found in yoga and tai chi can be helpful way to reduce stress. A recent review published in September looked at several studies involving meditative movement interventions, finding that these practices improved sleep. Type was not important, but practicing three days a week or more was.

Tai chi is an ancient Chinese tradition combining series of slow, focused movements with deep breathing. It’s a very low impact form of exercise requiring no equipment, suitable for doing alone or in a group. Another 2015 research review found small but consistent evidence that tai chi helps subjective sleep quality for older adults. Follow along with a guided video or attend a class in your area.

Yoga has been studied as an insomnia intervention, for cancer survivors, in elderly individuals, and in pregnant women, showing positive results. Typically the studies involve regular daytime practices, though yoga can also be utilized at night for relaxation, with poses like forward bends, child’s pose, legs-up-the-wall and savasana for gentle stretching and stress relief. Many yoga resources are available free online, and classes are also abundant in most cities.

Since relaxation can be an individual thing, testing out different programs and even different instructors can be helpful. But remember, as with most strategies, results can take time to see and most studies find benefits over a span of several weeks to months.

Finding a healthy stress relief method that works for you and practicing it regularly can make a significant difference when life throws you curveballs. Coping strategies that help you process stress and induce relaxation offer a positive way to manage problems and work to prevent its negative effects, including insomnia.

[Source: Osmun, Rosie. “Four Effective Bedtime Strategies for Reducing Stress – Mindful.” Mindful. FOUNDATION FOR A MINDFUL SOCIETY, 13 Oct. 2015. Web. 15 Feb. 2016.]