Meditate to Relieve Stress

Do you feel on edge, tired, stressed, or frustrated? Meditation is an ancient mind-body practice that promotes relaxation and well-being. Research shows that meditating may have stress-relieving psychological and physical health benefits that include reduced blood pressure, anxiety, insomnia and depression. Additionally, meditation has been shown to reduce the number of times you get the flu or a cold as well as how long and how severe symptoms are.[1] You may think that learning to meditate effectively is hard or too time consuming, but you really only need a few minutes in your day to practice these simple exercises and feel refreshed.


Learning Basic Meditative Techniques

  1. Locate a quiet place. The world is a distracting place and this may not be an easy request. However, a quiet spot where you can meditate without interruption is valuable when learning to meditate to reduce stress. As you become more proficient with meditation, outside distractions will bother you less and less.
    • At first, many things will probably distract you. You will hear cars driving by, birds and people talking. It is best to turn off all electronic devices like cell phones and television to minimize things that could draw your attention away from your meditative task.
    • A room with a door you can close usually works well but you can also get earplugs if needed.
    • As you develop greater meditation skill, you will find that you can meditate anywhere—even in high-stress situations, such as traffic, work or crowded stores.
  2. Decide on a comfortable position. Meditation can be done lying down, walking, sitting or really any position. The key is to be comfortable so that discomfort does not distract you.
    • Some people may feel more connected in a traditional cross-legged position. This can be uncomfortable for beginners, though, so consider propping your bottom up on a pillow, sitting in a chair or using a wall to support your back.[2]
  3. Control your breathing. All meditation uses controlled breathing. Breathing deeply helps your body and mind relax. In fact, effective meditation can be practiced just by focusing on your breathing.
    • Breathe in through your nose and then out through your nose. You will want your mouth closed but relaxed while you breathe. Listen to the sound your breath makes.
    • Use the diaphragm muscle to expand your lungs. Put your hand on your stomach. It should rise as you inhale and lower as you exhale. Breathe in and breathe out at regular intervals.
    • Controlling your breath allows you to slow the rate of your breathing and fill your lungs with more oxygen per breath.
    • Taking deep breaths relaxes the muscles of your upper torso, such as those in the shoulder, neck and chest. Deep diaphragm breathing is more efficient than shallow breathing with your upper chest area.
  4. Focus on something. Paying attention to something or even nothing at all is an important component of effective meditation. The goal is to free your mind from distractions that cause stress so your body and mind will get a break. Some people choose to focus on an object, image, mantra or each breath but you can also focus on a blank screen or something else.
    • Your mind will probably wander during meditation. This is normal and to be expected—even for those who have been practicing meditation for a long time. When this happens, just bring your thoughts back to what you were focusing on when you started your meditation, whether it was an object, your breathing or a feeling. [3]
  5. Engage in prayer. Praying is a type of meditation practiced all over the world in many different religious and non-religious contexts. Adapt the prayer to meet your needs, personal beliefs and meditative goals.[4]
    • You can pray out loud, silently or write down your prayer. It can be in your own words or those of others.
    • Prayers can be devout or casual. Decide what best fits who you are, your belief systems and what you want the prayer to do. You can pray to a god, the universe, yourself or to nothing in particular. It is up to you.
  6. Know that there is no “right way” to meditate. If you stress out about how you’re breathing, what you’re thinking (or not thinking) about or whether you’re meditating correctly, then you’re only adding to the problem. Meditation is adaptable to suit your lifestyle and the situation. It’s about taking a few moments to relax your way in a busy, stressful world.
    • It can be helpful to add meditation to your daily routine so you practice regularly. For example, you can choose to begin or end each day with a few minutes of meditation.
    • There are many different types of meditation techniques you can try. Experiment by trying various methods. Soon, you will find one that works for you that you really enjoy.[3]
    • Meditation centers and classes are probably available in your area. If you find that you work better in a group setting with trained guides, then consider attending a meditation at one of these places. You can usually get more information by searching for meditation and your location on the internet, looking in the newspaper or visiting your local meditation center or temple.
  7. Enjoy yourself. While meditation can provide short and long-term benefits for you, it also should be a pleasant experience. Some resistance to clearing your mind and relaxing is normal when we are so used to being under a lot of stress but don’t force yourself to meditate a certain way if you don’t enjoy it.
    • The key is to find a sense of peace in the moment. Don’t ignore the opportunity to meditate while doing ordinary activities. Mundane tasks like washing dishes, folding laundry or fixing the truck are all opportunities to use relaxation methods, such as deep breathing, to meditate.
    • Don’t forget that creative, relaxing activities also work well to meditate. Listen to music, paint, read, garden, write in a journal, or watch a flame in the fireplace. These activities can focus your mind, decrease stress and alter brain waves into a meditative state.

De-Stressing With Different Meditation Types

  1. Seek out guided meditation. Guided meditation can be very helpful for beginners because someone else leads you in your effort to relax and enter a meditative state. These are usually narrated through instruction, stories, imagery or music and can be accessed via a sound file (mp3, CD/DVD, ect.) on your computer, phone, tablet or by video.
    • Guided meditation uses the senses. You utilize smells, sights, sounds and textures to visualize various methods of relaxation. Often, you follow along as a guide offers directions on how to breathe, relax muscle groups and create a sensation of inner peace.[5]
  2. Listen to brain wave entrainment. There are many audio apps, CD/DVD and other forms of meditation available now that use binaural beats to facilitate deep meditation very quickly. These beats synchronize brain waves so that the frequencies are altered to help the mind reach various states of consciousness.[6]
  3. Focus with concentrative meditation. Concentrative meditation has you focusing your attention on an image, object, sound or positive mantra. You can think of a peaceful beach, a bright apple or a calming word or phrase. The idea is that what you choose to focus on helps block out distracting thoughts.
    • For your mantra, repeat a word or phrase that calms you. You can choose something like “I feel at peace” or “I love myself” but really anything that makes you feel better will work. You can say it out loud or silently, whichever you prefer.[5]
    • It can be helpful to place a hand on your stomach so you can feel your breathing while you practice controlled breaths, visualizing or mantra repetition.
    • Consider Japa meditation. It utilizes the repetition of a Sanskrit term or word along with a beaded rosary to meditate. You may also want to try passage meditation, which uses spiritual or inspirational passages to focus and achieve meditation.
  4. Practice mindfulness meditation. Meditating this way focuses your attention on the present moment. You bring awareness to what is happening right now and your experience during meditation, such as your breathing. You recognize what you feel, think and what is happening around you without actively trying to change it.
    • While you meditate, observe the thoughts going through your head and what you feel but don’t judge or try to stop them. Let your thoughts and emotions pass on their own. [5]
    • Mindfulness meditation works because you are able to forget the past and the future. Stress results from thinking too much about things that are out of our control—things that already happened and things that may happen. With this type of meditation, you are able to stop worrying about everything.
    • You can bring your thoughts and feelings back to mindful meditation by focusing on the present moment. Pay attention to your body. Is your breathing deep and slow? Are your fingers touching? You don’t stop wandering thoughts or feelings--just think about what is happening now.[7]
    • Try practicing a loving kindness meditation. This is a deep desire for well-being and happiness for yourself. You focus on the feeling of love and well-being in the moment. Then you extend that feeling out to everyone else in the world.
  5. Practice a movement meditation. Yoga and T’ai Chi are well-known stress relief meditative practices that use movement and breathing to promote well-being. Research shows that they are effective ways to meditate and maintain health.[5]
    • Yoga uses different movements and a series of postures along with controlled breathing exercises to reduce stress and help you relax. The poses require balance and concentration so you are less able to think about stressors.
    • T’ai Chi is a Chinese martial arts that uses a gentle series of postures and movements to meditate. The movements are self-paced and done slowly in a graceful manner alongside controlled breathing.[8]
    • Walk and meditate. Slow down your pace and focus on your legs and feet. Observe what the movement feels like as you move your leg and your foot touches the ground. Note whatever sensations arise. If it helps, you can try silently repeating action words that have to do with walking—"lift", "move", "foot down", ect.

Practicing Meditation

  1. Find a quiet, relaxing atmosphere. It could be anywhere. Outside under a tree, in a bedroom with the lights off, or even in your living room. Anywhere that makes you feel comfortable is great. Make sure that there is no distractions in the area you have chosen and make sure there are no future distractions. You need to be focused on the here and now.
  2. Find a comfortable position. Whether it would be sitting, laying down, or standing up the decision is up to you. Make sure that it's comfortable for you. Once you find your position, close your eyes.
    • If you are sitting up, you’ll want to have good posture so you can breathe better. Your back should be straight, chest slightly lifted and shoulders back. Lift your chin slightly but do not strain your neck. Your wrists should rest lightly on your knees, palms open and facing up.
  3. Take in a deep breath. As you are in your position with your eyes closed, take in a slow, deep breath. As you are taking in your breath, relax yourself. Loosen your shoulder and neck, wiggle your toes or fingers. Breathe in slowly, and as you breathe out, imagine all your stress and worries leaving your body whenever you exhale.
  4. Try to clear your mind and avoid distractions, if you can. Put off any tasks that can wait until after you're done meditating. As you are taking in your breaths, let all your worries go. Stop stressing or thinking about commitments, appointments and responsibilities. Save that for later. Instead, become self-aware. Notice your breathing, your relaxation. Be in the moment and benefit from it.
    • Of course, if the phone rings, or you need to do any important task, then take care of it. You can always return to this meditation later.
  5. Imagine yourself in a happy place. This may be from a holiday a few years ago, when you were younger, an imaginary place or you simply sitting alone in a park. The point is that you get a good feeling from the location.
    • Another option is to practice mindfulness meditation. Simply focus on what you are experiencing at the moment. Focus on your breathing, what you hear or smell right now. Bring your mind back to your breathing as often as possible.
  6. Relax your body. Keep your eyes closed, continue to breathe deeply and imagine all your body slowing down. Your heartbeat, your blood flow, all the way down to your feet—everything should begin to feel loose and heavy. Continue imagining yourself in your happy place while breathing slowly for the next few minutes.
    • Scan your body to find areas that feel tense from stress. Start with your toes and move all the way up to your scalp. Imagine that each deep breath flows into that body part as heat or light. Do this for 1 to 2 minutes and repeat for each tense area.[9]
  7. Take your time. Don't worry how long you should meditate for. Keep meditating until you feel yourself relaxed and refreshed. If you need a time frame, studies show that 5-15 minutes is beneficial. Once you feel like it's over, open your eyes and feel the benefits.


  • If you decide to use a guide or instructor for meditation, find out about the training and experience of those you are considering.
  • Meditate in comfortable clothing. It can be anything as long it’s not restricting.
  • Let others know when you are going to meditate, especially if you will be doing it publicly. That way no one worries that something is wrong.
  • Don’t feel pressured to finish every meditative exercise. Go at your own pace, stop when you need to and start over or finish when you want.


  • Meditation takes time to master. Don't get frustrated if you can't meditate for long periods of time right away or if health benefits don’t happen immediately.
  • Meditation should not take the place of medical care. See a medical provider if you are sick.
  • Meditation can relax you so much that you fall asleep. Be aware that this can happen and only practice in situations that are safe for you to fall asleep in.
  • If finding time to meditate causes too much stress, then just don't do it.
  • Meditation is a pretty safe practice for those who are healthy. However, if you have physical limitations, certain movement meditative practices may not be feasible. Always consult your medical provider before participating in a meditative practice. [1]

Things You'll Need

  • Comfortable clothing
  • Space to meditate
  • Patience

Sources and Citations