An easy trick to help you reduce stress and sleep better

We’re always looking for techniques to help you get better sleep, but this technique does so much more. Not only will it help you sleep better, it will also reduce stress, expand your self-awareness, and teach you how to view events in your life from a more productive perspective.

The method is simple but the effect it can have on your outlook on life is quite profound.

Best of all, this technique is simple to practice, takes very little time, and can be done at night while lying in bed before you fall asleep.

There are two parts to the technique. The first part is easy. The second part is where you’ll take things to a whole new level.

Step 1

Yellow rose at the USF Botanical Garden in Tampa, FloridaAs you lie in bed at night before drifting off to sleep, think of something you’re thankful for. It doesn’t have to be something huge. Even the little things count. Being thankful for the comfortable bed you’re about to fall asleep in is a good place to start.

Once you’ve come up with one thing you’re thankful for, use that as a foundation and branch out to other things you’re thankful for. If you’re thankful for the bed you’re lying in, you can extend that feeling into gratitude for your home, or gratitude for the electricity that keeps so many things in your home running, or gratitude that you live in a safe neighborhood, or gratitude for your spouse lying next to you in bed. As you can see, the possibilities are endless.

Keep branching out that gratitude to touch upon other things in your life. Your job, your family, your health, your freedom — all of these areas provide a wealth of things to be thankful for.

Spend a few minutes thinking about all these things and letting that feeling of gratitude wash over you. Let it really soak in.

When you first use this method, you’ll probably try it not for the gratitude itself but for the other benefits — the improved sleep, reduced stress, and more meaningful self-awareness — but after a few days you’ll realize you’re practicing it for the sake of the gratitude itself, not just for the extra perks that come with it. Pay attention to that subtle change in your approach. It’s a good sign.

Step 2

You’ve spent a few minutes thinking of all the great things in your life, all the things that bring joy and prosperity and make you happy. You’ve probably built up a nice surplus of good cheer. You might even be thinking, “Wow, I really do have a lot to be thankful for.

This is where things get tricky.

Now it’s time to think of something that makes you unhappy, something that frustrates you or annoys you or just plain makes you feel bad.

Maybe your boss is piling more work on top of your already overwhelming workload, or you’ve had an argument with your spouse, or your child is failing math, or someone rear-ended your new car. As before, it doesn’t have to be something huge. Little things count as much as big things.

Have you come up with something yet? Good. You’re ready to tackle Step 2.

Think of that one thing that’s frustrating you or worrying you or making you miserable. Now find a reason to be thankful for it.

You’re probably wondering how — or why — you’re supposed to be thankful for something that’s obviously an unpleasant part of your life. Let’s start with how to do it and then we’ll move on to why it’s definitely worth doing.

How do you express gratitude for the bad things in life? You need to start by reframing the situation, by viewing the problem from other angles and determining how you benefit from it.

Sometimes it’s quite easy to reframe a bad situation, while other times it’s more difficult to take a step backward and view it in a new light. You might have to ponder all the details for a while but in time you’ll come up with something.

Here are a few examples to give you an idea of how you might reframe a bad situation into an amazing gratitude-generating experience:

  1. If you’ve had an argument with your spouse or significant other, try to look at the situation differently and discover what it can do for you. Be thankful you’ve been given an opportunity to learn patience. Be grateful for the chance to work together to find a solution and build a foundation for a stronger relationship.
  2. If your child isn’t doing well in school, be thankful that circumstances have given you an undeniably solid reason to spend extra time with your child each night, even if that time is spent helping him or her with schoolwork. Or, feel gratitude that your child is growing up in a country where education is available to all children.
  3. If your boss is piling on the work, reframe it as a challenge rather than a struggle. View it as an opportunity to test your own skills, to push yourself to excel. Be grateful for the opportunity to challenge yourself. If you need to break the situation down into a more practical form, be grateful for the job and the steady paycheck.

The goal is not to attempt a Pollyanna approach of denying that bad things happen or of refusing to think about the bad things that have happened in your life. That approach doesn’t really accomplish much. Bad things happen. They’re part of life, and if you refuse to think about any of the bad things that have happened in your life, you’ll fail to learn the lessons those struggles could teach you.

If instead you view those events from another perspective and reframe the situations in a different light, you can uncover the lessons buried in them and grow stronger, mentally and emotionally.

If you spend a few minutes at bedtime each night thinking about things from the perspective of gratitude, you’ll sleep better and you’ll feel less stressed but you’ll also notice a shift in how you think about things throughout the rest of the day as well.

The more gratitude you express each night and the more experience you have in reframing your view of unpleasant situations, the more the things that once caused you frustration and stress will start seeming less frustrating and less stressful. You won’t eliminate the cause of the stress but you’ll significantly limit the negative effect it has on you.

This technique produces a cumulative effect. The more gratitude you express, the less stress you feel. The less stress you feel, the more gratitude you’ll feel. It builds on itself and the benefits reach into every corner of your life. The investment of just a few minutes each night is well worth it.

Light/Dark Visualization for Relaxation or Meditation

This easy visualization technique can be quite helpful and refreshing when you are having trouble sleeping, feeling overly stressed, or feeling ill or fatigued. You can use this technique indoors or outdoors.

Woman relaxing outdoors1. Get into a comfortable position. You can do this technique while lying in bed or on the floor or while reclined in a comfortable chair, wherever you are most comfortable.

2. Close your eyes.

3. As you lie there, visualize your body, wherever it is that you are at this moment. See yourself lying there on the bed or sitting in your chair.

4. Imagine your entire body is …Read more about the Light-Dark Visualization for relaxation

Everyday Meditation For People Who Don’t Like to Meditate

When most people think about meditation, they think of sitting cross-legged on the floor and trying to empty all the thoughts from their mind. Or they think of Tibetan monks chanting mantras in temples far away. While it’s true those are forms of meditation, they aren’t the only ways to meditate.

Spirograph 1Unfortunately, many people never realize meditation doesn’t have to be quite so complicated. They give up because sitting in the lotus position is too uncomfortable or because they can’t stop the constant stream of thoughts going through their mind or for any number of other very legitimate reasons. They miss out on all the rewards of meditation — better sleep, reduced stress, improved health, deeper self-awareness, and a whole host of other benefits.

That’s why we’ve decided to begin a new series of articles devoted to everyday meditation. We’ll offer simple techniques you can incorporate into your day with very little effort, along with suggestions for how to turn daily tasks into a form of meditation.

I’m going to begin with one of my favorites, a technique so easy little children do it all the time. I can almost guarantee you’ve done it at least once in your lifetime, and …Read more about turning everyday activities into a meditation

The Top 5 Reasons You Should Try Meditation

Meditating on the BeachMeditation, once considered a spiritual practice reserved for monks and yogis, is gradually achieving mainstream popularity as more people discover its many benefits.

Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated, doesn’t require you to subscribe to any particular spiritual belief, and doesn’t necessitate sitting cross-legged on the floor and chanting mantras. It can be as simple as sitting in a quiet room and focusing on your breath, or counting your steps while walking around your neighborhood. You can also turn everyday activities like washing the dishes or vacuuming the carpet into a meditation.

There are many different forms of meditation, making it easy for everyone to find a style that best suits their lifestyle. At the end of this article, we’ll provide a few simple meditation techniques, including one method that will allow you to meditate deeply without even trying.

But first, let’s talk about the top five reasons you should try meditation. …Read more about the top five reasons you should try meditation

Developing Present-Moment Awareness With Reversed Behavior

Here is an easy exercise to help you develop present-moment awareness. We call this technique “practicing opposite behavior.”

This exercise also has the added benefit of stimulating activity in both hemispheres of the brain. By reversing your actions and by maintaining an awareness of each action as you perform it, you’ll trigger synchronized activity in the left and right hemispheres. Whole-brain synchronization is often seen in EEG readings of the brain activity of people who have practiced meditation for many years.

For one week, try performing all your everyday tasks in reverse. If you always put on your right shoe before your left, force yourself to stop and think, to become aware of what you are doing, and to put on the left shoe first instead. If you always step into your pants with the left leg first, try it in reverse instead. If you always take the milk out of the refrigerator before you get the cereal out of the cabinet, force yourself to stop and deliberately do it in the reverse order.

While you’re performing the actions in reverse, take …Learn more about the Opposite Behavior technique for enhanced awareness

Breathing technique: Whole Body Breathing

This breathing technique is designed to help you learn to involve your entire body in the breathing process.

Seat yourself in a comfortable position, or lie down on the bed or floor. With relaxed concentration, focus on the idea that your entire body is performing the duty of your lungs, breathing air in and out. Inhale and exhale slowly.

As you inhale each breath, imagine you are breathing in the air through each and every pore in your skin. Imagine your entire body as …Click here to learn more about the Whole Body Breathing technique for relaxation

Visualization Technique – Focusing On Your Goals

This is a very simple but highly effective visualization technique that involves your full imagination and all five of your senses.

Think of what you would most like to achieve — your primary goals or desires. As you think of what you would like to achieve, picture in your mind what it would be like to have already achieved that goal. Picture yourself wherever you would be, doing whatever you would be doing as you reached that goal.

Imagine every aspect of it, physical and emotional. View every moment of it in your mind. The goal is to immerse yourself in this process as completely and totally as possible.

Runner at the Finish LineFor example, if you were a runner hoping to win the Olympic Gold Medal in the 100-yard run, you would begin by imagining yourself at the starting line before the race. You would see the other runners line up beside you. You would feel the texture of the ground beneath your feet and hands as you moved into the starting position. You would go on to imagine yourself …Click here to read more about using visualization to help you achieve your goals

Using a Mandala or Image to Focus Your Mind During Meditation

mandalaThe word mandala translates to “circle”. A mandala is an image that represents, to you personally, a symbol of balance, wholeness, centeredness, and harmony. A mandala can be an excellent focusing tool for meditation.

Though we recommend keeping your eyes closed while listening to the Insight CD or MP3, you may also use a mandala for a few minutes prior to beginning your listening session in order to calm the mind and focus yourself.

Begin by finding a mandala that appeals to you. Your mandala can be any image the represents balance, wholeness, and harmony to you, but we recommend finding a mandala that incorporates visually balanced elements as well. Many beautiful mandalas may be found at the Mandala Project web site. You may also draw your own mandala on paper, in the sand, or using any other medium. The act of creating your own mandala can be a meditative experience in and of itself.

Place your mandala in a location where you will …Click here to learn more about using a mandala during meditation

Breathing Technique: Following the Breath

The breathing technique called following the breath has been used for many years as a traditional meditation technique. It is one of the easiest breathing techniques but also one of the most effective.

Inhale, counting to four until you feel filled with breath. Hold this breath while counting to four. Be sure to keep your throat and chest relaxed.

Exhale, counting to four until the lungs are empty. Hold the exhalation while counting to four.

The pace you use to count from one to four will vary from … Click here to learn more about the Following The Breath technique

Using a Mantra for Meditation

Using a mantra is a quick and simple way to calm the mind while meditating. The mantra may be a phrase or word with personal or spiritual significance, or may be a word, sound, or syllable that has no meaning and therefore provides no mental associations. The choice is entirely up to you.

Begin by selecting a word, phrase, or sound to use as your mantra. It can be helpful to use the same mantra for a period of time, such as a month or longer. If you do not have a word or sound that holds special meaning for you, a simple mantra such as “Peace” or “Om” (or “Aum”) can be very effective.

You may speak your mantra out loud, or you may say it to yourself mentally instead. Keep your mind calm and relaxed, and say your mantra slowly as you exhale. You may also chant the mantra if you prefer.

Continue speaking, thinking, or chanting your mantra for five to ten minutes to calm and focus your mind while meditating.