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.

How to Achieve Deep Physical Relaxation With the Sandbag Technique

Sleeping womanThe state of your physical body can have a significant effect on the level of mental relaxation you are able to achieve. If you’re experiencing pain in your body, it can be difficult to focus on anything else and can truly hamper the personal growth process.

Fortunately, the mind can be used as a tool to create a feeling of relaxation in the physical body. In turn, relaxing your body frees you to use your mind more efficiently to affect positive changes in your life.

Sometimes it is helpful to check in with your physical self and take note of how you are feeling. You may not even realize certain areas are tense until you bring your attention there. This technique is designed to help you pinpoint areas of tension and release the stress from those areas until your whole body feels deeply relaxed.

The Sand Bag Technique

Find a comfortable resting position in a place where you are not likely to be disturbed. Feel free to lie on the bed or floor, or to sit upright or recline in a chair.

After reading the rest of these instructions, you should …Read more about the Sandbag Technique for deep relaxation

A Simple Technique to Help You Sleep Better

Sleeping womanWe’re always on the lookout for practical methods to help people get a night of deep, restful sleep. When an easy technique accomplishes that much and also improves mental and emotional health at the same time, it’s definitely worth sharing.

This technique takes very little time, can be done while lying in bed before falling asleep, and will work for just about everyone.

The Daily Rewind Technique

A Daily Rewind is a swift and painless way to clear all the clutter out of your mind in preparation for sleep and dreaming. The technique simply involves a …Continue reading about this easy technique to help you sleep

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

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

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

Book Review: Total Relaxation

Total RelaxationTotal Relaxation by John R. Harvey, PhD, is one of the most comprehensive yet concise texts on the subject of tension and relaxation. Harvey takes the reader on a journey through every system of the body in which tension can occur. He goes into great detail about the possible causes of tension in each system, and helps the readers assess for themselves where and why their own tension resides. Most importantly, Harvey then provides detailed instructions for how to release that tension.

The layout of the book is brilliant. Each system of the body — or “level” of tension, as Harvey describes it — has its own chapter, and the following chapter contains the relaxation techniques associated with that system, or “level.” This format makes the book highly accessible for a variety of readers. A reader who is interested in learning about all the possible causes and places of tension can read the book from start to finish, gain a wealth of knowledge about how the body works with regard to producing tension, and learn how to achieve the deepest states of relaxation. Conversely, someone who already knows where his or her tension lies can go directly to the chapter containing techniques that apply to that type of tension and start relaxing. …Click here to read more about Total Relaxation

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

Breathing Technique: Flowing Breath

This breathing technique is a very relaxing method and can be used as a quick stress reliever or for deepening your meditative state.

Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor. Place your right hand over your heart, and place your left hand over your abdomen, just below your belly button. Rest your hands lightly, not firmly. You may reverse the position of your hands if you prefer.

Take a slow deep breath and concentrating on feeling the breath entering and filling you as you inhale. First, feel your right hand over your heart, rising as your …Click here to learn more about the Flowing Breath relaxation technique

Breathing Technique: Alternate Nostril Breathing

Alternate nostril breathing has a very balancing effect, and also has been shown to increase whole brain synchronization. The technique has been used by meditators around the world for centuries.

Seat yourself in a comfortable position. The alternate nostril breathing technique works best when performed while sitting upright rather than lying down.

Using the thumb of your right hand, put pressure on the outside of your nose to close the right nostril. Inhale through the left nostril, counting to four.

Release the pressure on the right nostril and, at the same time, use your …Click here to read more about the alternate nostril breathing technique