Reviewed by Phillip Waite, Ph.D.
In this article, I explore some very basic methods that can be used to relieve tension, stress, and depression, as well as sharpen intuition, clear the mind, and increase energy. These methods can be used by anyone to help restore a general sense of well-being.
All beings require equality. There must be a balance between the spiritual, emotional, and physical being. When the balance is off, we are off. We feel the repercussions through physical pain, discomfort, anxiety, anger, and depression. When we go to the doctor to seek pills for physical ailments, typically we are focusing treatment on the symptoms and not the underlying problem. Again, I am not discouraging anyone from going to the doctor, however most doctors would agree that a well-balanced person tends to be a healthier person. Nothing that improves the outlook and helps reduce stress can hurt you.
There are various natural methods that can be used by anyone in even the busiest lifestyles, to help restore a sense of balance. I will be touching on the basics of Light Meditation, Visualization, Affirmations, and Journaling.
There are many misconceptions about meditation. Many feel it takes a lot of time or that it is a serious religious practice. It definitely does not have to be and is one of the most powerful tools anyone can integrate into their lifestyles. It takes a little effort, but the rewards are immeasurable. The truth is even a moment or two a couple of times a day will allow the mind a chance to regroup. This is particularly helpful for those who suffer from anxiety or problems with short-term memory.
Meditation is the practice of stilling the mind, and controlling where ones thoughts flow. Through doing this you can gain a better perspective on situations in your life, as well as become clearer and more focused throughout your daily activities. There are dozens of other benefits to this practice as well, which I cover more in some of my classes.
For beginning meditations I recommend sitting in a comfortable position in a location as free from outside noise as possible. Close the eyes and simply focus on clearing your mind of all conscious thought. If this is difficult you can repeat a word that makes you feel comfortable and at ease. My word is 'repose'. If you catch your mind starting to wander gently pull it back to your word or to the stillness. When you first start try doing this for only a minute or two, and then as you do it more you can increase the time. This helps to avoid frustration and will help you stick with it. If you are patient and persistent, you will find that the benefits are well worth the effort. Your mind will thank you for the break.
Next I would like to move on to Visualizations. All of us know how to daydream. The truth is when you daydream you are doing a visualization of sorts. You are removing the conscious mind from all the hustle and bustle of its thoughts and placing it somewhere else. In visualization exercises the purpose is to control where you put your thoughts. It can be used to aid in pain relief, depression, (I am seasonally depressed and use visualization therapy a lot to help me get through winter) and in anxiety reduction.
Bring into vision in your minds eye a place that relaxes you, a place that is all your own. It can be an actual place you have been to, or a place you create. This will be your sanctuary. Picture the place in your mind. Now go deeper into the picture. What do you see? Look for the details of your special place. What is the temperature like? If you are outside, how is the weather? What do you hear? What do you smell? Reach out and touch the ground or the floor, what does it feel like? Touch; hear, smell everything here. Spend a minute or two exploring your senses and familiarizing yourself with this special place. Really develop this place to the tiniest details. If it helps you, write a description of it. It is very important to bring it to life in your mind in a way you can always go back to it and see it in its fullest details and unique beauty. This place is the center of your soul, a sanctuary for you where you can relax and be free from everyday worries.
Next I would like to cover affirmations. Affirmations are brief, positive statements developed to help us to reprogram certain parts of our subconscious. We have all heard that inner critic kick in with 'You're not pretty enough, you're not smart enough' etc. This can be a very powerful voice and the more negative thoughts we have the more we feed it.
Many people are not aware of just how much negativity they consume, self-inflicted or otherwise. I recommend keeping a pen and paper close to you for one hour. During this hour be conscious of your thoughts, as well as external influences. For every negative statement you take in, make a mark on your paper. Once this exercise is finished multiply the number of marks on your page by at least 16, which will give you a small idea of the amount of negativity you are continually bombarded with.
One of the most powerful tools to use against this ingrained negativity is to reprogram our thought patterns. Our subconscious minds don't care what they are programmed with, negative or positive. When you hear something enough you start to believe it and those negative thoughts can become self-fulfilling prophecies. Our goal here is to fight fire with fire so to speak, and come back at the negatives with positives, almost like reprogramming a computer.
An affirmation should have the following qualities:
- Must be brief
- Must be concise
- Must not have the word no in it or any negative connotations
- Must be easy to remember
- Must be repeated
An example of a good affirmation would be I have all I need and I am thankful, or I love myself unconditionally.
As a general rule I say to keep the same affirmation going for at least a week. Learn to say it with conviction. Pay attention to what you are saying every time you repeat it. When you have a few minutes to yourself go look in the mirror and say it to yourself and mean it! Yes, you will tell yourself you look silly, that's OK, do it anyway. The more you do the less silly you will feel and the more empowered you become. When we face ourselves we find our true strength!
I cannot say enough how much writing helps. There are many different ways to do this, and the best method is to find your own method - one that is comfortable to you, as this is a very intense, very personal experience. When you first start just write/type whatever comes into your head, no matter how silly it might seem. This is the key to unlock the floodgates. Gradually as you get into it and time progresses you will open many doors of self-discovery, and through this begin to regain your balance.
To develop a habit of writing set up a 5 - 15 minute period in your day where you sit and write. You can make this a part of your nighttime ritual, or do it first thing in the morning when all is quiet.
With a little self-discipline and practice you can make yourself a happier more balanced person through just a few simple practices. I know from personal experience that taking time for the Self is so vital to personal empowerment and wellness. It is easy to get so involved in our roles that we forget to remember our true Spirit. Take some time for yourself and get to know your own best friend, he/she has been right there with you all along.
Cristin Snyder is a Spiritual Guidance and Personal Empowerment coach.