(Oops! This was supposed to be uploaded earlier, before the previous post.)
Our last post discussed listening to “sweet talk” and contrasted it with actually learning to be more resilient. This post will discuss self-soothing, which is a way to become more calm and shut down your physiological stress response.
Right off, we can tell you that self-soothing inevitably includes shifting the physiological reactions in your body toward what Harvard Cardiologist, Herbert Benson, called “the Relaxation Response”, and away from the “Fight or Flight Response” (a central physiological response when you are under stress).
Self-Soothing also primes your mind to become more aware of good things that are happening in your everyday life.
There are many tested techniques for shifting from stress to a relaxation response. Benson tested a method of meditation that was modeled after “Transcendental Meditation”, which is a component of Yoga.
He tested his method and found no physiological evidence that it was inferior to Transcendental Meditation itself.
Transcendental Meditation and Benson’s technique are both forms of “mantra” meditation. A mantra is a word or sound that is the focus of your meditation. A mantra that is familiar to many people from the West is “OM” (also spelled “AUM”). In Transcendental meditation, you are given a personal mantra, but Benson simply used the word “one” for everyone.
Here is a simple way of doing mantra meditation:
It takes only a matter of minutes to induce the desired shift to the relaxation response, and the relaxation gets deeper and deeper with practice.
In addition to relaxation, anyone who has tried the method can tell you that there are many additional benefits. Meditation calms your mind, which, when no longer cluttered becomes much more efficient. You become more perceptive, and your mind becomes sharper.
Your goal in doing meditation may be to relax, but, in addition to relaxing, you are likely to notice your mind seeing beauty in your experiences that previously went unnoticed. The quieting of the mind reduces the “noise” in the brain and thereby provides the clarity needed to experience things that had previously been lost in the mental jabber.
You only have to do mantra meditation for a short period (ten or fifteen minutes) on a regular basis to reduce your vulnerability to stress. It’s free, and we recommend that you give it a try.
Here is how to do it:
1. Get in a relaxed, comfortable position.
2. Close your eyes.
3. Turn your attention gently to the word “one”.
4. If your mind wanders, that is okay; observing your wandering mind is actually an important part of the meditation.
5. When you notice your mind on something other than the mantra, “one”, gently return to the mantra
6. It is not necessary to say the word “one”. You can visualize it, imagine hearing it, or even just be aware of its presence, without regard to whether it is imagined as seen, heard, or anything else.
7. One of the most important things is to take a passive attitude, simply observing the various changes that take place in your mind without inviting them to stay or making an effort to drive them away.
8. Do this for 10 or 15 minutes once or twice a day and keep track of changes you see in yourself.
9. In the beginning, you may have to meditate for shorter periods of time. That’s fine. Meditation is not a race.