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HOW CAN I RELAX MY MIND? While we cannot completely eradicate stress from our lives, we can learn to manage it better. First of all, start by being aware of your stress response and the amount of stressors you expose yourself to on a daily basis. What makes you constantly on the lookout? What brings you the most anxiety? Once problems are identified, treatments can be sought. The possibilities are endless: from physical movement to nutrition, sleep, meditation and breathing. We have described four relaxation exercises that will help you relax your mind and are suitable for beginners.

LEARN HOW TO MEDITATE: The benefits of meditation are manifold and are felt on both the physical and mental levels. Many studies have shown that meditation has fantastic effects on stress relief, mental health, and even blood pressure control. There are many ways to use meditation to reduce stress and anxiety, soothe, and even alleviate the symptoms of depression. But although meditation takes many forms, at its core it is a practice of mindfulness training and attention. Visualization meditation is a great start for beginners. Just as famous athletes practice visualization before a big game to play their best, you can practice calming visualization meditation to help you relax or relieve anxiety.

Follow these steps to get started with basic visualization practice: Start by finding a quiet place to sit - on a meditation cushion or right on the edge of a chair. Set a timer for five to ten minutes. Keep your back straight. You can imagine that from the base of the spine up through the back, neck and crown of the head there is a string. Close your eyes carefully. Imagine a calm place. Let's say you're sitting on a grassy bank of a gently flowing stream. The weather is fine. The sun warms your skin and the cool, soft breeze keeps you warm.

Hear the water flowing in the stream. Feel the breeze on your skin. Feel the fresh scent of flowers and nature. Breathe slowly through the lower abdomen. Focus on how the breath enters and exits the lungs. When a thought, feeling, or emotion enters your mind, imagine that thought, feeling, or emotion sitting on a maple leaf floating in a river. Look at the sheet and what is on it. Accept that thought, feeling, or emotion. It is not bad and not good, not scary, not anxious and not restless. Just look at the leaf and let it float past you in the river. Return to focusing on the breath and visualizing on the bank of the stream. Keep doing this every time you have an extraneous thought until the alarm goes off. Then slowly release the visualized picture. Before you get up, take a few minutes to come out of your meditative state. With regular practice, entering the meditative state will become a quick and easy process for you. As you go deeper into the practice, you will feel less physical tension in your body.

PRACTICE MINDFULNESS: Mindfulness is another great practice that promotes peace and relaxation. It's pretty close to meditation, but it's unique in that you can practice mindfulness anywhere, anytime. The purpose of the practice is to stay in the present - that's easy. Here is a basic mindfulness practice you can try while doing some work, like washing dishes in the kitchen sink: Stand at the sink, ready to do the dishes. Tell yourself that washing dishes is all you will be doing for at least the next ten minutes. Take this time for yourself. Tighten every muscle in your body that you can. Hold for a count of three. Let go. Repeat this three times. How is your body feeling right now? Notice if you are concentrating on any particular part of the body. Shake your body lightly to release excess tension. Take three deep breaths in and out. Are there other thoughts knocking at the door of your mind? Ask them to wait. Turn on the faucet. Take the time to get the exact temperature of the water - not too hot and not too cold. Focus on how the water looks as it slides over your fingers. Feel how it changes from cool to hot to warm. Hear it flowing from the faucet and down the drain.

Add some soap to the sponge. Look at its brilliant color and note its smell. Wiggle the sponge to create bubbles, watching them grow and feel their warmth on your hands. Do you feel an extraneous thought or feeling appearing? Notice this. Then release it. Return your attention to soap and sponge. Take a dish to wash. Examine the dish. Slowly begin to wash it, trying to wash away all the debris. Rinse the dish to see all the dirty stains and soapy water run off. Set it aside to dry. Keep breathing deeply. Take your time. Continue washing dishes in this way until you're done. Now take a clean cup and pour yourself some herbal tea.

To learn more about mindfulness exercises, check out the mindfulness meditation here.

DO YOGA: Yoga is another great way to find peace and tranquility when you feel like your mind is in a frenetic state. The mind-body connection in yoga is phenomenal. The mind-body theory is that what happens in the mind - thoughts, emotions and feelings - influences what happens in your body, which in turn affects your physical well-being. At the same time, how you feel physically and how healthy and fit your body is affects your thoughts, feelings and emotions. Yoga is a mind-body connection practice that aims to improve every aspect of your being. Although it may seem that asanas affect only the physical side, they have a significant effect on your mental state. Each posture can strengthen and improve the flexibility of your body by stimulating the organs and working on circulation. Each pose is also designed to stimulate the brain, inducing focus and peace. Try attending a yoga class or working out at home to reap the many benefits of this practice. No doubt you will leave the mat with less muscle tension, less stress and more focus.


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