We all say we want to be happy and find inner peace. We also say that we really want to learn how to reduce stress and worry. So we attend workshops, therapy, yoga classes and read many self-help books. But despite this effort and very good intentions, reducing our stress levels is hard to do and at times seems impossible to achieve for longer than a few fleeting moments.
As if on a looped tape, regrets about the past and fears for the future run us ragged. Our troubled minds run over and over on a negative groove that causes suffering. Great suffering. In the face of all the sewage of ain’t-my-life-awful self-talk, we need a big-time force to help us. In fact, we require something powerful enough to allow us to reduce stress and calm our troubled minds. So that we can enjoy the many (yes, many!) roses strewn our way.
How to Reduce Stress: Gratitude to Self
So there is one person you are almost never grateful to. You have ignored her efforts, minimized her triumphs and magnified her failures. You have criticized and mentally attacked her relentlessly, destroying her inner peace. In fact, you have second-guessed her decisions leaving her feel weak and powerless.
That person is you.
Without a doubt, you would never talk to a friend the way you talk to yourself. Doubting, questioning, critiquing, minimizing, ignoring . . . I could go on and on about what you do to yourself. The suffering that takes place in your thoughts. Wallowing in self-pity, resentment, and bitterness from the past while harboring fears for the future. So we all have an inner critic who has perfected negative self-talk, a kind of anxiety and dark thinking that attacks us and creates stress and a troubled mind. This constant chatter is not how to reduce stress and worry. In fact, it’s the opposite.
How to Reduce Stress: Feeling the Blessings
We are now living in an age of gratitude as the path to happiness. Compiling and sometimes sharing gratitude lists via email is now de rigueur in one’s search for fulfillment and joy. In fact, everyone from 12 step sponsors to therapists, coaches and growth gurus endorses their use, myself included. And being grateful is an extraordinary gift to give yourself and is, the gift of happiness.
But the question is, can we take it one step farther? Maybe there is a greater peacefulness, a greater serenity, a greater joy, if we look at the wonderful people, places, situations and gifts in our lives as BLESSINGS.
Blessings are defined as follows:
- Help and approval from God[dess]
- Having a sacred nature
- Connected with God[dess]
This takes us beyond mere appreciation and into the realm of connection with our Source Energy. So as we are grateful for our blessings we get happier and more connected with our notion of a Higher Power.
So right now I want you to make a list of all the BLESSINGS you are grateful for in your life. Please end the following sentence with whatever comes to mind. Add some blessings that have come out of what you thought were misfortunes.
I am truly blessed because…
How To Reduce Stress: The Spiritual Solution
There is “something” that has worked to alleviate suffering and create inner peace for thousands of years. It is the willingness to connect to the spiritual dimension. This is the ultimate connection that takes us out of the constant muddied stream of thinking, thinking, thinking and into the real and present moment with all its depth and richness.
“By having a reverence for life, we enter into a spiritual relation with the world. By practicing reverence for life we become good, deep, and alive.” ~Albert Schweizer
Relief from stress is ours if we can turn to a spiritual practice, a Higher Power (HP), or the God of our understanding. That relief is available to us even when we turn to an HP that we can’t or don’t understand. Simply being willing to try such a connection gives you a clearinghouse for your resentments, pain, and upset; a balm for your spirit; inner peace and a renewed faith in life and love.
Maybe the idea of “God” turns you off. You may think of yourself as an agnostic, atheist, or rationalist. If so, the only thing I want you to consider is that there seems to be much more going on here in the material world. Maybe you have heard certain music that sent you to another dimension of bliss. Or you have magical experiences with wildlife or places in nature that bring you soaring spiritual feelings.
How to Reduce Stress: Synchronicities
Or you have noticed synchronicities: you get a gut feeling that a particular event, like bumping into an old best friend, is going to happen, and there she is right in the middle of the street in a bustling city. These connected experiences suggest that there are many things happening that are beyond our awareness and understanding. And just maybe a power or force underlies all there is.
How to Reduce Stress: Plugging In
Here is an easy way to plug into Something beyond yourself and the inner peace and joy it brings, from The Diamond Self Secret.
Find a quiet and beautiful place outside in nature where you can sit or lie down. Focus your attention on a flower, a tree, or any other plant that attracts you. If you can arrange it, lie down underneath a tree or large plant and look up at it. This will give you an open, innocent, and childlike perspective. If you can’t lie down, simply sit in silence to do this exercise.
Breathe in and out to the count of three, imagining that you are inhaling the essence of that flower or plant and exhaling good will or love toward it. Do this for a few minutes until you feel a shift in your consciousness towards calmness and inner peace. You will be amazed at the results.
“I thank you God[dess] for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.” ~ E.E. Cummings
How to Reduce Stress: The Proven Benefits of Spiritual Practice
There are tons of benefits from spiritual practice designed to connect us to a Higher Power. Studies show that prayer and meditation can and do heal. Even when prayer takes place at a distance from a sick person, and those who are praying do not know those they are helping, there is a positive and healing physical effect. Thousands of studies show that meditation strengthens the immune system and helps prevent heart disease, asthma, type II diabetes, PMS, and chronic pain. Meditation also lowers stress, anxiety, fear, and blood pressure while increasing feelings of being in the present and in a state of connection, compassion, and serenity.
On a physical level, spiritual practice like meditation activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which controls life-giving things like breathing, digestion, and your cardiovascular and immune systems. When you stimulate the PNS, you spread calm through your brain and your body. Brain researchers have found that meditation:
- Increases gray matter in certain areas of the brain.
- Reduces the brain shrinking effect of aging in the prefrontal lobe.
- Increases activation of the left frontal lobes, which reduces depression and lifts your mood.
How to Reduce Stress: A Guided Meditation Just For You
Meditation is so important that I’ve created a free meditation designed to help you build self-love based on the archetype of an unconditionally loving mother (not your real mother, even if she was unconditionally caring!). If the word “mother” brings negative associations to mind, you can substitute “angel” or “goddess.” You can download it here. This fifteen-minute MP3 will help contribute to your inner peace. It’s an invaluable tool designed to start or end your day in a beautiful and serene state.
“At the end of the day, I can end up just totally wacky, because I’ve made mountains out of molehills. With meditation, I can keep them as molehills.” ~ Ringo Starr
Whether through meditation or prayer, music or Nature, please be willing to open yourself to connect to a Higher Power or Something Greater than yourself. It could be life, the universe of which we are but a speck, spirit, light, angels, power animals, or love itself. When you connect to Something Greater, no matter how you understand it, you don’t have to be alone and make it all happen in your life by sheer will. Over time you will develop a sense that the universe is benevolent and trust that it will provide support for you. Even when things seem to be shockingly negative or your life is falling apart.
How to Reduce Stress: Get Help
In fact, this is the ultimate soothing experience that allows you to be PRESENT and able to experience what is really happening. But without negative or fearful stories in your mind. Don’t get stuck in the ego’s swamp of negativity and suffering. So if you need more help with this self-liberating process, please work with one of my expert coaches.