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Meditation 101: relief from financial stress
According to the United States Stress Survey, financial concerns are the number one cause for worry among the majority of Americans.1 With more than 52% saying that financial issues "regularly stress them out". According to the survey, people between the ages of 38 and 55 reported being the most stressed out financially.
So what do you do? Short of winning the lottery or getting the big promotion and huge raise, you may not see a way out. But there is a way to take a break from your worries. Even just a few minutes of relief each day can have a tremendous impact on your overall health and happiness, leaving you more prepared to tackle the financials of your household.
Which is why we reached out to Colleen Duggan-Cuomo, a certified Yoga and Meditation teacher and founding partner of Breathing Lotus Living Arts. Colleen has partnered with John Hancock to guide daily meditations for employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a living example of the powerful effect meditation has on peoples’ health and well-being. And according to her, anyone can meditate.
“Here’s the thing,” says Duggan-Cuomo. “We all naturally know how to meditate. Think about it. You hear or see something that captivates you. A favorite song, a beautiful sunset, and spontaneously you breathe a little deeper. All thoughts fall away, and you are just there fully living in the moment. What’s happening at that moment? Why does it feel so good? You are mindful and actually meditating in that moment.”
Practice Makes Perfectly Calm
Meditating is simply a process for purposely triggering that mindful state. And you can learn to do it fairly quickly and easily. All it takes is a bit of preparation, practice and persistence.
“They say it takes 21 days to form or break a habit. Your meditation practice will become just that – a daily habit,” explains Duggan-Cuomo. “Begin by committing to spending just 5 minutes meditating for 21 days.” (You may find it helpful to download a meditation app. As a part of our HealthyMind benefit, we offer the popular Headspace® app to our John Hancock Vitality customers.)
“They say it takes 21 days to form or break a habit. Your meditation practice will become just that –a daily habit.”
A seasoned pro who’s guided many first-time meditators to mastery, Collee Duggan-Cuomo suggests designating a set time of each day to practice. Preferably, a time that you will be relatively free of distractions and interruptions. Some find first thing in the morning best, before they’ve engaged in any “screen time.”
It also helps to make the setting as comfortable and peaceful as possible. Free of clutter with just one or two objects of personal meaning to you — a favorite family photo or piece of art. Anything that elicits positive feelings.
7 Simple Steps to a Quiet(er) Mind
Sit comfortably with your spine as upright as possible (You can sit in a chair or on a cushion on the ground)
Set a timer for five minutes (Once you’re comfortable sitting quietly for five minutes you can lengthen the amount of time you sit in each session)
You can choose to play soft music or sit in silence
Focus on your breath
Place one hand on your stomach and feel the breath entering and leaving your body
Gently lengthen your breath
When your mind wanders, simply bring it back to your breath
(Try focusing your awareness on systematically relaxing your body, starting from the top of your head down to the bottoms of your feet.)
One of the best things about practicing meditation is that there’s a carry-over effect that can help you throughout your day. In fact, that sense of mindfulness is just a few short breaths away. Explains Duggan-Cuomo, “When it comes to all forms for meditation, your breath is your best friend. As you move through your day, take a ‘breathing break’ every hour or so. As few as 4 long deep, diaphragmic breathes will switch on the parasympathetic nervous system, (the rest and digest response), helping you to feel calm and more centered.”
Just remember, when stress arises (and it will) you’re just a few mindful breaths away from feeling relief. Live. Breathe. Enjoy.
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