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No matter how laid back of a bride you may be, chances are you could use a little stress relief during the wedding planning process. Not only can it help improve concentration, communication, clarity, energy, emotional stability, creativity and relaxation, but it's also been shown to reduce anxiety attacks and tension-related pain, such as headaches, ulcers, insomnia, and muscle and joint problems, according to Doron Libshtein, founder of Mentors Channel. So how can brides reap the benefits of meditation? From downloading apps to making mindfulness part of your daily routine, here are a bunch of tricks for tapping into the powers of the mind.
1. Take a few minutes to breathe.
Lynne Goldberg, certified meditation coach and co-founder of the OMG. I Can Meditate! app says that breathing is the simplest thing you can control to put yourself in a more relaxed state of mind. "By concentrating on your breath, you actually send a message to your brain that all is well," she says. Her app has a progressive, time-based guided meditation series that begins with just 10 minutes a day.
2. Follow your breath.
Libshtein, founder of Mentors Channel, takes a similar approach with this simple and efficient exercise: Start by inhaling for four counts and then exhaling for eight counts. Your breath shouldn't be strained. If it is, then do what's comfortable for you and slowly work up to the 4-8 count. Just make sure that your exhale is longer than your inhale because lengthening the exhale is what helps to calm you down. Keep in mind that it's normal for the mind to wander. "When you notice this happening, simply bring your attention back to the breath," Libshtein suggests. Doing this can reduce stress levels by 30-50% in less than 5 minutes.
3. Take a tally of your stress.
Meditation expert and celebrity hypnotist Grace Smith recommends this routine for encouraging relaxation in brides: Determine what number of stress level you are; 0 is the most relaxed a person can be, whereas 10 is a full-blown panic attack. Say that number out loud. Imagine your favorite color forming at the top of your head and flowing all the way through the body and out the bottom of your feet. Keep your eyelids deeply relaxed, so relaxed that they want to stay closed no matter what. Imagine that favorite color again and say that color out loud. Running through the entire body. Repeat a powerful hypnotic affirmation. "I am safe. I am calm. I choose to be here." Imagine your favorite color flowing through your body again. Determine a new stress-level number. Repeat if necessary.
4. Be consistent.
Better to do a quick meditation for 10 minutes every day than pack one hour into the weekend, Goldberg advises. She recommends doing meditative breathing first thing in the morning before you become distracted with so many obligations and a never-ending "to do" list. In fact, the OMG. I Can Meditate! app has a morning wake-up function so your alarm clock is a gentler, more peaceful start to the day.
5. Build your attention muscle.
Like anything in life, meditation requires practice and persistence to get the most out of it. The more you do it, the better you get at it and the more you will benefit. Goldberg says that meditating causes us to release feel-good hormones like oxytocin and serotonin. "Meditating also causes us to think more calmly through a stressful situation, so you can react with more clarity where you otherwise might not," she adds.
6. Get your best night's sleep.
It can't be overstated. A good night's sleep is so important for functioning, especially around your wedding day. "A lack of sleep changes the way you experience and feel stress. Research shows that when we are tired, we experience stress more deeply than those who are well-rested," Goldberg says.
7. Consider technology a tool.
"It is amazing how technology has positively impacted stress management," Libshtein says, perhaps counterintuitively. What he means is that any bride can find guided mediations online (check out mentorschannel.com for more than 2,000 options) or through apps (like OMG. I Can Meditate! and Headspace). And then there's wearable technology, like the WellBe biofeedback bracelet that tracks your stress levels and then gives you a customized meditation, breathing and other exercises to help you calm down.
8. Accept imperfection.
Meditation is a lot like yoga in that perfection isn't the goal, but rather maintaining an active practice. "Many people believe that successful meditation means that you have to completely clear your mind, have 'no thoughts' and that any sort of 'thinking' will block someone from completing a proper meditation. This is entirely not true," Libshtein assures. So instead of obsessing over the end game, focus on simply quieting your thoughts by counting breaths, repeating a mantra or listening to soft calming music.