Stress is an unfortunate side-effect of a busy modern life. Whether job-related or tied to financial concerns, family difficulties, medical conditions or other causes, stress can have a major impact on the health and well-being of the person experiencing it. Stress can increase blood pressure and lead to heart problems; it’s also a leading cause of gastrointestinal upset. Fortunately, there are numerous techniques to reduce stress in your daily life. In addition to eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep, you can reduce stress by practicing some simple meditation techniques.

Meditation is an ancient art that has recently become more mainstream. Although it may sound intimidating, applying meditation techniques to reduce stress is nothing more than becoming in-tune with your body and allowing yourself to relax and release negative energy. Meditation can be as simple as focusing on your breathing or it can be incorporated with easy yoga postures, prayer, or other relaxing activities for deep physical and spiritual renewal.

If you’re just getting started on your journey, here are two simple meditation techniques you can do at home:

Method 1: Believe it or Not, Something as Simple as Breathing Works

The most basic and accessible of all meditation techniques, focusing on your breathing has numerous beneficial effects. First, it allows you to become more comfortable with your body and reach a deeper connection with yourself. It decreases stress by helping to lower blood pressure, relax tightened muscles, and quiet thoughts. As your body relaxes, the stress will drain and leave you feeling more revitalized and energetic. Here are the simple steps of how to do it:

Step One: Get Comfortable

The most important factor of meditation is comfort. If you aren’t comfortable, you will be prone to distraction and have a difficult time practicing the breathing exercises. Although there are dozens of meditation techniques that focus on different positions, you can start by sitting in a chair or even lying in bed. Other poses can come later if you so desire, once you’ve mastered the basics, but they are definitely not necessary. Also make sure you have a blanket nearby, in case you get cold, and insure that you will not be interrupted by family, phone calls, pets, or other distractions.

Step Two: Clear Your Mind

Meditation is only effective if you maintain a calm, peaceful mind. If you have thoughts or worries, give yourself permission to come back to them after you’ve finished. Write down your concerns, if you have to, so you can address them later. Otherwise, clear your mind of distracting thoughts so that you can focus entirely on your breathing.

Step Three: Pay Attention to You Breathing

Without trying to change anything, simply take about one minute to observe your breathing. Notice the way your breath feels when you inhale, the way your stomach swells, the feel of the air on your nose or mouth. Without even realizing it, your breathing will immediately begin to slow as you concentrate on it.

Step Four: Begin Altering Your Breathing

Next, count to five silently while slowly drawing in your breath; then slowly exhale to a count of five. Repeat this five times, each time focusing on the sensation of breathing and the rhythm of counting. Notice the pause at the peak of the inhale and the valley of the exhale.

As you breathe, your body will begin to relax and your heart rate will slow down a little. You can stay in this relaxed state for as long as you’d like. If any thoughts come into your mind, release them immediately; remind yourself that you can think about whatever you’d like after you’ve finished, and there is no rush to get anything done right now. Your job is to stay with your breath. Pick one pattern to observe for several minutes such as the pauses between breaths, or the sensation of air entering and exiting the nostrils, or the movement of your abdomen.

If you fall asleep, that’s fine; it’s just your body’s way of telling you that it needs more rest. It’s also normal in some cases to feel some anxiety or resistance when you begin to relax. This is caused by the body releasing pent-up stress, and will pass naturally. In the beginning, it may be difficult to focus for more than five or 10 minutes at a time, but that’s okay; you can build up to longer meditation sessions if you wish. Be patient with yourself and don’t try to immediately meditate like a monk. Meditation is very individual and unique to each person. You’ll develop your own style and preferences as you go along.

Method 2: A Visualization-Meditation Technique Using Your Imagination

Once you’ve mastered the process of controlled breathing, visualization meditation is easy and revitalizing.

Step One:  Employ Relaxation Techniques

Follow steps one through four of the above breathing exercise for a few minutes in order to get your mind in a quiet, peaceful place. It’s impossible to focus on visualization if your mind has not been cleared of clutter and is jumping around.

Step Two:  Begin the Visualization

An easy way to start visualizing through meditation is to imagine each stray thought as it drifts through your mind. Capture that thought in a bubble to isolate it from your mind. Then imagine releasing that bubble into the wind as you exhale and allowing it to drift away from you. Visualizing the release of your thoughts should have a deeply calming effect on the mind and body.

Step Three:  Guide the Visualization

Visualizations are very flexible and can be used to improve concentration or even communicate with your own subconscious. You may wish to contemplate a single image in your mind’s eye. If you need help getting started, you can place a picture nearby and look at it to remind you of what you’re visualizing; you can close your eyes and recall the image. This will improve your focus and memory while allowing your body to relax.

A good subject of visualization would be to recall a pleasant memory of a relaxing place in nature that you have experienced.

Another method is to do a mental exploration of your body. As you inhale, imagine the journey that the air is making through your body. You can visualize your lungs supplying oxygen to your heart, and the heart pumping blood to your body. Imagine the flow of blood through your body. This will allow you to explore your own body intimately and become attuned to yourself.

Normally, doing this for between 10-15 minutes is sufficient in most cases to reduce stress and bring in relaxation.

Employing these basic meditation techniques is a great way to relax the body, clarify the mind, and combat the stress that you deal with each day. Through meditation you can enjoy greater peace and vitality and fill yourself with the energy you need to thrive emotionally, physically, and spiritually.