Four Mindfulness Techniques: A Guide to Stress Relief

Learn how to use four mindfulness techniques - S.T.O.P - to reduce stress and gain clarity in life.

Four Mindfulness Techniques: A Guide to Stress Relief

The next time you find yourself overwhelmed by stress, try S. T. O. P.

– an acronym for the four mindfulness techniques that can help you relax and gain clarity. S – Sit or lie down comfortably and close your eyes. Observe the rhythm of your breathing, the way air enters and leaves your body. Don't change the way you breathe; just be aware of it.

Spend a minute being attentive to your breathing. How do you raise and lower your chest? Is your belly moving? What do your lungs do? Is there a pattern or rhythm? T – Take a moment to Observe your thoughts, feelings and emotions. Don't judge them, just observe them without attachment. O – Proceed with something that supports you at the moment. This could be a mindful activity such as yoga, meditation, or journaling. P – Practice Mindfulness of the body.

This is about recognizing the body as a body, something that is experienced as a collection of parts, not as a solid, unified thing. Some ways to experience mindfulness of the body include: meditation on the unattractiveness of the body, analytical contemplations of the true nature of the body, and observing the different qualities of feelings as pleasant, painful, or neutral. Over time, the focus shifts from the tone of feelings to the process of feeling in oneself, which is revealed as an incessant flow of feelings that arise and dissolve, one after the other, without pause. This marks the beginning of understanding impermanence, which nullifies greed for pleasant feelings, aversion for painful feelings, and illusion for neutral feelings. The five obstacles constitute obstacles to realization, while the seven factors of enlightenment are the qualities that lead to realization. Sensory aggregates and bases are phenomena that are explored with insight, and the four noble truths constitute the sphere of realization itself. The seven factors are developed in sequence: stable mindfulness gives rise to research, intelligence probing quality; research invokes energy; energy generates ecstasy; ecstasy leads to tranquility; tranquility to concentration; and concentration to equanimity. For more structured mindfulness exercises such as body exploration, meditation or sitting meditation, set aside time in a quiet place without distractions or interruptions.

You can choose to practice this type of exercise early in the morning before starting your daily routine. You can also integrate mindfulness into your daily tasks such as driving, walking or even washing dishes to make it an automatic part of your daily life. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) brings together opposing ideas (such as acceptance and change) through mindfulness practices, strategies for interpersonal effectiveness, regulation of emotions and tolerance for distress. If you're looking for guidance on how to practice mindfulness and meditation here are some exercises you can complete on your own: body exploration meditation; nine contemplations on the ground; meditations on disintegration of the body after death; and bringing awareness to what is in the present moment. By practicing mindfulness people can be more aware of their thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations in the present moment. Patients with Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) tend to integrate mindfulness interventions into their lifestyle and use them for long-term effects beyond treatment. The Buddha states that these four foundations of mindfulness are “the one-way path to overcoming suffering and achieving nirvana”. With regular practice you can learn how to use these techniques to reduce stress and gain clarity in life.