Instantly Reduce Stress With This Simple, 1-Minute Exercise

Meditating in a hurry.

1 Minute Meditation For Instant Relaxation And Peace 1-Minute Guided Meditation Technique For Fast Stress Relief  Eli DeFaria at Unsplash

Have you been meaning to meditate but just haven't gotten around to it? Despite its apparent simplicity, starting a new meditation practice can be intimidating, especially when we are so caught up in our fast-paced and media-saturated lives.

The good news is that practicing meditation only takes a moment. That's right — one moment! That's even less than a minute! The skills instilled by mindfulness practices are comprehensive and greatly affect an individual’s well-being as they are repeated over time. 


According to the American Psychological Association, the cognitive benefits of meditation include enhanced “self-control, objectivity, affect tolerance, enhanced flexibility, equanimity, improved concentration and mental clarity, emotional intelligence and the ability to relate to others and one’s self with kindness, acceptance and compassion.” 

Zen blogger, Leo Babauta, claims that the most important part of practicing meditation is just creating a daily habit. It doesn't matter how long you meditate each day as long as you do it regularly.

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And you don't need anything to get started. You can practice mindfulness anywhere and at any time. It doesn't take any great time sacrifice or complicated yogic positions. You can practice mindfulness while waiting in line, during commercial breaks or when walking into a room by pausing to take a deep breath.

Even a few moments of meditation can help you refocus, negate stress and feel more relaxed. Spending a few moments to meditate can lead to remarkable short-term and long-term changes in the brain.

We all know that we act out in illogical ways when we are stressed. In his book, "Emotional Intelligence" (1996), author Daniel Goleman described this concept as the "amygdala hijack." Our amygdala is the control seat of our emotions and initiates the fear response (i.e., the "fight or flight" response). 

In our caveman days this reaction was quite handy in the case we came across a saber-toothed tiger that was ready to eat us. In the modern day, though, we still deal with stressors in our environment that are arguably much less dangerous. 


When left unchecked, our brain still responds to all stressors as if they were life or death situations.

Imagine that you are late getting ready for work. The traffic is backed up and you get stuck behind a car going 10 miles under the speed limit. Your breath begins to quicken and you feel your blood start to boil.

As you finally pull into work, you sprint hurriedly into the office. Your boss is (of course) waiting to remind you that you are late. You are quickly inundated with a series of work tasks that have already piled up. Even after you have caught up on work, you may still feel that your nerves are on edge and cannot stop your heart from racing.

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As you can see, even long after the initial stressful event, you find that your stress interferes with your ability to focus and to talk to clients in a calm manner. This is because you are suffering from an "amygdala hijack hangover." Even after the immediate stress-inducing event, your parasympathetic system (the body's stress response) can be amped up for four hours afterward, flooding your body with adrenaline and cortisol.


The important thing to do in this situation is to trigger your sympathetic system to send a relaxation response throughout your body to curb the stress you feel.

One easy way to do this is to utilize mindfulness.

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Just by taking a few deep and mindful breaths, you can successfully and quickly distance yourself from the situation and help your body to calm itself down. You can quit being the victim of an amygdala hijack! 


The more you practice mindful awareness, the easier it will become to initiate the relaxation response. This is due to the fact that each time you exercise these responses, the more you forge new and beneficial long-lasting changes in the neuropathways of your brain. 

Researchers at Harvard utilized MRI technology to find that, when engaging in meditation just 27 minutes per day, both long-term meditators and people with no meditation experience showed decreased the grey matter density in the amygdala, and an increase of grey matter around the hippocampus — the region of the brain responsible for compassion, self-awareness and introspection.

A regular meditation practice has even been shown to have an effect on our genes. Research on epigenetics, or gene expression, have shown that it strengthens those genes known to control the stress response, thus making an individual more resilient to stress overall.

This can be seen in extreme cases such as PTSD-triggering events, which recent research has shown that meditation can actually alter the genetic transcription of neurons in areas like the amgydala and hippocampus. This wiring process occurs whether we are aware of it or not, and results in habitual ways of thinking and behaving. 


The good news is that one can engage in "self-directed neuroplasticity" by intentionally engaging in mindfulness practices which, with repeated practice, can lead to a rewiring of the neural pathways in the brain for the better.

This change, in combination with the mind-body connection, can alter our entire body and can reduce rates of contracting life-threatening illnesses that may be caused by stress. For example, according to a health intervention study taken over five years among patients at risk for prostate cancer, researchers found that meditation may even contribute to increasing the telomere length of our genes, which the study states "is a prognostic marker of aging, disease, and premature morbidity."

So, if you are thinking of trying meditation, stop yourself before booking a flight to a remote hilltop in the Himalayas or purchasing that expensive meditation cushion online (although they are incredibly comfy). There are many well-founded mindfulness practices you can try, but this is a simple one you can do RIGHT NOW. It only takes a moment.


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Brianna Androff is a journalist living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has a special interest in science writing, particularly within the field of Psychology, and has also written content on trending topics, pop culture and astrology.