Guided Exercises 

 

The following guided meditations are offered to provide relief from depression, stress, and/or anxiety. We’ll provide a broad overview of the terminology followed by free downloadable practices you can use any time.

 

What is mindfulness and meditation? How do they help?

Mindfulness most simply means maintaining moment-to-moment awareness of thoughts, emotions, physical surroundings, and bodily sensations. The key to mindfulness is bringing awareness to the present moment and bringing awareness to how we judge our experience. The idea is to allow thoughts and sensations to come, while being aware that we do not have to believe everything we think 100 percent of the time. Mindfulness helps us cultivate curiosity, openness, and kindness, and from this place, we have more agency in our lives.

The word “meditation” can refer to many kinds of practices that involve observing or training the mind, including guided and silent practices. Mindfulness is one kind of meditation; other forms include guided meditations, visualizations or even prayer can be a form of meditation.

All types of meditation can help calm the nervous system and help with mood management. Practiced over time - even in as little as two weeks- meditation can change the brain structure and hence positively impact our stress and moods.

 

What is cognitive behavioral therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT for short, involves exercises that help you understand how thinking patterns, emotions, and behaviors affect and interact with each other. CBT can help you learn to observe and better manage your thoughts, gain self confidence, and learn coping skills when you experience strong emotions.

 

What is behavioral activation? 

Behavior activation is a method to identify activities that you both value and enjoy. When we’re depressed, it’s incredibly difficult to schedule things that are meaningful to us. Behavior activation helps improve depressive symptoms by providing step-by-step instructions for scheduling time for social activities, physical exercise, and other positive experiences that improve mood!

 

Guided Exercises - to download

The following exercises are designed to help you in specific moments of stress and depression. These exercises include mindfulness practices, meditations, guided visualizations, behavioral activation and cognitive practices. Remember, these exercises and resources are no substitute for finding professional help.


Listening instructions: To listen to the audio file, click the black triangle next to the title. To download a personal copy of the audio file, click "Download" next to the title.

 

WANT TO LEARN THE CALMING EFFECTS OF MINDFULNESS?

This 5-minute mindfulness exercise can help you improve concentration by focusing the mind on observing your thoughts and sensations in the present moment. Credit: Renée Burgard

 

Because our breath is with us 24/7, noticing breathing is one of the easiest ways to begin practicing mindfulness meditation. Whenever you’re feeling anxious or stressed, come back to the present moment by noticing your breath. This practice can familiarize you with this process until you’re ready to do it on your own. Credit: Emily Hine

 

Feeling Stressed At Work?

Sometimes, we just need to STOP: Stop, Take a breath, Observe, Proceed. This guided exercise offers a quick and portable way to reduce stress in 20 seconds. It’s an exercise you can turn to again and again. Credit: Renée Burgard

This easy 3-step practice can be learned from this audio and then used at any time to help reset before or after a stressful situation.  Credit: Meru Health

 

THINKING NEGATIVE THOUGHTS?

This short exercise can help you focus on more positive thoughts by helping you become aware of both negative and positive feelings and sensations. Renée Burgard kindly reminds us that we are not often joyful about not having a toothache, and yet we often focus on negative feelings when a tooth hurts. This exercise can help you identify more positive thoughts in the moment. Credit: Renée Burgard

Most of us have a seasoned inner-critic that likes to share opinions and judgements of what we’ve seemingly done “wrong.” The inner critic can take a sabbatical with this short, soothing, self-compassion practice designed to remind you that kindness is actually your birthright. Credit: Meru Health

 

Important note: Audio files by Renée Burgard, Mindfulness & Health, are freely available for personal use, but not for: commercial application, use for derivative works, or distribution without prior permission.

More downloadable guided exercises

Source: Renée Burgard, SF Bay Area Corporate Mindfulness Trainer, and Psychotherapis

The 2-Minute Mind Check team would like to acknowledge the generous meditation contributions above of Renée Burgard. More information on Renée — and additional guided meditations in her soothing voice — can be found at Mindfulness Health.

 

Source: UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC)

This additional resource offers a wide range of 3-min to 20-min practices for download in English or Spanish with written transcripts.

 

Source: University of California, San Diego Center for Mindfulness

This website offers downloadable guided audio files to practice Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, a proven method to treat depression with trained professionals.

 

Source: Self-Compassion exercises by Kristin Neff, PhD

Practicing self compassion helps by providing a way to be kind to yourself when you experience negative emotions.


Mobile apps

How it can help: The Mood Coach is an app for Veterans, Service members, and others to learn and practice Behavioral Activation. The Mood Coach app can help improve your mood by encouraging you to participate in positive and pleasant activities. The app helps you identify things that you enjoy doing, and allows you to create a schedule with reminders to do things you like to do.

Methods: Behavioral Activation through activity scheduling, a proven effective treatment for depression with trained professionals.

Cost: Free

How it can help: Pacifica can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression by providing daily tools such as short cognitive behavior therapy exercises like recording thoughts and setting small daily goals like giving someone a compliment. The tools in Pacifica can help gradually alleviate symptoms day-by-day using effective and lasting cognitive behavioral therapy techniques.

Methods: Cognitive Behavior Therapy, mindfulness, peer support community, mood tracking

Cost: Free with optional paid features.

 

How it can help: This app helps you to check in to how you are feeling and provides meditations based on your emotions that day.

Methods: Mindfulness meditations - Active Thinking and Resting the Mind, mood tracking

Cost: Free, with options to purchase additional meditations

How it can help: It can be as simple as a timer to help keep track of your practice. This app also provides a wide range of free guided meditations and can help you feel like part of a community, showing how many people are meditating with you. There are also music playlists to help you relax as well as educational programs to help you understand meditation and other topics.

Methods: Guided meditations, social/community features, education

Cost: Free, with optional paid features, courses, and teacher donations

 

How it can help: This app provides single guided meditations and 7-day programs of meditations to help with focus, anxiety, sleep, stress, and other personal goals. The app can help you keep track of how often and when you practice meditation.

Methods: Mindfulness meditation

Cost: Free, with optional paid features, subscriptions

How it can help: With short, guided meditations, this app can help improve concentration, mood, sleep and other personal goals. Headspace also provides educational videos and articles to help understand meditation and other related topics.

Methods: Calming and insight meditations, animations, education

Cost: Free for basic meditations, with optional paid features, subscriptions