Relaxation is good for us – it gives our bodies and minds the time they need to slow down and re-energise. You also don’t need to take a spa weekend, a retreat or even a holiday (although these things are obviously good for our well-being) in order to relax – it can take a lot less time than you might think. Here are a few tips and ideas on fitting relaxation into your daily routine.
Meditation – Meditation is the practice of focusing your attention to help you feel calm and give you a clear awareness about your life. Even a few minutes a day can help to relieve anxiety. Research has suggested that ‘daily meditation may alter the brains neural pathways helping make you more resilient to stress’.
A simple concentrative meditation technique;
Sit up straight with both feet on the floor and close your eyes. Recite a positive mantra – this can be done out loud or silently whatever you prefer. Place one hand on your stomach in order to synchronise your breathing with reciting your mantra. This mantra is of your own choice as long as it is positive for example “I feel at peace”. Sit quietly repeating your mantra and let any distracting thoughts float peacefully away.
Breathing Deeply – this can be quite similar to concentrative meditation, deep breathing can be done anywhere even in the car if you get stuck in traffic and start feeling uptight and stressed. Sitting up straight with a hand on your stomach, slowly inhale through your nose feeling the breath start in your abdomen. Feel the breath working its way up to the top of your head. Slowly reverse the process as you exhale through your mouth. You can introduce counting to this technique when you are familiar with it. On the inhaled breath count to lets say 6 for example as the inhale reaches the top of your head, then on the reverse exhale count to a slightly larger number such as 8 or 9. The exhaled breath is therefore slightly longer than the inhaled breath. This can help to reduce your heart rate and lower blood pressure. The action of sitting up straight and breathing also releases tension in your shoulders and neck which tend to hunch up when we become anxious or stressed. This can help with reducing the chance of tension headaches.
Being in the present – take a few minutes and focus on one behaviour with awareness of that behaviour. If you are walking focus on how the air feels on your face, how it feels when your feet hit the ground. Spending time in the moment rather than thinking ahead to what you have to do next or thinking about what may have just occurred can help you feel less tense as your senses are focussed on the now.
Social Connection – reaching out to friends and family preferably face to face but even on the telephone helps you to share what is going on. This way you can get a fresh perspective on the situation and also help to strengthen your connection to that person.
Laughter – the cliché says that laughter is the best medicine. A good old belly laugh doesn’t just make you feel lighter mentally it actually helps to lower Cortisol (the body’s stress hormone) and also boosts endorphins which are the brains mood enhancing chemicals. Watch or listen to your favourite comedy or chat with someone who makes you smile.
Music – listening to music, research shows, can lower blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety levels. Make a recording of your favourite sounds in nature, sing at the top of your voice or rock out whatever your preference is or wherever your mood takes you music is good for you.
Exercise – a re-occurring theme but again exercise can help the brain to release those mood enhancing chemicals, is good for the body and also aids digestion making us feel better. Exercise doesn’t have to mean hitting the gym or taking an exercise class though. We can incorporate exercise into our daily lives easily (look out for our full article on how to incorporate exercise into your daily routine), going for a walk, taking the stairs, doing some stretching exercises these can all aid in reducing stress and increasing our well-being.
I hope these will be of some help to you as they have been to me.