In today’s hectic world, the ability to relax and switch off is a vital skill that can be the difference between a healthy and balanced lifestyle and things getting on top of you. Stress is actually a highly harmful phenomenon that causes you heart rate to increase, your muscles to tense and your brain to go into overdrive. As a survival technique that’s evolved for escaping predators in the wild in today’s world it is misplaced and generally harmful.
Fortunately man has adapted and developed a variety of relaxation techniques that can really help us to deal with today’s modern stressors. Learning a few can help get things in perspective again and be good for your health, so here I’ll share a few with you.
The most well known relaxation technique is meditation. The key idea here is that you clear your mind of thoughts to give your brain a bit of much needed peace and quiet. To achieve this you need to find a quiet place where you can then either try becoming ‘mindful’ of your thoughts, choosing to watch them passing by ‘like clouds’ rather than engaging in them, or by focussing on a ‘mantra’ – a single word or sound that you repeat over and over. This is why meditating often seems to involve humming, as it is something to concentrate on other than the babble of thoughts in one’s head. A far more simple solution is to focus on your own breathing as that’s there all the time anyway. Just listen to the sound of your breath as it goes in and out and feel your lungs as they grow full and empty. This needn’t be done sitting in a lotus position either (hardly relaxing) and can be just as affective while lying down or even while sitting at your desk.
Another one to try when lying down is to systematically tense and relax each of your muscles. Go through them in order, starting from your feet and moving up to your legs, torso, arms and face, and feel the difference as you contract them then let go of all the pressure. You can also try those relaxation tapes and speeches that will guide you through the process of letting go of the day’s tensions and stressors.
These tapes might also contain instructions to go to a ‘happy place’ which involves imaging yourself in a tranquil environment, either one from your memory or one from your imagination, where you’re surrounded by tranquillity and pleasant images. From here you can really relax and let go of the day’s concerns.
Without all these fancy methods however, just a simple hobby can be a great de-stressor. If it’s something that occupies your thoughts and gets you out of your own head it will work just as well as meditation. This can be a craft such as playing an instrument or drawing, or a game such as solitaire, or even just reading. Anything that doesn’t allow you to worry about your day will act as a kind of ‘meditation in movement’ as you focus 100% on a repetitive or escapist activity.