R&R. Remember that? Rest and Relaxation. Yes, that. In our go, go, go, society we are programed to multitask so we can hurry up and finish it all so we can then go play. Problem is most of us stay in the go, go, go, phase and forget the fun. First step to promoting relaxation is a simple one. Unplug. Give yourself the freedom to experience some downtime. You have earned it.
If you are unable to unplug, try the simple act of breathing. Studies show that proper breathing – with your diaphragm (lower abdomen) and not chest – reduces the body’s response to stress. Not only does it help the body to relax, proper breathing can help to reduce blood pressure, anxiety/panic attacks, asthma, chronic pain and insomnia.
Get outside. We all need fresh air to clear our minds as well as our bodies. Regular exercise is a perfect way to energize the body while burning away the extra adrenaline of a stressful day. As an added bonus, take a friend. Rant about the day, express your concerns and worries and you may even be able to find solutions. Don’t want to be bothered with human company, take the dog. He needs exercise and fresh air too.
On the subject of dogs, family pets are perfect relaxation buddies. Petting Fido or Fluffy can significantly reduce tension. The sound of a cat purring is generally considered soothing, the wagging tail of a dog welcoming and those wet doggie kisses. Focusing on the loving bonds of a pet allows us to get out of our heads while our bodies naturally come back into alignment.
If the thought of sitting cross legged until a body part falls asleep makes you cringe, don’t worry. Meditation has come a long way. Now it is more about being mindful of your thoughts and your body’s tension. It can be for as little as 5 minutes up to an hour depending on the person. Meditation is a great way to disconnect from the world and reconnect to your Self. Again focus on your breathing, letting thoughts come and go until you experience a restful state where your body completely relaxes. If traditional meditation isn’t for you, try a walking meditation where being mindful of all the sights and sounds around you generates the same calming effect.
Regardless of how you relax, this time really is for you. It is perhaps one of the most overlooked notions when trying to relax. We all have different ways we unwind. What is considered relaxing to one person may actually be jarring to another. What matters is the outcome. Has your breath deepened? Your thoughts stopped their 60 mph rate? Better yet, have you just let everything go and had some fun? Can’t remember when that was, best put it on the to do list for 2013.