Learning how to relax is certainly one of life’s important skills to master. I’m speaking of relaxing not by simply lying on a couch and watching TV, or playing with a pet, or playing golf. While those activities can contribute of being more relaxed than the stress you might feel on your job, the type of relaxation I’m referring to includes a deeper release of the underlying stress and tension that usually sustains even when engaged in a more relaxing activity.
In this article I will outline 5 easy methods on how to relax which can be used to help you reduce stress, worry, and tension as well as be preparations for meditation. Over the course of a few weeks, as the basics take hold, you can elaborate on these methods with suggestions I discuss in other articles on the subject. You will find them at this link: http://www.jonathanparker.org/jonathans-blog
1. A creative visualization technique that is quite effective includes simply writing down whatever words come to mind, listing the areas and ideas that trigger worry or stress in you. Allow the pen to flow quickly, without censorship, and the most pressing sources of stress will emerge on their own. Take a few moments to look at each idea, and once you have a few of the most significant tension triggers allow yourself to explore them a little and recall any memories associated with the tension and feel your feelings for just a minute.
This may seem contradictory on the surface, but this technique of bringing the feelings to the surface actually is what enables you to release the way you hold it in the next part of this procedure. Put one or both of your hands over the center of your chest and take a full breath in through your nose and then let it easily out your mouth as you think to yourself, “I release, let go, and dissolve all worry and tension.” Repeat this three times while deepening and slowing the breath. You will often begin to enter a more relaxed mental state called alpha which is characterized by slower brain wave activity, and you will have significantly dis-identified from the stress triggers.
After you repeat this simple procedure a few times you will notice the intensity of your stress has reduced. If you make a practice of doing this every day, after a few weeks you will find that you not only automatically release stress more easily, but you will also notice that you don’t create nearly as much of it as you did previously.
Some people also find it helpful to create a little ceremony with the piece of paper on which they wrote their stress triggers by tearing it up or even burning it and acknowledging “I no longer let those thoughts and feelings own me.” As your stress emotions peak, and you destroy that piece of paper, you will sense that you disengage from the causes of stress as you physically get rid of the symbols that were creating the tension.
I have more suggestions on reducing stress at this link: http://www.jonathanparker.org/jonathans-blog/stress-reduction
2. Another useful method on how to relax makes use of physical activity. It can take several forms and should be tailored to your personal preferences. Some form of exercise works very well in this method and it can be as simple as taking a short walk while focusing on measured breathing which is counting the seconds you inhale and then exhaling to the same count. This creates mindfulness and you will find that this will clear your mental landscape quite effectively. Some forms of more active physical movement will produce even more in the way of internal calm, as endorphins flood the body with mild euphoria.
To make exercise more effective in your relaxation program however, it is essential to focus on one activity to the exclusion of all else. Reading or watching television while on the treadmill defeats this purpose, as does social interaction of any significant sort. Anything less than being attentive to your activity may not provide the level of calm desired.
It is also vital to cool down afterward, allowing both breath and body temperature to return to normal levels. This will also mirror the work ahead, in that you are directly demonstrating the process of “slowing down” those gears of daily activity. A sauna at the gym, followed by a nice, cool shower, can be just the thing to set the tone for slowing down.
Some people also find that taking a warm shower followed by gradually turning the temperature down until you are under just cold water it a great way to feel invigorated and get your energy and circulation going in preparation for returning to your normal activities. You might not want to do this prior to going to bed, but it can certainly be a great way to start your day.
3. When you can be undisturbed for about 15 minutes you can effect a calming result through progressive physical relaxation. It is quite simple and usually done in a reclining position. Your eyes should be closed as you move your attention through your body. You start with your attention on your feet, clench the toes to the count of four and then release them. Then point the toes and release them in a similar way. Work up your legs slowly, tensing muscle groups for a few seconds and releasing them fully. You should do your entire body utilizing this method including your abdomen, back, arms, neck, and face. This also teaches the body how to relax almost completely in a very short period of time. I have a recording of this procedure that will guide you through it at this link: (http://www.jonathanparker.org/catalog/health-healing-fitness/additional-programs-health/basic-relaxation-1-cd)
4. Other physical disciplines, most notably yoga and tai chi, are wonderful variations that also teach body and mind how to relax. They can be done with a group or by following the instructions on videos. A full routine is unnecessary; do just enough to establish the pattern of intentional movement, like singing the first few verses of a memorable song in order to capture its mood. If you are unfamiliar with any groups offering these modalities I’d suggest you contact your local recreation department or chamber of commerce for recommendations. Doing these mindful activities for even a few minutes can be just what is needed to shift you out of any stress or tension.
5. This brings us to a simple form of reaching inner peace through meditation. There are many dozens of approaches to meditation but for our purposes of learning how to relax the easiest is to follow the breath. This is effective because it forces the mind to let go of whatever else has been occupying it in order to focus on an ongoing activity. You can choose to be aware of and follow the expansion and contraction of the chest, or sense the air flowing down your throat and filling your lungs. Some people also like to focus on the sensation of the breath on their upper lip as the air enters and exists the nose. The important thing is to pick one thing to focus on for this procedure and stay with it for the duration of that meditation, which in this case can be as little as five or ten minutes.
Be sure that the space you select for meditation is conducive to be calming, healing, and relaxing. That means a quiet setting with soft lighting that lacks intrusions or distractions from others, computers, phones, pets, or anything else. Any symbols or objects that bring calm can also be chosen, especially anything connected with gentle and happy events. Incense, bells, chimes, crystals, a favorite stuffed toy, photographs or paintings that offer an inspiring view can all be used to promote a sense of grounded calm in your meditation nook.
Music can also be a great enhancement, but be aware that lyric content is not the best choice with the exception of chanting, especially if you hold to traditions that feature it, but soft instrumental music is probably the most conducive to the relaxed state you want to achieve.
You can see that by engaging in any of these 5 activities you can make significant peaceful changes in your inner landscape which, in time, will result in a more calm temperament that feels far less stress. Not only will these approaches reduce the stress you are feeling at any given time, but they actually change the way you respond to
what were stressful situations previously.
On my free video page you will find a short program to guide you titled Relaxation Technique to Reduce Stress and Anxiety. Here is the link: http://www.jonathanparker.org/free-videos.
I also have a two-hour audio program that will take you further at this link: http://www.jonathanparker.org/catalog/prosperity-success-mental-mastery/stress-free-become-calm-peaceful