Relaxation is a state in which the body and mind are free from tension and anxiety.” – Oxford dictionary.
Psychologists have defined relaxation as an emotional state of humans, where there is low tension, in which there is a lack of arousal caused by anger, anxiety or fear.
Relaxation is a desired state of being as you feel calm and can easily manage the day-to-day activities of life. When you are relaxed, it’s easy to cope with stress or anxiety. Relaxation has several health benefits, both mental as well as physical. So, you can practice relaxation whenever or wherever you feel the need for it.
Benefits of relaxation
Relaxation is directly linked to mental health. Regular practice reduces stress and the symptoms of mental health conditions like anxiety disorders. So, irrespective of the responsibilities and your busy schedule, it’s advisable to adopt and practice a few relaxation techniques. Make relaxation a priority to avoid missing out on the health benefits of relaxation.
Common health benefits of practicing relaxation techniques include:
- Lowers your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate
- Improves functioning of digestive system
- Keeps blood sugar levels in control
- Reduces activity of stress hormones
- Reduces muscle tension and chronic pain
- Improves concentration and mood
- Improves quality of sleep
- Reduces anger and frustration
- Boost confidence to handle problems
Relaxation techniques provide better results when it’s paired with other coping methods like positive thinking, using humor to relax, problem-solving, time management, exercising, getting adequate sleep, and reaching out to family and friends for support.
Relaxation techniques are useful in stress management. It reduces stress and its effects on your mind and body. These techniques are great for coping with day-to-day stress and with health-related stress, such as heart disease and pain.
Here are some simple relaxation techniques that help you to de-stress and improve your health.
- Deep breathing
Deep breathing is also known as belly breathing. It’s a simple & powerful technique of relaxation, where you take long, slow and deep breaths. The idea is to distract your mind from thoughts and sensations that cause distress, while you focus on your breath. Deep breathing technique is of great help to people suffering from eating disorders as it helps them to view their body in a positive way.
People who have breathing problems like respiratory ailments or heart failure will not benefit from this technique.
- Progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation helps you to relax in a two-step process. This relaxation technique involves systematically tensing and relaxing different groups of muscles in the body. Regular practice helps you to understand your body better as you become familiar with how the different parts of the body feel in a state of tension and in relaxed state. The knowledge helps you to manage stress better as you can react to the first signs of muscular tension. And when you relax your body, your mind will also relax.
This relaxation technique may not be appropriate for people with health conditions like muscle spasms, back problems, or other injuries that may get aggravated by muscle tensing.
- Body scan meditation
Combining progressive muscle relaxation with deep breathing technique provides better result for stress relief. Body scan meditation starts with deep breathing and shifts to progressive muscle relaxation technique. But here instead of tensing and relaxing the muscles, you just focus on how a specific part of your body feels. There should be no labelling of the sensation as “good” or “bad”. Then try to relax in silence.
People who had a surgery recently that may affect their body image, may not find this technique very helpful.
- Visualization / Guided Imagery
Visualization involves thinking of soothing places, scenes or experiences to relax and focus. Look for soothing scenes online to help you to visualize the place when you want to de-stress. Just make sure that the scene is soothing and has personal significance for you. This relaxation technique will help you to boost a positive image of yourself.
Guided imagery may not be of much help to people who have intrusive thoughts and have difficulty in imagining happy places.
- Mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness meditation is the most popular relaxation techniques prescribed by psychologists today. This technique involves sitting at a place comfortably and focusing on breathing, while trying to bring your mind to the present moment. The focus is to prevent your mind from dwelling on past events, or what may happen in future. Celebrities and business leaders have greatly endorsed this form of meditation in recent years. Various psychological studies suggest that mindfulness meditation may be of great help to individuals suffering from anxiety, depression and pain.
- Yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong
Yoga, tai chi, and qigong are ancient practices that combine breathing exercise with postures. This relaxation technique has a physical aspect that provides a mental focus, distracting you from stressful thoughts. Practicing any of these techniques will also improve your balance and flexibility.
People with painful health conditions or disabling conditions may not be able to practice any of these relaxation techniques.
- Repetitive prayer
Repeating a short prayer or phrase mentally and practicing deep breathing at the same time is a good relaxation technique. The idea is to keep worries or fear coming into your focus of attention. This technique is if great help if the concerned person is spiritual or religious.
Psychologists suggest that you may need to experiment with a few of these techniques before arriving at the one that works for you. Practicing a few minutes every day will help you relax. But try to give 20 minutes to any technique of relaxation to get the best result. The more time you dedicate to a relaxation technique, the more the stress relief.
Make relaxation part of your life
Relaxation techniques are a great way to reduce stress. Make it a part of your life by incorporating the practices in your daily routine. Start with a few minutes and try to practice it for 15-20 minutes every day.
Set aside a part of the day for relaxation practice and try to follow it without fail. If you find difficulty in scheduling some time for relaxation in your hectic life, try meditating while commuting by bus or train. Squeeze in a yoga session during your lunch break or practice mindfulness meditation while walking your dog.
Take help of technology to practice relaxation. You can download apps to help you practice relaxation by setting reminders and tracking your progress. Check for videos of soothing scenery or places online to help you in practicing visualization for stress relief.
Mindfulness coloring book helps you to focus in the present moment and provides distraction from stressful things.
Following work-life balance is best for managing stress in your life. While trying to incorporate relaxation techniques you may find difficulties in following the practice daily initially. But with a little practice and some discipline you can reap the rewards of these techniques. Don’t get discouraged by discontinuity on your part, just start all over again and try to make it a practice.