The Importance Of Relaxation
We all know that we should relax more but what does ‘relaxation’ actually mean?
Relaxation means to calm down both physically and mentally and to do that, you need to shed the worries and stresses of the day and let them go. The Oxford English Dictionary defines relaxation in lots of different ways, including ‘recreation and rest’ and ‘the state of being free from tension and anxiety’. It also describes relaxation as “the restoration of equilibrium following disturbance”.
Although this is a definition which relates directly to the physical sciences, I like this one the best because it indicates a body and mind out of sync and implies that relaxation is an active process, rather than the passive way that we sometimes view it.
How we relax is very personal – a straw poll of my friends included taking a walk in nature, doing an exercise class, taking an afternoon nap, walking the dog, and a glass of wine after a hard day. Some of these are clearly more healthy than others but, in terms of relaxation, which ones work the best?
Are all forms of relaxation of equal value?
No, they are really not. Eating junk food and drinking alcohol may feel good at the time but certainly won’t regain that equilibrium or balance that you need. Some of the best forms of relaxation involve you stepping back from the stresses of life, not engaging with them. In the same way, scrolling through social media on a ten minute work break may feel like relaxation but a short walk in the park, where you completely get away from the pressure of liking, sharing or commenting will recharge your batteries in a much more meaningful way.
What benefits will relaxation actually bring me?
There are lots of physical and emotional benefits to relaxation including the following:
- Decreased heart rate and respiration rate
- Decrease in anxiety and insomnia
- Relaxed muscles
- A decrease in blood pressure
- A decrease in pain associated with long-term conditions
- Increased energy
- An increased ability to cope in different situations
- A feeling of calmness, which has a positive effect in terms of inter-personal relationships and work stress
What forms of relaxation should I try?
Relaxation is a personal thing and different people will enjoy different techniques and activities so it’s worth finding the ones which suit you. The following are ideas for you to try:
- Breathing techniques, such as abdominal breathing or the Sama Vritti yoga technique. You can use these any time of the day, even when you’re sitting at your desk at work. Have a look on the internet for instructions and videos for different relaxing breathing exercises for stress relief and relaxation
- Meditation and mindfulness
- Yoga and exercise
- Progressive muscle relaxation, which works by tensing and releasing different muscle groups in your body
- Hypnotherapy and self-hypnosis
- Exercising in the open air and exposure to the natural environment
- Doing something creative
- Starting a gratitude journal and focusing on the positive, helping to reframe difficult moments and challenge negative thoughts
There are so many different ways to relax – try some and find out which work more productively for you. Relaxation is an active process towards better physical and mental health and it does work.