The stress of modern life can make real relaxation an elusive dream. Yet there is no reason life has to be filled with anxiety and stress. If you take some time to learn the art of relaxation, you can easily rediscover the enjoyment in life. The secret of relaxation is a controlled state of mind. For example, you could spend a whole hour in a health spa; but, if you spend the whole time worrying about what will happen tomorrow, how can you relax?
1. Now is the only Time that is important – How often do we find ourselves worrying about the future? Anxiety about the future takes up a significant portion of our thoughts. But, to be honest, worrying about the future doesn’t help in any way. If you always live in the past or future you will never be able to relax. To be in a state of relaxation means living only in the present moment.
2. Your environment Matters – Where you spend time has a subtle influence over your state of mind. Consciously we may not be always aware of this; however, you will notice that in some rooms it’s easier to relax and be at peace. Look at your room; if you see piles of clutter these will act as constant reminders of things you need to do.
These constant subconscious reminders are a heavy weight on the mind. If you tidy up the room and create a pleasant environment, it will make a big difference to your state of mind and enable you to relax. Don’t be reluctant to spend a bit of money on things like air-freshners and flowers. Spend time tidying up your living/work environment. Its essential to relaxation and will also make you more productive.
3. Meditation – During meditation we actively make time to silence the mind and bring to the fore a real feeling of relaxation. Meditation helps because we learn to control the relentless flow of thoughts. During meditation, the aim is to keep the mind still; this brings clarity and inner peace. This is the best type of relaxation because we become free from the relentless worries and anxieties of our own making. Find time to meditate for 10 or 15 minutes each day; through meditation we can easily detach ourselves from the pressures of the world.
4. Productivity not Procrastination – Relaxation doesn’t have to mean spending all day on a beach doing nothing. We need to learn how to relax, even in the midst of our daily activities. Prioritise the things that you need to do. If you do things systematically, one at a time, you will feel less stressed and get things done quickly. It’s when we try to do several things at once that we put ourselves under great pressure — this struggle which makes relaxation impossible. Don’t make life hard for yourself. Do one thing at a time and enjoy doing it. When you’ve completed your necessary work, then you have the reward of pleasing yourself without a guilty conscience.
5. Do Not Depend on the Opinions of Others – How much do you depend on the opinion of others? When we worry what people may think or say, we place a burden on our mind. Subconsciously we work towards trying to please others. However, when we have this state of mind it becomes impossible to relax. No matter what we do or say, there will always be someone who manages to criticise or find fault. Therefore, we should develop an attitude of detachment to both praise and criticism.
This doesn’t mean we’re indifferent to the views of others; it just means we won’t allow ourselves to lose our inner peace because of their opinions. This piece of advice isn’t easy to implement but over time we can gradually give less importance to the views of others. Relaxation can only occur if we aren’t constantly thinking about what others are saying and doing.
6. Time to Yourself – Don’t allow yourself to always be at the beck and call of work and other people — make time for yourself. If you are harassed by constant email and phone enquiries, take evasive action. Only take calls and answer emails at certain times of the day. It’s unlikely that your availability, 24 hours a day, is indispensable. When we allow pressures to build up, relaxation becomes very difficult. But, if you really try hard, you should be able to reduce the demands placed on your time and energy.
7. A change is as good as a rest – Life should not be a constantly repeating soap opera. If you find yourself stuck in the same routine, do something completely different. For example, if you spend all your evenings watching rubbish on TV or surfing the internet, you will not get a feeling of real relaxation. Go for a walk or do some sporting activity. The change of scene and activity will help you relax and get away from the monotony and frustration of daily activity.
Relaxation is as simple as gentle Breathing
If you feel stressed take a few moments out. Just watch and be aware of your breathing. Breathe naturally and gently; this will have a very powerful, calming influence on your mind. When you breathe in, feel that you are breathing in inner peace. When you breathe out, feel you are exhaling all your anxieties and worries. Relaxation can be this simple – it doesn’t have to be complicated at all.
Tejvan Pettinger is a member of the Sri Chinmoy Meditation Centre. He lives in Oxford where he works as a teacher. He also offers mediation classes as a community service and updates a blog at Sri Chinmoy Inspiration a collection of articles on meditation and self improvement.
Photo by: Tejvan Pettinger