There’s no doubt that we live in a society where we’re always plugged in, stress levels are high and finding time for ourselves is like pulling teeth. That being said, meaningful relaxation is so important to incorporate into our daily routines. I’m stressing meaningful relaxation, as opposed to mindless relaxation, because plopping on the couch and veg’ing out may be relaxing but it’s most likely not fulfilling. In today’s increasingly anxiety-filled work, here are 5 ways to help with relaxation that result in long-term positive lifestyle changes:
Although most of the time we group relaxing with doing absolutely nothing, exercising is probably the number one activity that can clear your head. While the entire practice of yoga is beneficial, there are certain poses that are proven to reduce anxiety and depression while increasing serotonin and relaxation. Forward folds, twists and inversions are known to release toxins and create a subtle energetic boost. The “level” of the pose doesn’t have to be advanced, it’s all about working with your body – coming to your edge. You can find four specific postures for relaxation that work for every body here. One of my first yoga teachers always said, “one definition of yoga is finding comfort in discomfort.” This can be applied to the asana (pose) or your mental state.
Meditation can be an intimidating practice when you’re a beginner. It doesn’t have to be; it’s one of the oldest practices for relaxation there is. Start by finding a quiet, safe space and a comfortable seated position that you can sustain for at least 5 minutes. Two of my favorite ways to begin are either 1) repeating a personal mantra to myself, or 2) counting my breath. The goal is to free yourself from distractions and [most] thoughts; so by keeping the mind on one thing, like a mantra or your breath, it helps start this process. Meditation helps not only keep you relaxed but creates a mindful connection to your inner self.
3. USE ESSENTIAL OILS
Lavender, rose and eucalyptus, to name a few, have delicious relaxant properties that can almost automatically uplift your mood. Rose oil is attributed to properties as an antidepressant and anti-inflammatory. Lavender oil is known to help with sleep disorders and considered a “tonic for the nervous system,” meaning it relieves nerves and anxiety. Eucalyptus is a stimulant that helps with mental exhaustion, increasing blood flow to the brain. The list goes on. Add these essential oils to your body scrub, bubble bath, or put a small dab on your wrist to incorporate them more into your daily life.
4. START JOURNALING
Those Dear Diary days aren’t over – in fact, journaling is a huge way to let your emotions out (especially if you’re very introverted). Are you mad? Write down why. Are you grateful? Write down everything you’re grateful for. Are you exhausted? Write down what you can do to shift your lifestyle. This is a sacred place for your eyes only – it’s a place where you can write about whatever is on your mind. It’s especially helpful to journal before making a big decision or confrontation, so that you truly realize exactly where and how you want the conversation to go. Getting these thoughts down on paper – and off your mind – can be one of the most effective ways to truly relax.
5. BREATHING TECHNIQUES
Understanding and controlling your breath might be the most important way to stay relaxed throughout the day. When the breath is running short it sends a message to your brain and muscles of fatigue and exhaustion. When the breath is slow and steady it sends a message of relaxation and energy. Start by cultivating the yogic Ujjayi Breath (which is translated from Sanskrit to victorious breath). In through your nose and out through your nose, gently constricting the opening of the throat to produce a subtle ocean-like sound. There are hundreds of breathing techniques we can talk about, but Ujjayi is the first and foremost practice you should begin. Start counting your inhales and exhales at a 5:5 ratio to begin understanding the breath control. Practice this at your desk, in your car or while watching TV, and notice how different your mood level is.
Sam Negrin is the founder of All Good Health and an avid yogi (and RYT) in Los Angeles. She is also the Content Manager of LEAFtv – a fresh, easy to consume, how-to concept covering all things living, eating and fashion.