There is a lot of focus these days on getting enough exercise and eating well but what about relaxation? We have guidelines as to how much exercise we need, what to eat, how much water to drink etc but there are no guidelines as to how much time we need to spend per day relaxing.
After just coming back from holidays I can really see just how busy our lives are. Taking a break can give you that perspective as when you are in it you get so used to how busy you are that it is easy to think that this is normal.
What happens when we relax?
When you relax your body goes into a parasympathetic nervous system state which is the opposite to the fight or flight response or stress response. The benefits of being in a parasympathetic state include reduced blood pressure, better digestion and decreased stress which can have benefits throughout all of the bodily systems.
If you are in a stress system most of your day then your body will be in fight or flight mode. Even though you may just have to get an important email done or finish some work by a deadline your body will be responding as though you are being chased by a lion. These days we don't usually have to deal with things as stressful as being chased by an animal but unfortunately our body doesn't realise this and responds the same. If we never give our minds and bodies a chance to relax then your system will constantly be taxed.
Is watching TV relaxation?
Unfortunately not, especially if you're watching shows like “the walking dead”. Watching TV or using a laptop are just as stimulating to your brain as working. True relaxation is about giving your senses a rest. The most effective method of relaxation is meditation. Meditation doesn't have to be sitting in a cave wearing robes or burning incense and listening to Enya.
Is drinking relaxation?
As relaxing as having a drink after work can be it can be very taxing on your system. Some people have difficulty sleeping after a few drinks and may wake up through the night, not getting a good nights rest. The processing of alcohol can have many ill health effects such as increasing blood pressure, liver damage and the way you deal with stress.
What is meditation?
Meditation is basically conscious relaxation. What that means is that you are purposefully relaxing your body by concentrating on it. Just like when you exercise you focus on what you are doing trying to maintain a good form. When you are meditating you are focussing on good mental form focussing on your breath or letting go of tension in muscles.
Meditation is too hard!!
If you find meditation hard then you should try a different method. There are many apps these days you can get for your phone that take you through a guided meditation, such as headspace, that will help you to relax without any effort.
You can just pop in the headphones before going to bed and spend a few minutes deeply relaxing which will also help with sleep.
How much relaxation should you get?
Taking some time out in your day even for just a few minutes can change your whole outlook. If you are feeling stressed, even a few minutes of relaxation can help to calm down your mind and nervous system.
There are many different systems of relaxation and meditation. Some can be very intensive and take up hours per day, which is great if you have the time, but for most of us we don't have hours per day to be meditating. This can also put people off meditation.
I recommend people trying just 10-15 minutes per day and if that is too hard then as much time as you can spend. If you have 5 minutes then do that. The thing with meditation, like with exercise, is the regularity no the amount. You could exercise once a week for 2 hours but exercising everyday for 20 minutes would actually be better for your health. So frequency not quantity is important here.
So there you have it. Relaxation is just as important as exercise and diet and should be incorporated into your health regime. If you have any questions then feel free to get in touch at email@example.com
As a gift for reading this you can click here or go to this address to download a free guided breath awareness relaxation.