Can you relax?
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 which happens when we are rushing around and have too much on our plate. 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 especially the heart and cardiovascular system.
If you are in a stress state (sympathetic nervous 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.
How can we relax? TV, drinks with friends, reading a book or listening to a podcast? We true relaxation for our nervous system is actually giving your mind and body a break from stimulation. As relaxing as all of these things can be they are still using your brain and taxing your system. We need some time when we can just switch off and for most of us even sleeping can be stressful as most people have vivid dreams or nightmares at night and this is still stimulating the nervous system.
Is watching TV relaxation?
Unfortunately not, especially if you're watching shows like “the walking dead” or "Game of thrones". 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 can get a bad name and some people have an allergic reaction to the idea of meditating. But most meditation is just focussing your mind on a single thing so the monkey mind isn't just overthinking everything. 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. I hear soooo many people say that they can't meditate as their mind is too busy and they get bored. These are exactly the people that should be meditating. Their mind is so busy that it can't quieten down. If this is you I would highly recommend you try different methods as even a few days or weeks of daily meditation can be a game changer and calm your minds, reduce your stress and improve your outlook on life and your health. There are many apps these days you can get for your phone that take you through a guided meditation, such as insight timer or 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 not 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. You will gradually build up your meditation muscle and before long you will be able to drop into a state of relaxation without any effort at all.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
As a gift for reading this you can click here or go to this address to download a free guided breath awareness relaxation.