Relaxation is a major component of staying fit, but it’s more than just doing nothing, and it’s anything but a waste of time.
At The Good Life Massage our mission for our clients is wellness. When most people hear that word, they might think of eating vegetables, exercising, drinking lots of water, etc. Those things are all great, but relaxation is one often-overlooked habit in planning for wellness. Real relaxation requires full attention, uninterrupted time, and maybe even some gentle discomfort.
Relaxation is as crucial to your body’s functioning as the strain of a good workout. Your body needs to work to both extremes in order to maintain a full range of functionality throughout your life. In other words, your body needs to move, yes. But it also needs to be able to be still and truly at rest.
Relaxation vs. Fun
In our language we tend to conflate relaxation with fun. Relaxation can and should be fun to some extent, but not all things that are fun should be considered true relaxation.
TV shows, movies, Internet: fun! But are they truly relaxing? They involve sitting still, but they also usually involve your mind going elsewhere. These things are designed to inflict some stress on you, to make your mind race, to put you on the edge of your seat, even make you cry. Not only can these activities eat large amounts of valuable time, they can compromise your mind/body connection.
True relaxation is a rest for the mind as well as the body. It increases and improves your mind/body connection. When was the last time you sat quietly enough that you could hear your own breath, or even your own heartbeat?
A rested mind is creative, patient, agile, responsive, and alert. A rested body can adapt to stress more readily and can relax more quickly once stress has come and gone.
This is what makes relaxation a component of wellness. When you’re well, you can handle daily stresses, including the part where the stressors have passed.
Relaxation can also improve sleep patterns. When your body becomes good at slowing down, it succumbs to sleep more readily when it’s time to hit the pillow.
Truly Relaxing Activities
Relaxation doesn’t have to take long. Just fifteen minutes a day can make a huge difference in your state of mind and sense of well-being. Below are some truly relaxing activities you can start today. Turn off your phone, give one of these a try, and see what happens!
Go for a Slow Walk (and leave the headphones at home!)
Try to pick as natural an environment as possible, but one which will be safe and easy to walk through, preferably a hiking trail, public garden, or a park. While you’re out, breathe deeply. Listen to the small sounds your body makes. Notice the sights and sounds of the world around you. Let the cares of the day drift away and try to stay focused in the present moment.
This one is self-serving, we admit, but it meets all the criteria above and then some. We use music of your choice, or none at all, and give you the option of adding aromatherapy and other soothing enhancements. A 60 or 90 minute massage can re-invigorate the senses, improve circulation, and help you build a stronger mind/body connection.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
YouTube abounds with audio meditations along these lines. This isn’t the mystical miracle hypnosis of the audio cassette era. This is a guided exercise usually performed lying down or from a sitting position that increases mind/body connection by systematically helping you relax the major muscles of your body. You’ll be taken through a series of movements involving flexing and relaxing your muscles while breathing deeply. This can reduce anxiety, relieve insomnia, and increase focus when practiced regularly. This usually takes anywhere between fifteen minutes and a half hour.
Sit in Silence
You don’t have to pray, meditate, or listen to new age music. Just stop! Listen to your own breathing.
This is easy, can take as little as a minute or two, and can help you slow down your day’s frantic pace
Take Your Breaks at Work!
Washington State Law requires that you get two paid breaks in a full work day, so use them. If you set that boundary with your boss and co-workers, they’ll generally respect it. Make good use of that legally mandated time by doing some of the things above, even if it’s just a brief moment of silence. Studies have shown that the people who take regular breaks are not only happier at their jobs, but are more productive.
Trying some of the above exercises can help you re-think what it means to really relax and help you develop a whole new relationship with the stress in your life.
As with everything on this blog, none of this information should be construed as medical advice or care. The employees of The Good Life Massage, including the writers of this blog, are not medical doctors. Consult with your physician before making any changes to improve your health.