7 Mendacious Massage Misconceptions

Massage is becoming more popular every day. The public is finally getting educated on what regular massage can do to benefit your mental and physical health.

Having said that, there are a surprising number of myths and misconceptions about massage that we feel the need to clear up here and now.

This came up as a subject recently in our post about pre-natal massage. In my interview with Christie Ellis, formerly of GLM, the following misconception about prenatal massage came up:

“Prenatal massage can induce labor”
I’ll let Christie take this first one:

“That is a myth! Massage does not cause labor. Acupressure can precipitate labor, and that would be on the level of applying director pressure on a very specific spot for two or three minutes every fifteen minutes over the span of about forty-eight hours.

So there’s no way to come in for a prenatal massage and come out a mother?
“(laughs) No! And to be clear, acupuncture and acupressure are very different than massage. We’re using much broader strokes with massage and there’s absolutely no concern that a nice foot massage could put a woman into labor.

“Another myth I would point out is that abdominal massage can cause miscarriage. That’s out there, too, especially for people who are concerned about the first trimester.

“I do think it’s important to have someone that’s trained for any sort of abdominal work, but massage in general is very safe for expecting mothers.”

But there are plenty of other misconceptions about massage out there. This should put a dent in a few of the more common ones:

“Sure, you feel great right after a massage, but the effects are only temporary”
This idea probably comes from those who really need regular massage, but only tried it once, and went back to the status quo after a day or two. If you suffer from chronic pain or posture issues, regular massage can be particularly beneficial in “retraining” your muscles and your body to be well and whole.

Massage Results take time

You wouldn’t expect to reach all your fitness goals with just one workout, right? Massage is the same way: long-term improvements in your physical health almost never come in the form of a magic bullet. It just takes time and persistence.

If cost seems to be a barrier to getting the treatment you need, you might not have all the facts.

“Does it hurt? It’s supposed to. Just let it happen.”
If you feel pain or discomfort during your massage, say something! While it’s true that some discomfort can be expected in treatment massage, you need to keep talking to your practitioner about your comfort and the treatment they’re doing. Even if a particular stroke or method is supposed to be therapeutic, your therapist can and should honor your requests. The kind of care you receive is entirely in your hands, and should be wholly directed by you.

What’s more, too much pain can actually be counterproductive. If you’re sincerely in pain, you’ll unconsciously tense up other muscle groups, creating the exact opposite of the desired effect for your massage.

“Massage releases toxins and cleanses your system”
Not really. It depends on what you mean by “toxins”. What massage does do is help stimulate circulation throughout your body. This can be helpful if you’re injured. Increased blood flow can be very beneficial in that case. That circulation can include run-of-the-mill cell waste, but there’s no medical magic in stimulating processes that your body routinely caries out anyway. You can get the same effect from vigorous exercise.

“If you don’t walk away feeling like a million bucks, you got a bad massage”
It’s true that, for most cases, people walk away from their massage feeling relaxed, limber, even a little euphoric. But while this is commonly the case, a good massage can sometimes make you feel, well, lousy–at least immediately afterward.

Are you fighting a bug? If you’re getting sick, a massage can sometimes accelerate how quickly you feel the symptoms. You may walk in feeling fairly well, oblivious to the fact that you’re about to get sick, and then get off the table feeling a little weak and achy. If that turns into a bout with a cold or the flu, we feel your pain. But you can’t blame the massage therapist or the job they did for making it happen.

Another scenario is when deep tissue treatment is called for and requested. When your practitioner needs to go deep below the surface tissue to release trigger points and send circulation to distressed areas, this may cause some discomfort both during and just after the treatment.

This can be the case for specialty treatments we offer, including deep transverse friction and myoskeletal alignment. People sometimes report feeling sore after these kinds of heavy treatment-style massages. That does not mean your practitioner did a bad job. In fact, that can be a sign that more regular treatment is called for. It shouldn’t hurt every time, and there should be significant improvement after a good night’s sleep.

“If you have cancer, massage will spread the cancer cells through your body”
This is basically impossible. Massage moves lymph, but cancer doesn’t spread through the lymphatic system. Metastization (the spread of cancer) is due to genetic mutation and a number of factors that have nothing at all to do with the functioning of the lymphatic system.

Having said that, if you’re a cancer patient, it’s wise to consult with your oncologist before scheduling a massage. Relaxation massage at any stage of cancer can actually be immensely beneficial, reducing depression and anxiety. Some studies have even shown that it reduces nausea and pain.

Are there any others you’ve heard that we didn’t cover here? Do you have any questions about massage and what it can do for you?

Let us know in the comments below.

You can also contact us by phone at 425-243-7705

or by email at support@goodliferenton.com

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.

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and blog editor for The Good Life Massage. You can find him online at tgunnwriter.com

Amy Gunn, LMP is a co-founder of The Good Life Massage and has been a licensed massage practitioner since 1999. 

Advertisements

Turtle Power, Part One: 5 Reasons Slow is Better

Pretty businesswoman experiencing road rage
Is faster really better? How many times have you been aggressively passed on the highway by someone who just has to go faster than you, only to look over and see them next to you at the next traffic light?

This post is part I in a two-part series. Follow our blog to catch the next installment!

Slow down! Sure, you could probably stand to break your lead foot habit. But slow is more than just a mode or an easier-to-catch version of speed. It can be the way you live your life–a philosophy that can absorb you and enrich your life in ways you may never have considered.

Here are GLM, we try to embrace this way of thinking in everything we do. Of course, we’re prompt and we stick to our schedule, but the way we structure that schedule is informed by this idea: slow is better.

For example, some massage clinics only leave a five minute gap between appointments in which the practitioner is supposed to be able to change the sheets, run to the restroom, take a deep breath, greet their next client, and start the next session.

We actually extend that 5 or 10 minute gap to 30 minutes. We do this not just for the practitioners (though we’re thinking of them, for sure), but for our clients as well. If the clinic becomes a revolving door of clients with therapists striding up and down the hallway in a rush to get the next person on the table, that doesn’t create a relaxing environment for anyone.

Further, we believe stress can actually be contagious. If a therapist is hungry, exhausted, rushed, flustered, and stretched to her limit, is it really likely that some of those feelings won’t spread to the client through the touch therapy?

If your massage practitioner doesn’t have a chance to slow down and take time for self-care, and to make sure the job is done right, we will never be capable of giving the kind of massage you deserve and need.

Think for a moment about how that same principle might be expressing itself in your own life.

No, really.

Stop skimming this at light-speed for a second, close your eyes, and think about how rushing might be harming your life. Just a second or two is enough, but take all the time you need.

Go ahead, we’ll wait.

What did you come up with? Write your answer down somewhere.

Answering some of these questions might help:

How could your rushing around and “busy-ness” be effecting your spouse/partner? Your children? Your co-workers and subordinates? Do you really like living life at high speed, or do you just have problems with procrastination? Is being busy too much a part of your self-image and sense of worth? It might be time to questions those ideas.

Let it go
Is being busy a part of your self-image and sense of worth? It might be time to questions that.

If you’re still not convinced that slow is better, we have at least five reasons you should consider lifting your foot from the gas pedal of your life.

Greater awareness
When you’re slow, you’re present in the moment. You’re experiencing the precious time of your life as it passes irretrievably into the future. You’re living your life as it was meant to be lived.

How much time do you have left on earth, anyway? You have no way of knowing for sure. Speeding through your life may help you believe the lie that you’re packing a lot in, but are you really tasting it? Do you appreciate how fragile your life is, and how quickly it’s passing?

The span of your life is like an ice cream cone on a hot day: you better savor it, because it won’t last forever.

Slow is cheaper!
Moving, thinking, living at high speed comes with a high cost. In your rush to get things done, you may find that you all-too-easily stay busy while not actually getting much done at all. While checking to see how fast you’re moving, you may not be noticing in which direction you’re going.

Ever hear the expression “Haste makes waste?” Old proverbs like that get passed along because they’re catchy, sure, but also because they’re true. Have you really saved time rushing out the door in the morning at top speed if you forgot something important and had to go back for it?

Moving fast, isn’t
Don’t believe me? How many times have you been aggressively passed on the highway by someone who just has to go faster than you, only to look over and see them next to you at the next traffic light?

For most things in life, you’re not earning any extra points for speed. So why not take your time?

If a job’s worth doing…
It’s worth doing right, which means taking the time it takes to do a task with your full attention. Here’s a mind blower: you know that multitasking thing you’ve heard so much about in job descriptions? It doesn’t exist. Human beings aren’t capable of it.

You can do one thing–ONE–at any given time, and no more. You may be able to shift between things rapidly, but only one will ever have your total focus in the moment. Remember that the next time you’re playing with your kids, or when you get behind the wheel of a car.

Where you place your focus and attention truly matters.

Your physical health
Ongoing stress can tax your body in ways you don’t realize. It increases the risk of heart disease and several kinds of cancer, not to mention high blood pressure and hypertension. Slowing down puts you in tune with your body’s natural rhythms and pace.

While vigorous exercise is important, consider the exercise methods that also bring outstanding health benefits, but which are much slower by nature.

Handsome young man resting after workout in gym
Working the free weights–slowly and steadily–increases muscle control and endurance.

Yoga and tai chi are great examples of this kind of exercise. But this approach isn’t limited to eastern traditions and practices. Even good-old-fashioned weightlifting has benefits when you decide to slow down your reps and focus on control. Your mind can focus more intently on each motion of your body as you go through your routine. If possible, consult with a trainer for a session or two. You might find that your form is much worse than you ever thought!

Also, slow-lifting increases your muscle endurance, de-emphasizing the explosive motion and training your muscles to endure great weight for longer periods of time.

Are you convinced yet? If you’re not sure where to begin, that’s understandable. In the next part of this series, we’ll address the nuts and bolts of throttling down your life and living with more intent and focus.

Tom Gunn is the director of marketing and blog editor at The Good Life Massage. You can find him online at http://www.tgunnwriter.com.

Warning: Do You Recognize These 5 Signs of Burnout?

Are you a hero, falling on your sword for the good of the people around you? Maybe it’s time to hang up your cape.

You may have this heroic narrative about yourself that feels satisfying in many ways, but that narrative might be slowly killing you each day as you try to live it. You could be

Depressed man working late at night
You could be burning yourself out and not even know it.

burning yourself out and not even know it. But if you learn how to listen to your body, you can learn to tell when it’s time to stop, to slow down, to change course.

 

Ignoring these signals could be perilous in the long term, and could cost you far more than a little rest.

“But vacations are expensive!”

Yes, but so is hypertension. So is heart disease. Letting stress overwhelm you in the long term reduces your productivity and puts you at risk for serious disease, and even death.

Burn-out is beyond the stress and hassles of a bad day. We all go through those sometimes. But how do you know if you’re headed for burnout? None of the things below should be a reason to declare red alert or panic, but two or more of these signs together could be a signal to make a change.

Changes in personality
Are you snapping at people? Are the people around you avoiding you because they don’t want their heads bitten off? Are you a normally extroverted person who’s suddenly staying home instead of going out with friends? If your personality is dramatically changing and the people around you are giving you that feedback, this might be a warning sign.

Emotional zilch
Your emotional responses may also be dulled or blunted. You may come off as being constantly distracted, as always having something heavy and pressing on your mind. Can you still share the joy of a special occasion or an accomplishment with someone you care about? If things are going badly for those around you, are you still able to listen with compassion, or are you too distracted to stay emotionally invested?

No sense of purpose
Is it hard to get out of bed in the morning because … well, what’s the point? Meaning is important. It keeps you going through stresses. Having something to fight for allows you to do, as Winston Churchill said: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” When burnout is on it’s way, or already here, you’re unable to keep going because nothing seems to matter.

This is the stage where you feel that no matter what you do, there’s just never any payoff, never any way to “win” at what you’re doing. When stress overcomes you, the things that would normally serve as a payoff in your daily efforts no longer seem to deliver the rewards you need to carry on. When you feel like this, every day feels like a bad day.

Flat tire
When was the last time you were “pumped”: excited to dig into getting some work done, to work on a personal project, to seize the day (or even just the weekend)? If it’s been a while, you could be well on your way to burnout, if you’re not there already.

The new normal: sick
Are you constantly getting colds or the flu? Are you at the point where feeling normal and healthy is the exception rather than the rule? Constant, on-going stress with no payoff can weaken your immune response. Getting sick, on its own, does not mean you’re on the road to burnout, but it could be a warning sign you should pay attention to.

Unstring your bow
The string of a bow is under constant stress, which is how it drives the arrow when loosed. All the bow’s power is in its elasticity. But if that elasticity is over-taxed over a long period of time, it will lose all it’s spring, no matter how strong the bow is. And for that matter, bows aren’t invincible. Sustained stress on a bow can cause it to crack and break. If you don’t unstring the bow from time to time, in order to preserve the bow and the string, all it’s power is threatened and will inevitably be lost. You’re a lot like a bow–good under stress, elastic (or resilient), but also prone to being over-taxed, even broken.

Silueta de arquero en puesta de sol
You’re a lot like a bow–good under stress, resilient, but also prone to being over-taxed, even broken.

Just how you unstring your bow will be covered in another post, but basically, you have to make relaxation a skill you’re actively cultivating and getting better at. In our busied, hurried society, it’s more important than ever to stop, let go, and even allow yourself to be bored from time to time.

In fact, we recommend you set aside an entire day each week devoted to resting and reconnecting with yourself and those people closest to you.

Regular therapeutic massage can also be a valuable tool in combating burnout and keeping your resiliency high.

You can book your next massage here, or give us a call at 425-243-7705.

Regular exercise, a good diet, and regular social interaction are some of the best tools in your self-care toolbox.

If you recognize yourself in any of the warning signs above, you might want to consider revisiting these fundamentals of self care.

Are You Guilty of One of These Four Deadly Posture Habits?

Good and bad posture

Whether you realize it or not, many of the little aches and pains you may be quietly enduring each day can be attributed to bad posture. Bad posture can also lead to increased headaches. Sometimes, in an attempt to compensate for bad posture, we over-correct and further damage our spines. Where is the balance?

Our spines have three natural curves that stretch from the top to the bottom of the back. The cervical (neck), thoracic (chest), and lumbar (lower back). Remembering to keep these three parts of your spine in a natural form will improve overall body health.

These are the most common bad posture habits we’ve seen in our clients. Are you guilty of any of these?

1. Weight-Shifting
Imagine yourself waiting in a check out line at a grocery store. Your feet are tired and you feel yourself shifting weight from one foot to the other. This is common. You may be distributing the weight of our body from one leg to the other to relieve pressure on our feet and ankles, but in fact you could be doing more harm than good. Center your weight evenly on our legs to provide greater stability. Other tips to improve your stance:

  • Relax your back and shoulders.
  • Keep your feet about waist width apart.
  • Pull in your abdominals.

2. Lazy Sitting
We often find sitting to be a much more relaxing alternative to standing, and sometimes let ourselves slack off when it comes to good posture while sitting. Slouching while sitting not only can hurt your posture in the long run, you also get more tired while working on your current task. While working sitting down, try to do the following:

  •  Sit in a chair that is firm enough and has a back support. It is preferable that the back goes up to the shoulders so your whole back can relax.
  • Sit as deeply as you can in the chair so that way your back is straightened against the back. This helps prevent slouching.
  • Keep both your feet flat on the floor.

3. Bad bed, bad!
If you take naps, make sure to take them on surfaces that aren’t too firm or too soft, and that your back is supported in a comfortable position. If you find your back hurting after waking up, that is probably a sign that you are not in a good position or that you are not sleeping on a good surface. Be sure to have a bed that supports your back enough but isn’t too firm. If your bed is too firm, it can cause extra pressure to be placed on small sections of your spine. A bed that’s too soft pulls the pressure on your spine inward as your body curls on itself unnaturally.

Yes, nice beds are expensive. But remember, we’re talking about something you’ll spend about half of your life on. Sure, get a great deal on that extra set for the guest room, but your bed is not something you should be going cheap on.

5. Your dad was right …
Lift with the legs, not the back! Your legs are much stronger than your back and are accustomed to carrying heavier loads. Another danger regarding heavier objects is having to constantly carry them. A backpack filled with books or a large laptop bag, over time, can cause hunched shoulders and back. If you must have your heavy load with you, consider carrying your things in a trolley bag or roller bag so that the ground is bearing most of the weight.

How do I fix this?
Next time you schedule a massage, talk to your massage therapist about your posture habits–how you sit, sleep, and move through your day. They can feel what’s really going on under your skin, and can make some recommendations to help you take better care of yourself. They’ll also be able to help work out some of the adhesions and tightness that have arisen as a result of your bad habits.

Are You Un-Doing Your Massage?

A great massage will have you coming home feeling like a new person. But what about the next morning? For those who aren’t used to regular body work appointments, you might be feeling a little sore after your first visit. Stretching is one of the best ways to help your body recover.

Stretching also has other amazing benefits:

  • improves your joint range of motion.
  • increases blood flow to the muscle.
  • improves flexibility.
  • leaves you feeling fresh and energized.

What kind of stretches should I do?
For athletes, the type of stretching you do and at what time you do it matters a lot. Static stretching, for instance, may be beneficial under most circumstances. But this stretch has been proven to impair performance before a 100 meter sprint. Athletes might focus on more dynamic stretches which involve lots of mobility. For our purposes, our best recommendation is to focus on static stretches.

Static stretches are simple body positions where you reach and hold the position for 10-30 seconds. It’s that easy! Static stretches are best for muscle recovery when done correctly.

Before you begin …
Form is important when exercising your flexibility. Stretching when your muscles are cold can lead to more damage than recovery. Here are things to consider before beginning your regular stretching routine:

Use proper technique
If you feel more pain than a good stretch, it is a good indicator that something is wrong.

Warm-up before stretching
To bring a good blood flow to your muscles, go for a short walk or do some cleaning around the house.

Do not “bounce” when you stretch
It is important to hold your stretch as to prevent stress on the muscle.

Reach until you feel the stretch
Don’t aim for pain. If it hurts, you’ve gone too far. If you’re aiming to improve your flexibility, push it right to the limit of where it hurts, and over time you’ll find that your flexibility improves. Don’t try to force the results.

Maintain a daily stretching routine
The benefits of stretching, like massages, come when you do it regularly.

Stay Hydrated!
Proper water intake prevents muscle cramps.

Great stretches for each part of your body

Foam Roll Calf Stretch
Foam Rollers are great just about anything! If you don’t own your own foam roller, you can purchase them here at the Good Life Massage, are relatively inexpensive, and are widely available.Faszienrolle

  1. Begin by sitting on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you
  2. Cross your legs and place them on top of the foam roller.
  3. With your hands to your side, gently lift yourself off of the ground and allow the foam roller to move from your knee to the ankle. Pause in places of tension for 10-30 seconds.
  4. Switch legs crossed.

Wall Calf StretchDehnung der Wadenmuskulatur

  1. While facing the wall, position your feet around four feet from the wall. Place one foot forward.
  2. Lean forward, resting your hands against the wall. Try to keep each part of your body in alignment.
  3. Keep your heel on the ground. Hold the stance for 10-30 seconds. Switch legs.

Shoulder and Tricep Stretch

  1. While standing, position your feet shoulder length a part.
  2. With the forearm of one hand, pull the elbow of your other arm past your shoulder until you feel a pull.
  3. Hold for 10-30 seconds. Switch arms.

Glute Stretch

  1. While sitting on the ground, leave one leg stretched outward, with the other leg bent.
  2. With both hands, grab the leg that is bent and pull backwards while slowly leaning back (be sure to keep your neck and shoulders relaxed).
  3. Once you feel the stretch, hold for 10-30 seconds. Switch legs.

Lower Back Stretch

  1. While sitting on the ground, leave left leg stretched outward, with your right leg bent, crossed over the straight leg.practice yoga
  2. Place your right arm on your left leg and keep your left arm stretched outward. Slowly twist until you feel a slight stretch.
  3. Hold for 10-30 seconds and switch legs.

Cobra Stretch (Lower Back)

  1. Lay down with your chest on the ground.
  2. Place your hands as if you were to do a push up.Yoga bhujangasana cobra pose by woman on green grass in the park
  3. Push off the ground while keeping your hips to the ground. Hold for 10-30 seconds.

Forearm-Finger Tip Stretch

  1. While standing, stretch out your arm with the palm of the hand facing the ceiling.
  2. Gently pull down the fingertips of your hand until you feel a slight stretch.
  3. Hold for 10-20 seconds. Then switch to the other hand.

Neck and Trapezius Stretch

  1. Be especially gentle with this stretch as to avoid pulling any muscles
  2. With one hand, cradle the back of your head and pull slightly towards your shoulder, hold for 10-30 seconds.
  3. Switch arms to stretch the other side of your neck.

Hamstring Stretch (Hurtler Stretch)

red woman stretching her foot on the floor

  1. Sit on the ground with both legs stretched out in front of you.
  2. Bend one leg in towards your outstretched leg.
  3. Slowly lean towards your outstretch leg. Touch your toes if possible. Hold your stretch for 10-30 seconds.

Upper Back Stretch

  1. Kneel down on a soft surface.
  2. Prostrate yourself on the ground extending your hands as far out in front of you as possible.fit woman bending over on mat doing pilates exercise at home in the living room
  3. Hold position for 10-30 seconds.

You won’t need to sacrifice hours in a week to create a daily stretching routine. Just Five minutes a day is an investment that can provide years of mobility as you grow older.

Tanner Zornes is a blog contributor for the Good Life Massage and a student at Brigham Young University. Special thanks to our own Vanessa Mabra, LMP for inspiring this post and assisting in the research. 

5 Hydration Myths

If you’ve been in to see us, there’s one thing all our therapists recommend after a massage session:

“Drink plenty of water.”

But just how much is “plenty”? How much do you need, anyway?Gold fish jumping to big fishbowl

The Internet is full of information on hydration, but it turns out that the Internet is as good at spreading myths and misconceptions as it is at spreading facts.

Here are 7 myths about water to watch out for, and the facts you need to maximize your self care.

1. Drinking a glass of water before taking a bath helps lower blood pressure.

This simply isn’t true. According to the University of Washington, blood pressure is controlled by hormones, not your water intake. Decreasing the salt and sodium in your diet and increasing physical activity is the best way to lower your blood pressure.

2. Everyone should drink at least eight glasses of water per day.

This oft-repeated rule of thumb is just a starting point. Every body is different, and fluid intake should increase with heat and exercise to stay hydrated. But there’s no need to force-feed yourself water if your urine is a pale yellow and odorless and you’re not thirsty.

3. Caffeine dehydrates you. It’s like drinking negative water.

Caffeine is a dihurettic, which means it makes you need to urinate more often. According to the Mayo Clinic, however, caffeine poses no real risk of dehydration. While cafeinnated beverages like coffee and soda can be considered part of your fluid intake, water is still best. Water has no extra calories and doesn’t cause headaches or insomnia the way cafeinne does. Water, in fact, has been shown to reduce headaches and staying hydrated generally improves sleep.

4. Water keeps your skin looking young.

According to UW, your skin is about 30% water, so it naturally follows that staying hydrated is key for healthy skin. It should be remembered, however, that a number of other factors determine the health and longevity of your skin including genetics, age, sun exposure, diet, and more.

Hydrating may make a visible difference in someone who’s usually dehydrated, but you can’t expect that drinking your eight-a-day will keep you looking twenty forever. While water is not a magical youth potion, it is essential for maintaining health and that goes for your skin as much as any other part of you.

5. Drinking cold water helps you lose weight.

The logic goes like this: your body burns approximately 8 extra calories warming up a glass of ice water in your stomach so your body can process it. You do that ten times, and that’s a total of 80 calories.

That sounds pretty good, right? It might even help you burn off that stick of string-cheese you binged on or that small handful of grapes. Yep, that’s it. You can’t expect dramatic weight loss results from drinking ice-cold water.

Staying generally hydrated is essential to weight loss, but the primary proven method is a combination of increasing physical activity while decreasing calorie intake.

Drinking plenty of water may not offer all the magical benefits some Facebook memes may promise, but the real health benefits are well worth remembering this important aspect of health.

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.

For more tips on wellness, you can keep up with us on social media including:

Facebook: facebook.com/TheGoodLifeMassage
Twitter: @goodliferenton

5 Relaxation Tips to Transform Your Life

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.

Shockwave_coaster_sfot
Roller coasters, to many people, are great fun! They’re also very stressful, and are not generally relaxing.

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.

Places like Coulon Park here in Renton offer a relaxing lake view, a picturesque arboretum, and smooth walking trails.
Places like Coulon Park here in Renton offer a relaxing lake view, a picturesque arboretum, and smooth walking trails.

Massage

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.

Notice your thoughts as they enter and exit your mind, but try not to give them too much focus.

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.