Different people have different ways of relaxing. For some, it’s as simple as sitting on the couch and binge-watching TV series. For others, it means spending the weekend out camping or going out of town. While all these indeed sound relaxing, they actually do little to help alleviate stress in the long run.
For relaxation to be truly effective and fruitful, you need to activate what is known as the natural relaxation response. This is your body’s state of deep relaxation wherein your breathing and heart rate slows down, your blood pressure drops a little, eventually helping your body come to a state of balance with your mind. You can enter this state by practicing the techniques below.
- Deep Breathing Technique
This breathing technique focuses on deep, full breaths that are meant to cleanse. It’s a very basic yet powerful relaxation strategy. It can be mastered easily with constant practice. You can do deep breathing anytime, anywhere. What’s great about this technique is it can quickly reduce your stress level.
Furthermore, deep breathing is the basis for other relaxation techniques. As such, it can also be combined with other relaxation methods and elements. Its benefits can also be amplified when you add elements such as music and aromatherapy.
To try deep breathing, follow these steps:
- Find a comfortable spot to sit. Make sure your back is straight.
- Put one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest.
- Breathe in. Make sure your stomach rises.
- Exhale. Push your stomach in, exhaling out as much air as possible.
- Continue breathing in through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. It will also help to count as you breathe in and out.
- You can also try the process while lying down.
- Body Scan Meditation Technique
In this meditation technique, you will center your attention to certain body parts. Starting on your feet, focus on how and what they’re feeling, but do not label the sensations good or bad. Here’s how you can practice body scan meditation.
- Lie on your back with your arms and legs relaxed. You can choose to close your eyes or keep them open.
- Start by focusing on your breathing for the first two minutes.
- When you feel relaxed enough, switch your focus to your left or right foot. Pay attention to every sensation it feels. Keep focusing on this body part for a few seconds.
- After focusing on your whole foot, shift your focus to your soles. Once again, tune in to the sensations they’re feeling. Imagine that as you breathe, air is flowing through them. Stay that way for a few seconds, then move up to other parts of your body.
- Once you’re done “scanning” each of your body parts, stay relaxed for a little while. When you’re ready to stand up, take it slowly and stretch as necessary.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique
This is a relaxation technique that involves two main steps: tension and relaxation. In progressive muscle relaxation, you will systematically relax and tense different body muscle groups. When you master this technique, you will become more attuned to your body. You will begin to recognize whenever your body feels tense, so you’d know when to relax. When your body is relaxed, your mind will also get into a relaxed state.
To practice progressive muscle relaxation, do these steps:
- Take off your footwear and loosen your clothing. It’s important that you feel comfortable.
- Take several minutes to do some deep breathing.
- When you’re relaxed enough, focus on your left or right foot. Pay attention to the sensations it feels.
- Then, slowly tense your foot muscles. Squeeze them tightly while counting to 10.
- Release the tension. Focus on the way your muscles relax.
- Move up slowly to the other parts of your body.
- Visualization Technique
This is one of the easiest ways to get into deep relaxation. Also called guided imagery, visualization involves imagining a situation or scene wherein you feel calm or at peace. You can choose any setting that best represents calm and relaxation for you.
There are guided imagery apps that can help you perform the visualization technique, but you can also do it on your own. To get started, do these steps:
- Picture a peaceful scenario on your mind. Visualize it as vividly as possible. Go beyond just visuals if you can. Get your other senses working, too.
- Picture the sun: is it rising or setting?
- Can you hear birds singing or waves crashing by the beach?
- Can you smell flowers or the smoke of a barbecue grill, maybe?
- Continue visualizing this scenario as long as you can or until you feel completely relaxed. It’s also possible that you will fall asleep, which is a good sign as it means you’ve felt relaxation.
Absolute relaxation shouldn’t be too hard. Aside from the top techniques listed above, you can also check out meditation and relaxation apps can also help you get started.