Finding the time to relax!!

I often ask people “how do you relax?” More often than not I get a shocked look, panic and then a stream of answers such as watching tv, going to the gym, going out to the pub with friends, etc. It’s amazing how that question can spark so much stress!!!

And while the answers are good, they’re not relaxing. I don’t know about you but I find going to the gym is actually quite stressful. While I love it and I get a real kick out of the adrenaline and serotonin (happy hormones) by the time I’m leaving, my head is buzzing, I’m raring to go and I normally have to wind down before going to bed! While it is very beneficial and we do need to exercise to stay healthy but the experience itself isn’t a relaxing one. Watching tv is escapism, we get lost in another world and while this can be nice it’s not relaxing. Neither is going out to the pub with friends.

The very idea of relaxing is so foreign to many of us that we can’t even think how we’d do it! I know it was to me when I friend of mine and fellow colleague asked me how I switched off. Sure I do loads of exercise was my immediate reply. I didn’t get the point at the time.

If you remember back to my last newsletter and the stress pot (if not, you can access it here), we need to be regularly doing things to reduce the levels of stress in our lives otherwise we can suffer with physical symptoms, negative thinking and we can get so exhausted that we literally don’t have the energy to have a positive perspective!

What will relaxing do for me?

  • It allows us to re-connect with ourself so that we can connect to others,
  • It allows us to stop for a moment to appreciate all the good things that are going on in our lives.
  • It helps us to dis-connect from the incessant chatter in our heads.
  • It helps our bodies to switch off the production of adrenaline, thereby decreasing blood pressure, increasing blood flow to your muscles and decreasing muscle tension.

Thereby, you will:

  • Be less stressed (95% of all illnesses are caused by stress, so your physical health will improve as well as your emotional health.)
  • Be able to sleep better.
  • Concentrate better and for longer
  • Feel more at peace
  • Have a better relationship with yourself.
  • Have clarity of thought
  • Feel more in control of your emotions.
  • Be happier!

HOW?

Well it’s very simple really. You could:

  1. Spend a couple of minutes tuning into your breath every day. Just notice your breath as you breath in and out. Your mind will wander but just keep bringing it back to your breathing. Tune into how your breath feels (is it hot, cold, warm etc), what it sounds like, looks like (does it have a colour), what physically happens to your body when you breath, where do you first start feeling your breath entering and leaving your body.
  2. Take up meditation. There are some great classes in the Dublin Meditation centre on Buddhist meditations. Or you can buy some great meditations online on itunes.
  3. Practise mindfulness. This is a wonderful way to relax – see below for an article from them on how to practise mindfulness.
  4. Take a relaxing bath with 1 handful of Epsom salts and some lavender essential oil. Allow yourself to relax in the water and perhaps use a candle to help you to focus. Most importantly don’t bring any reading material in with you, just allow yourself to relax and instead of trying to stop your mind from thinking, watch it. See where it takes you!

A list of ways to practice mindfulness

Each and every day we have many opportunities to practice mindfulness. Here is a list of ways to practice mindfulness.Choose one to practice for a day or a week and give it your wholehearted attention.

1. When you wake up in the morning, notice your breathing before you get out of bed. The quality of our breath tells us a lot about our state of being. When the breath is slow and steady we are calm and peaceful. When the breath is constricted we are tense.

2. Before you get out of bed, notice your thoughts. What was your first thought upon waking? This practice helps us get in touch with what is on the mind and in our dreams

3. When possible, eat silently. Before you eat, consider all the people involved in providing the food on your plate – farmers, truck drivers, people in supermarkets. Offer gratitude for all these people.

4. Notice your environment: sunlight, rain, the wind, trees, sights and sounds. On your way to work, school, an appointment or your daily errands, be mindful of driving your car, walking, sitting on the subway, arriving at your destination, your state of mind and your thoughts. Are you in the present moment or thinking ahead to what you will be doing next? Notice your body, and let your breathing help you relax your shoulders, soften your face.

5. Notice when you can stop the pressure of pushing to get where you are going and simply enjoy the process of getting there.

6. Practice mindful, conscious breathing throughout your day: at work, while sitting down, at your desk, at your computer, while speaking on the phone and in person.

7. Allow yourself to be calm and peaceful. Use daily cues as reminders to be mindful: the doorbell, the telephone, a mindfulness bell on your computer, turning on a light, checking your watch or a clock for the time.

8. Approach meals with mindfulness and gratitude. Really taste what you are eating.

9. As you leave your daily activities, take a moment to appreciate what you have accomplished and consider how you have interacted with others. Wash your speech kind, helpful and appropriate to the situation?

10. Consider your trip home as a transition time between your daily activities and your time at home.

11. Become aware of your breathing, smile, notice the quality of your thoughts and feelings.

12. Approach your homecoming and the people you come home to, with peacefulness and kindness.

13. You can use conscious breathing – awareness of the breath – as a foundation to encourage mindfulness in all of your daily activities, just as you use it as the foundation for your sitting and walking meditation practices.

14. Eat meals without doing anything else. Eat them sitting down, rather than standing up or in your car or on the run. Taste every morsel of food and enjoy the aroma and texture of your food.

15. As you go to bed and prepare for sleep, breathe, become aware of your body and relax, and let go of daily activities and of your anticipation of tomorrow.

Wishing you the gift of mindfulness each and every day.

(For more artcles please visit – www.wildmind.org)

Thank you 🙂

Please do let me know how you get on – ellie@xhale.ie

Ellen