The easiest way to relax is often forgotten as we search for ways to relax outside of ourselves. But simply bringing the mind to the breath is highly effective at calming the mind and body. It could be as simple as stopping and taking five deep breaths, just focusing on the breath coming in through your nostrils and then out.
Notice how the in breath is a little cooler and the out breath a little warmer. This is the precursor to meditation which really is just sitting quietly and focusing on just breathing.
2. Releasing tension in your muscles.
Many of us carry our tension around in our bodies, and whilst we would all love a daily massage, we don’t have the money or time to indulge. A really simple relaxation technique to relax all the muscles in your body is to close your eyes, and starting at your hands, clench them tight, and then fully relax them, mindfully letting go of all the tension just in your hands.
Then work your way up your arms, through your body, and down your legs. The face is one of key areas where we unconsciously hold stress. Open your jaw up wide for about half a minute and then let go. Consciously relax all the muscles in your face, especially your forehead.
3. Pamper yourself.
This is one of my favourite relaxation techniques and varies from person to person. One of my easiest ones to do is a nice hot shower at the beginning of the day and taking the time to tend to my body, taking time to wash my hair (and give myself a quick head massage along the way).
For some it might be sitting quietly and having a cup of tea. Whatever small ways that work for you, take a little time in your busy day to just care for yourself.
4. Writing in a journal
This one isn’t for me, but lots of people do find it helpful. Writing stuff down can sometimes be a cathartic way of getting things out of our head so we can get along with enjoying our lives. This relaxation technique for me however became just another thing I had to do and caused more stress, but it might work for you. Try it for 30 days and see if it makes a difference
5. Happiness jar
This is a great relaxation technique! Simply grab a jar (have updated mine to a really gorgeous one I found in an op shop) and at the end of each day write on a small slip of paper the thing that day that made you the happiest. It takes a second. Then whenever you are feeling a little sad, drop your hand into the jar and bring out a memory or two. Some use this as a gratitude jar and daily put down one thing they are grateful for, but I prefer happiness.
This really helps me get clarity on what is essential for me to do. At the beginning of every day I write a list of what needs to be done then sit and circle the ones that are essential and in the order I have to do them. Simply way to organise my time instead of flitting from one thing to another and feeling overwhelmed
7. Know that being unhappy has no purpose
This is a Buddhist relaxation technique that can sometimes be difficult. But the idea is that if something bad happens, and you can’t do anything about it, being unhappy or sad or angry is not going to help. It’s not going change the situation and will only make you miserable.
Similarly, if something bad happens and you can do something about it, being unhappy will also not be helpful. Either way, anger or unhappiness does not help. The art of acceptance can be a difficult one to learn, but practicing to just accept what is without negative emotion can be powerful. Buddhism has a number of practical techniques in helping gain this.
8. Create a ritual before you go to bed.
I love rituals and this one really helps my brain trigger that I am about to sleep and let my body and mind to rest. My ritual is to light a candle and read for ten minutes before switching of the light. You may create another one, but simply having this ritual has really helped me sleep well.
9. Have fun.
Playing is a great way to relax. It can be something as simple as joking around with your partner, or getting down with the kids and painting, or dancing around the room. Whatever it is, having fun is key to relaxing.
Have a favourite place where you always feel relaxed? Well you can go there anytime in your mind! Simply close your eyes, relax your face muscles and imagine yourself there. Imagine the smells and sounds as well and really take it all in. This is a great relaxation technique because you can do it anywhere.
11. Gentle stretch
You don’t need to go to a yoga class to treat your body to some gentle stretches. Simply taking a moment to reach up to the sky and down to the earth, stretch your back and your legs, is an easy relaxation technique.
12. Hot towel for your face
It’s no coincidence that steamed towels are used in day spas and massage treatments. Easy to do at home. Bowl of really hot water, put the towel in, squeeze out, and then refresh your face and hands with it. Instantly relaxing
Many psychological studies that giving and altruism is one of the quickest paths to happiness. It doesn’t have to cost you any money either! One of my favourites is simply printing out some of these take what you need fliers and putting them up around my local area and workplace. Often times the slips of paper at the bottom go quickly, and its a super simple way to do something kind for others and to give.
14. Be with a tree
This is one I learned from my kahuna course. Simply go and sit with a tree and be with that tree in silence. Switch off your phone for ten minutes and enjoy the trees company. Sounds weird? Just try it, it works!
15. Be in the now
Tolle is the master of this, but simply concentrating on the now moment, and letting go of thoughts, even just for a minute of the past or future can be incredibly refreshing. It can be hard to do this for long periods of time, so I give myself a break and just say “for the next minute, I will be fully present in the moment, and then after that minute I will think about the future.” It is a relaxation technique that give your mind a rest and helps you appreciate exactly where you are
Another positive psychology technique that has been shown to reduce stress. Take a moment, it might be watching the sunrise or smelling a beautiful flower, something beautiful, and really immerse yourself in the experience. Take it all in and take the time to savour the beauty of what you are experiencing.
17. Treat yourself like you would some one you love
Ah this is one I learned from a very negative relationship that was very one sided. For the first three months, I treated him like a king whilst I received almost nothing in return. So this year, my bench mark on how I treat myself is how I treated him.
Each day I look for things that will fill me up and make me happy first, and I really go to a lot of effort to spoil myself. The amazing thing is that the more I give to myself, exponentially, the more I am able to give to others.
Yep, escape to a quiet place, sometimes this might be the nearest bathroom, for a break from everyone else.