How can Relaxation help me?
Exploring relaxation can help you look after your wellbeing when you are feeing busy and stressed. Below are numerous tips and ideas which can fit into your daily life routine. Don’t worry if some ideas do not work for you, just enjoy the ones that do.
Take a break:
Relaxation doesn’t have to take up lots of your time. Just stepping away from something stressful for a few minutes or taking time away from your normal routines and thoughts can give you enough space and distance to feel calmer.
• Read a book or a magazine, even if it’s only for a few minutes.
• Run yourself a bath, watch a film, play with a pet or try out a new recipe.
Focus on your breathing:
Learning to breathe more deeply can help you feel a lot calmer and increase your sense of wellbeing.
• Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to keep your shoulders down and relaxed, and place your hand on your stomach – it should rise as you breathe in and fall as you breathe out.
• Count as you breathe. Start by counting ‘one, two, three, four’ as you breathe in and ‘one, two, three, four’ as you breathe out. Try to work out what’s comfortable for you.
For some useful guided breathing practices click here
Spend time in nature:
Spending time outside and in green spaces can be great for your physical and mental health.
• Take a walk in the countryside or through a local park, taking time to notice trees, flowers, plants and animals you see on the way.
• Spend some time taking part in conservation, whether that’s digging in your own garden or taking part in a local green project. You can find projects and outdoor activities to suit whatever level of mobility you have.
Do a tech check:
Technology can be great for helping you feel connected, but if you’re using it a lot then it can contribute to making you feel busy and stressed. Taking a break (even a short one) can help you relax.
• Try turning your phone off for an hour (or a whole day if you’re feeling brave).
• Step away from the TV, or have an evening where you don’t check emails or social networks. Use the time to do something relaxing – try some of the ideas above.
Try active relaxation:
Relaxation doesn’t have to mean sitting still – gentle exercise can help you relax too.
• Take a walk, going at your own pace. You might choose to go for a longer walk, but even a few minutes of walking can help you feel relaxed.
• Look for a class you’d like to try, such as yoga, Pilates or gentle stretching.
Getting in touch with your artistic side can help you feel more calm and relaxed.
• Try painting, drawing, making crafts, playing a musical instrument, dancing, baking or sewing.
• Try not to worry too much about the finished product – just focus on enjoying yourself.
Listen to music:
Music can relax you, connect you to your emotions and distract you from worrying thoughts.
• Listen to your favourite songs. Turn up the volume and dance or sing along, or put your headphones on and close your eyes.
• Really listen to the music. Can you pick out different instruments? Can you hear a drum beat or a certain rhythm? Focus on the music, and let other thoughts fade away.
Picture yourself somewhere serene:
Even if you can’t physically get away, your imagination can transport you to somewhere you feel calm.
• Think of somewhere relaxing and peaceful. You might choose a memory of somewhere you’ve been, or a place you have imagined.
• Close your eyes, and think about the details of this place. What does it look like – what kind of colours and shapes can you see? Can you hear any sounds? Is it warm or cool? Let your mind drift and your body relax.
How to use relaxation exercises:
Use relaxation techniques regularly, or every once in a while (whatever feels right for you). Try and make some time in your day to try these exercises. Don’t treat relaxing like a task that needs to be completed – try to think of it as giving yourself some time and space. Find somewhere quiet and comfortable, where you won’t be interrupted, if you can. Finally, try to make sure your surroundings are the right temperature (it can be hard to relax if you’re too hot or cold).
How can Mindfulness help me?
Mindfulness is a technique you can learn which involves making a special effort to notice what’s happening in the present moment (in your mind, body and surroundings) – without judging anything. It has roots in Buddhism and meditation. It aims to help you to: become more self-aware, feel calmer and less stressed, feel more able to choose how to respond to your thoughts and feelings, cope with difficult or unhelpful thoughts and to be kinder towards yourself. Many people find practising mindfulness helps them manage their day-to-day wellbeing.
How does Mindfulness work?
The way we think (and what we think about) can affect how we feel and act. For example, if you think or worry a lot about upsetting past or future events, you might often feel sad or anxious.
The theory behind mindfulness is that by using various techniques to bring your attention to the present (usually focusing on your body and your breathing), you can:
• Notice how thoughts come and go in your mind. You may learn that they don’t have to define who you are, or your experience of the world, and you can let go of them.
• Notice what your body is telling you. For example, tension or anxiety can often be felt in your body (such as in a fast heartbeat, tense muscles or shallow breathing).
• Create space between you and your thoughts, so you can react more calmly.
Here are a few exercises you could try. You don’t need any special equipment:
Mindful eating. This involves paying attention to the taste, sight and textures of what you eat. For example, when drinking a cup of tea or coffee you could focus on how hot and liquid it feels on your tongue, how sweet it tastes or watch the steam that it gives off.
Mindful moving, walking or running. Notice the feeling of your body moving. You might notice the breeze against your skin, the feeling of your feet or hands against different textures on the ground or nearby surfaces, and the different smells that are around you.
Body scan. This is where you move your attention slowly through different parts of the body, starting from the top of your head moving all the way down to the end of your toes. You could focus on feelings of warmth, tension, tingling or relaxation of different parts of your body.
Mindful colouring and drawing. Focus on the colours and the sensation of your pencil against the paper, rather than trying to draw something in particular. You could use a mindfulness colouring book or download mindfulness colouring images.
Mindful meditation. This involves sitting quietly and focusing on your breathing, your thoughts, sensations in your body and the things you can hear around you. Try to bring you focus back to the present if your mind starts to wander. Many people also find that yoga helps them to concentrate on their breathing and focus on the present moment.
Different things work for different people, so if you don’t find one exercise useful, try another.
Click here for 10 cool mindful meditations to try
Quick Tips for being Mindful:
When you do any mindfulness exercise, the key steps are: Pay attention – for example, when you shower in the morning, make a special effort to really pay attention to the feel of the water on your skin. Notice – when your mind wanders, which is just what minds do, simply notice where your thoughts have drifted to. Choose and return – choose to bring your attention back to the present moment, usually by focusing on your breathing or another sensation in your body. Be aware and accept – notice and be aware of emotions you are feeling or sensations in your body. Try to observe and accept these feelings with friendly curiosity and without judgement. Be kind to yourself – remember that mindfulness is difficult to do and our minds will always wander. Try not to be critical of yourself. When you notice your mind wandering, you can just gently bring yourself back to the exercise.
It can also help to: Set aside regular time to practise. Regular short periods of mindful meditation can work better than occasional long ones. If you struggle to find the time, you might want to decide on one or two routine activities which you will try to do mindfully each day. Make yourself comfortable. It can help to do mindfulness in a space where you feel safe and comfortable and won’t be easily distracted. Go slowly. Try to build your practice slowly. Remember, you’re learning a new skill so it’ll take time to develop. Most people find it hard to sit and meditate for long periods of time at first, so try to do a few minutes and gradually build up to more. Be patient. There’s no need to set ambitious goals or put pressure on yourself. Many people find it takes a while to feel comfortable doing mindfulness exercises.