The benefits of relaxation are endless in a world that values overstimulation. If you’ve ever tried a traditional meditation, it takes about 10 seconds before your mind is doing backflips, your eyelids fly open, the phone is buzzing, and you can’t even remember why you tried this in the first place.
“I TOLD YOU TO RELAX!!!!”
But how much BETTER are you when you’re relaxed? Athletes know this all too well, as performance improves as an athlete relaxes. Michael Phelps is INCREDIBLY calm and at peace before he swims. He gets into his zone – and it’s this incredible place of low stress but HIGH performance.
There are two definitions for relaxation, according to Webster’s:
- a state of being free from tension and anxiety; and
- (physics) the state of equilibrium following disturbance
Physical and non-physical rest – incredibly different and inherently related. I am a type A personality in every way – naturally anxious and I often have trouble sleeping. I have that “brain you can’t turn off,” an ungodly amount of energy, and I run at about 600 miles per hour every day.
While I certainly wouldn’t say I’m great at relaxing, I notice that the more I practice non-physical relaxation, the better I can train my body to relax. (And sleep! Amen.)
How do I learn how to relax? Here are some tips for BOTH physical and non-physical relaxation.
- Understand that it’s about the journey, not the destination. You will never arrive at this nirvana state of “perfectly relaxed”. If you just get yourself a little more relaxed, you are making great progress. I’m talking to you, fellow type A’s.
- Practice deep breathing. Throughout the day, take a couple deep breaths. (You might even notice that you’re holding your breath.) Breathe in through the nose for a count of four, breathe out through the nose for a count of eight.
- Practice visualization. Before you work out, imagine yourself crushing your workout and giving it all you’ve got. Before bed, imagine yourself sleeping deeply and waking up refreshed. Then, visualize how rested you will feel.
- Try muscle contractions before bed. Before you fall asleep at night, take turns tensing each muscle – squeezing it – and then relaxing it. Start all the way at your toes and work up your body.
- Balance your stimulation in life with relaxation as much as you can. Easier said than done, and it doesn’t have to be a 50/50 balance – but you will know when you need it.
- Practice mindfulness. Live in your now. Pay attention to what’s happening right now in front of you, for a few minutes a day.
Remember that relaxation, meditation, mindfulness, and physical rest are all interconnected. The more you practice, the better you will get.
Where the mind goes, the body follows!!
Blog feature photo credit: Micah Kvidt