Stress is the now considered the underlying cause of most illnesses. That’s a bold statement coming from the scientific community, but research supports it.
More than 85% of all illnesses can be related to stress in some way. This why relaxation should be #1 on your to-do list.
While engaging in social interaction or chilling is enjoyable it is not considered an effective relaxation experience. True relaxation takes time and practice. Not a lot of time, even 10 minutes a day goes a long way towards improving health.
Our approach to relaxation actually needs an upgrade. It’s not something that just “happens”.
Somehow we’ve been taught that it’s easy to relax and that we should be able to do it in a minute or on the spot. This isn’t helpful or realistic. It actually contributes to the failure. Believing it should happen instantaneously and then being disappointed when it doesn’t happen quickly is a bummer.
I teach Meditation and Mindfulness at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio. The for-credit class is offered in the conservatory where music and theater majors know the benefits of regular and repeated practice. You can’t learn to play a complicated piano concerto without lots of practice. It was not hard to convince these college students who suffer from performance anxiety, high expectations, and self-imposed harsh self-criticism that relaxation comes with practice. Within eight weeks of practice they were seeing reduction in performance and test anxiety, reduced repetitive stress injuries, and a more positive outlook on their life.
We need to ease into relaxation. Slowly and kindly talking ourselves down from our high anxiety or fast paced state in order to experience benefits. At first it may take 30 minutes or more to ease yourself into a relaxed state, where you are willing to let go of all that needs to be done. With practice and increasing familiarity with what it takes to actually relax you, that time can be reduced to 10 or 15 minutes realistically. But I bet that if you actually get into a deep relaxation you won’t mind spending more time doing it!
There are actual measurable physiological responses that determine a relaxed state. These measure:
–muscular release ,
–heart rate and blood flow,
–cellular repair and renewal
–brain wave activity
–changes in cortisol production
There are many biofeedback and neurofeedback programs you can get for your computer or smart phone to measure these responses. They are fun to use and give you immediate feedback.
It’s Not Work!
I’m sure you are tired of hearing about what you need to do. Everywhere you turn a new diet is beckoning or a new form of exercise makes you feel guilty that you aren’t doing it. But relaxation is different.
Relaxation actually makes you feel better and enhances everything else in your life. Starting and ending the day with a simple relaxation practice will change your life with minimal effort.
The key is the repetition. There is a cumulative effect that occurs with repetition. It doesn’t matter what relaxation practice you do as long as you do it. There are active forms like yoga and tai chi, and passive forms like simple breathing and guided relaxation.They all work as long as you practice them enough.
Remember we need to ease into relaxation. You wouldn’t exercise without warming up your muscles, nor do you just drop into a deep relaxed state. You warm up to it, breathe into it.
Start by giving yourself some kind messages such as “you deserve to feel good”, “you will feel so much better if you allow yourself to relax”, “this is better than taking X medication”, or “the world will go on without you for 15 minutes”.
Use a guided relaxation APP to help you. Don’t worry if you use that APP forever, you don’t need to become a master, you just need to relax. Music is great when paired with relaxation practices or just by itself. Be sure to practice where you won’t be disturbed and you feel safe. Turn off the phone. When my children were young I told them that they could come in my room and sit in my lap or snuggle up so they wouldn’t feel left out.
I have several guided relaxation meditations that are free to download on my web site. The Full Body Breathing, 11 Minute Grounding, 30 Minute Grounding, are very easy and helpful. Download free guided relaxation audios here.
That’s enough info to get you started. Enjoy!