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Learning how to relax

woman-relaxing-on-couchResearchers over the years have found the opposite of stress is a sense of health and well-being.  The best antidote to stress is the relaxation response.  By learning to relax, you can:

A good way of relaxing is to do the progressive muscle relaxation sequence.  This is a highly effective way of reducing stress and physical tension and a good preparation for meditation.

Practicing this sequence can be done sitting or lying out flat on the ground:

  1. Take in a deep breath and let it out slowly focusing your thoughts on your body.
  2. Tense the muscles of your toes and feet and hold for a few seconds, then letting them relax completely.  Notice how your muscles now feel heavier.
  3. Move up to your lower legs and repeat the tensing/relaxing routine.
  4. Move up even further and do the same thing with the muscles of your thighs.
  5. Moving up towards your buttocks, first clench, then release you buttocks.
  6. Now move onto your back muscles – lower and upper back.
  7. Moving down your arms, let you upper and lower arms tense and release.
  8. Allow your hands to relax and then allow your fingers to clench and relax.
  9. Move up to your shoulders and feel the tension before the release.
  10. Now, focus on your scalp, forehead, neck and jaw – remember to include your face and eyes as these facial muscles can become very tense.

Finally, focus on your whole body, using your imagination to visualise any remaining tension.  Then, visualise this residual tension draining away from your body into your feet and out onto the floor.

Set an intention

Try to set aside at least 10 minutes every day to relax in this way.  With practice, you’ll find it easier to relax your muscles.  With time, you’ll also find that you no longer will have to tense the muscle first but that you’ll simply release various muscles to feel the sensation of relaxation flowing through your whole body.

During the day, whenever you feel stressed and you feel your muscles tensing, take the time to consciously relax that muscle.  You can do this easily simply by sitting where you are and visualising and relaxing the tense muscle.  

To learn more about strategies for managing stress, see Stress-Less:  Your guide to better living.

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