How do you relax after a stressful day? Do you have any practices that help you identify stress and move out of it to a restful, relaxed state?
This month’s media pick, Goodnight Mind: Turn Off Your Noisy Thoughts and Get a Good Night’s Sleep by Colleen E. Carney PhD and Rachel Manber PhD, had some excellent practices for relaxation.
As any type of relaxation really needs to be experienced, not just read about, I decided to create guided audio recording for three of the relaxation practices described in the book. Pick the one that sounds the most intriguing and try it out. (Or try all three!) Each recording is approximately twenty minutes, the recommended relaxation “prescription” from the book.
A Walk on the Beach
This is a traditional guided meditation of a walk along the beach, followed by ten minutes or so of ocean sounds for you to enjoy. Guided meditations are one of my very favorite ways to relax, connect with my intuition, and create an emotional state of peace. If you struggle with traditional meditation, you may enjoy this relaxation process as it keeps your mind engaged while still creating mental rest. Download it here.
(I also love creating these meditations! If you enjoy them, please sign up below for instant access to my collection of free guided audios.)
Belly breathing (or diaphragmatic breathing) simply means that the incoming air fully fills your lungs, which causes your lower belly to rise.
I remember the very first time I learned belly breathing, and shared the theory with my parents. They promptly informed me it was impossible to breathe like that. In case you share their doubt, the Harvard Metal Health Newsletter assures us, “The ability to breathe so deeply and powerfully is not limited to a select few. This skill is inborn but often lies dormant. Reawakening it allows you to tap one of your body’s strongest self-healing mechanisms.”
The article (“Take a Deep Breath”) goes on to explain the reason we’ve become used to breathing shallowly:
“Why does breathing deeply seem unnatural to many of us? One reason may be that our culture often rewards us for stifling strong emotions. Girls and women are expected to rein in anger. Boys and men are exhorted not to cry. What happens when you hold back tears, stifle anger during a charged confrontation, tiptoe through a fearful situation, or try to keep pain at bay? Unconsciously, you hold your breath or breathe irregularly.” (http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/take-a-deep-breath)
Try out belly breathing with this guided audio to help you.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This practice was completely new to me, and I fell in love with it. Basically you tense and release your muscles in a body-scan style. What I loved was the feeling of tension release and the appreciation of that state.
According to the University of California (Irvine), PMR “helps you focus on the difference between muscle tension and relaxation, and you become more aware of the physical sensations caused by stress or relaxation.”
Dr. Carney and Dr. Manber state in Goodnight Mind that routinely practicing this exercise will help to build awareness of when you are tense, and the ability to rapidly scan through your body, find the tension, and release it.
This practice involves extensive tensing of muscles, so please be safe while attempting it. If you have any kind of history of muscle problems, be sure to consult with a doctor before trying it. The authors also state that you do not need to tense as hard as you can – just tense enough to understand what tension feels like.
You can download it and try it out here.
What do you use to relax? Leave a comment and let us know.
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