While we’ve probably come to the collective realization that not every “national day” warrants a celebration, we couldn’t let National Relaxation Day pass us by. At a time when we have so many potential stressors hitting us from all angles (I’ll let you fill in the blank here), it is important — nay, imperative — that relaxation finds a place at the top of your to-do list.
To get started, let’s take a deep breath together. Notice your body. Relax your shoulders down your back and away from your ears. Release the tension in your jaw and tongue. Defocus your eyes. Take another breath.
How do you feel?
When we’re in the throes of our nonstop, 24/7 lives, relaxation can sound like a luxury. If you take anything away from this article, let it be that relaxation is your divine right. Plus, it doesn’t have to be an all-day event; you can squeeze it in anytime and anywhere. The most important (and hardest) part of relaxation? Remembering to do it.
So, how do you make daily relaxation a priority? You might set a calendar reminder at certain points of the day that simply says, “breathe.” Maybe it’s a sticky note you keep on your desk with a phrase or message that you find calming. It can even be a special code you have with yourself; for example, any time you see a pink flower, you take yourself through the guided relaxation exercise we did at the top of this post.
Like anything else, incorporating relaxation into your day is a habit. The more you practice, the more automatic it becomes, and the more your quality of life improves. When your relaxation cup is full, you’re less reactive and better primed to take on whatever life throws at you. The act of stress reduction also plays a big role in improving your physical health as the overproduction of stress hormones can disrupt almost all of your body's processes — but don't worry, there's a way back to homeostasis! Follow along.
So, you’re ready to relax — but how do you do it?
Do a body scan. (10 minutes)
Get comfortable (you can be seated or lying down). Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Now, bring awareness to your feet. Relax each toe, each heel, and each ankle. Work your way up your body, only stopping once you get to the top of your head. Revel in the feeling of calm presence.
Listen to binaural beats. (30 minutes)
Grab your headphones and turn on some binaural beats. This special music pairs two tones, one in each ear, that are slightly different in frequency. Binaural beats are said to induce the same mental state associated with meditation, but much more quickly. Some benefits include a reduction in stress and anxiety, increased focus and concentration, and a more positive mood. It’s recommended you listen at least thirty minutes per session to maximize effectiveness.
Go outside and witness nature (5 minutes)
If the only time you go outside is to get from your home and into your car, you might consider incorporating some more intentional outdoor time into your routine. It’s as simple as it sounds, but can be difficult in practice. Find an outdoor spot, take a deep breath, and notice what’s around you. What do you hear? What do you see? What do you smell? What can you touch? For extra credit, say a little gratitude for the miracle that is the natural world around you. Take your shoes off and put your bare feet on the earth. Hug a tree (really).
Take a bath (20 minutes)
Draw yourself a nice, warm bath. Add nature elements like flower petals, essential oils, and fragrant herbs to assist you in even deeper relaxation. Not a bath person? Start with just your feet and give yourself a five minute foot bath before bed.
If you’re one of those people who can’t sit still or has trouble turning off their brain, you may benefit from a more active form of relaxation. The goal is to be as present as possible, engaged in the moment, and awash in restorative energy.
Get lost in creative flow.
When was the last time you let yourself get lost in a non-work related project? Even if you’re not a “creative person” (spoiler alert: you are), there’s an endless array of activities you can choose from. Some examples: drawing, journaling, knitting, playing an instrument, singing, decorating your home, putting together outfits, experimenting with makeup, reading a book, planting something, cooking something, journaling, writing a poem, painting your nails.
Take a walk.
Have you ever heard of a walking meditation? It’s like a regular walk, but with more embodied presence. The goal is to move slowly and with intention, noticing the feeling of each step on the ground and breathing deeply as you stroll. You can either do it without headphones or you can try a guided walking meditation to get you started.
If you’re a seasoned yogi, you’ve likely heard of or experimented with Yin Yoga. For anyone new to the practice, this is the juiciest, gentlest, most relaxing form of yoga you can do — think of it like yoga dessert. Instead of holding muscle-engaging poses and working up a sweat, you’ll hold stretches and relaxing poses designed to open your hips, open your heart, align your spine, and leave you feeling deeply relaxed. Search for a local class, or try an online video.
What's your favorite way to relax? Let us know in the comments!