Relaxation techniques can either be self-taught or can be taught by professionals such as psychotherapists and doctors. On a general scale, most relaxation techniques concentrate on focusing your attention on increasing body awareness and refocusing attention on something calming and peaceful. Ultimately, what matters is trying to practice these natural relaxation techniques regularly so that you can reap maximum benefits. There are a number of effective natural relaxation techniques including;
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This natural relaxation technique involves a two-step process in which a person systematically relaxes different muscle groups. It is a powerful relaxation technique that involves progressively contracting then relaxing main muscle groups especially those that store tension. Although this technique is widespread, it may takes some time to master. With consistent practice, progressive muscle relaxation gives a person an intimate familiarity with tension release feels like. This intimate awareness gives a person the innate ability to counteract the first signs of muscular tension and stress by relaxing.
As you body relaxes, so will your mind. For effectiveness, progressive muscle relaxation should be combined with deep breathing. This relaxation technique makes a person more aware of physical sensations. It is advisable to seek the advice of a knowledgeable and experienced medical practitioner before practicing progressive muscle relaxation. This is particularly important if you have a medical history of back problems, muscle spasms or other injuries that can further be aggravated by tensing body muscles. This technique mostly starts at the feet then you slowly work your way up to the face; here is a basic template on how to practice this effective natural relaxation technique.
- Start by loosening your clothing or putting on comfortable attire; ensure your shoes are off
- Before starting take a few minutes to relax by taking deep breaths slowly
- When you feel relaxed enough to start, ensure you focus on your right foot. Takes a moment to focus your attention on the way it feels
- Slowly tense the muscles on your right foot by squeezing the foot as tightly as you can manage. Hold the squeezing position for about 10 minutes.
- Relax your right Foot and ensure you focus on how the tension flows away from your foot as it feels loose and limp.
- Try as much as you can to remain in the relaxed state for a moment by taking deep breaths slowly
- Once you ate ready to shift your attention to the left foot. Follow a similar sequence to that of the right foot which is creating muscle tension then releasing.
- Take your time and move slowly throughout your body contracting and relaxing every muscle group
- Although it may take time to fully master this technique, try your best not to tense any other muscles other than those that are intended.
Here is a sequence that you should follow;
- Start with the right foot, then the left foot
- Right calf and then the left calf
- Proceed to the right thigh then the left thigh
- Go to the hips and buttocks
- Next proceed to the stomach, chest and back respectively
- Proceed to the right aim and right hand then the left arm and left hand
- Move to the neck, shoulders and finally the face
Deep Breathing Exercises
Although it may seem too obvious, taking slow deep breaths can apparently work wonders in making you more relaxed. To ensure this relaxation technique is effective, it is essential to practice deep breathing exercises daily especially when stressed and when going through anxiety. This method is simple yet powerful while also being very convenient; it can be practiced anywhere and is a quick way to get your stress levels in check.
Keep in mind that deep breathing is the cornerstone of most relaxation techniques. The key to making this technique effective is to breathe deeply from the gut (abdomen) to get as much fresh air as possible into the lungs. Taking deep breaths from the abdomen rather than shallow breaths from the upper chest enables you to inhale more oxygen. The larger the amount of oxygen you inhale, the less tense, short of breath and anxious you feel.
A few minutes of meditation on a daily basis can help ease anxiety and relax your body and mind. Reliable research suggests that meditation can potentially alter the brain’s pathways making you more resilient to stress and anxiety. The process of meditation helps to clear your mind by focusing your attention on a specific thought, place or object. The main objective of the meditative experience is to entirely shift the focus of the mind away from everyday frenzied thoughts such as family issues, career problems and finances. There are countless meditation techniques that can help you attain true peace and tranquility. Here are few tips that will come in handy in making meditation effective for you;
- Take your time and meditate for as long as you feel comfortable. It has been unequivocally proven that resting for at least ten minutes once your mind is clear proves beneficial to overall stress levels and focus.
- Playing calm music will come in handy in making you focus on your meditation.
Meditation is great relaxation technique; it has proven health benefits in addition to causing mental relaxation including lowering high blood sugar, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
One of the most common health issues effectively resolved using acupuncture is stress. Research shows that acupuncture relieves stress in a number of ways and also promotes relaxation. This relaxation technique involves inserting very thin needles through a person’s skin at specific points-the needles vary in depth. The inserted needles stimulate the release of serotonin and endorphins. It is the body’s ‘feel good’ opiates that promote a feeling of relaxation and well-being.
The acupuncture points are intricately chosen to ensure they coincide with pressure points or trigger points which aid in relaxation and help to release tension. This relaxation technique promotes relaxation through the powerful psychological effect associated with inserting needles on pressure points. The mind is extremely powerful and simply having a positive attitude can have a profound effect on a person’s physical and emotional well being. During a typical acupuncture session, the needles are left in for about twenty to thirty minutes. Within this brief period, the body temperature reduces heart beat and respiration slows down and muscle tension also dissipates. This causes the patient to sink into a relaxed state.
Although acupuncture is very effective in relaxing your body and mind, there are a few risks associated with this technique which include;
- It can have detrimental consequences on a patient with a bleeding disorder or a patient who it taking blood thinners. If you intend to practice acupuncture and you have a medical history of blood related ailments, you will need the guidance and advice of a doctor.
- Since acupuncture involves actually prickling your skin, there may be bleeding, bruising and soreness at the points of insertion.
- Ensure you get the acupuncture from an expert who has a wealth of experience and has mastered the technique. This is to alleviate the risk of the needle breaking or damaging an internal organ (although this is extremely rare, you should be careful to prevent the risk). Furthermore, an expert knows how sterilise needles to prevent infecting the patient
Visualization and Guided Imagery
Guided imagery or visualization is a variation on traditional meditation that requires a person to employ their visual sense. It also includes involving all other senses such as taste, touch, hearing and smell. If used a method of relaxation guided imagery and visualization involves imagining a scene that makes you feel peaceful and enables you to let go of anxiety and tension. Choose a setting that is relaxing and calming to you whether it your favorite childhood spot or a breathtaking tropical beach.
You can either do the visualization in complete silence or with soothing music in the background. Alternatively, you can practice this relaxation technique under the guidance and supervision of a therapist or an audio recording with a therapist.
Here is a brief guideline on how to relax your body and mind using visualization or guided imagery;
- Start by finding a relaxed and serene environment. Most beginners tend to fall asleep during visualization so it is advisable to sit up and be attentive.
- Gently close your eyes and let your worries drift away then begin imagining a restful and peaceful place. Picture this place as vividly as you can; imagine what you can see, taste, feel smell and touch. Keep in mind that this technique works best only if you incorporate as many sensory details as possible.
- Ensure you take time to enjoy the feeling of deep relaxation that envelops you as slowly explore your restful place. When you are completely rested, gently open your eyes and return to the present.
Do not worry about zoning out sometimes or even loosing track of where you are during the session; this is perfectly normal particularly if you are a beginner. Keep in mind that you may experience feelings of heaviness and stiffness and even involuntary muscle movements. Again these are perfectly normal and part of the process. Visualization and guided imagery literally allows your mind to wander off to an ideal location away from all your troubles and issues. Tricking all your senses to feel how amazing, soothing and peaceful this ‘alternate universe’ is what relaxes your body and mind.
Massage Therapy for Relaxation
You have probably wondered why massages are an integral part of athlete training and sports training. Massage is important because apart from easing muscle tension and relieving pain, it also relaxes your body and calms your mind. It does not have to be a professional massage, even taking a few minutes to massage yourself in-between tasks can help you calm down and relax. To make a massage session more relaxing, you can include aromatic oil, scented lotion and even include deep breathing techniques.
Here is a DIY five minute massage that will relax you in an instant;
- Begin by carefully and intricately kneading the muscles at the back of your shoulder and your neck. Using a loose fist gently but firmly drum up and down on the sides and back of your neck. Proceed to using your thumbs to work tiny circles around the base of your skull.
- Gently and slowly massage your scalp using your finger tips. Tap your fingers against your scalp gently but firmly. Keep moving your fingers from the front to the back then proceed to the sides.
- It’s now time to massage your face. Start by making a series of small circles with your fingertips and thumbs. Pay attention to your forehead, jaw muscles and your temples. Make use of your middle fingers to massage the bridge of your nose then work outwards to your temples then over to your eyebrows.
- Finish up by closing your eyes then loosely cupping your hands loosely over your face. Finish the massage by inhaling and exhaling easily for a short time.
We have barely scratched the surface when it comes to exploring natural relaxation techniques; the next chapter explores other natural relaxation techniques that are rarely used though they are just as effective.