Need to Chill Out? Get in Touch w/ Your Relaxation Response
We’re all chasing that ever-elusive state of relaxation. But have you ever thought that maybe we’ve been going at it all wrong? Our brains have become so hardwired to ‘go go go’, that it can feel near impossible to shut down and zen out — even on your yoga mat or while on vacation. If the idea of true, blissfully care free relaxation sounds elusive and totally unattainable to you, do not fear, active relaxation is here. Tapping into a state of deep relaxation comes naturally to your body (in fact, it was hardwired into your chemistry), and research shows that it only gets easier with practice.
Unlike crashing on the couch or zoning out in front of the tube, partaking in a sate of active relaxation leaves you feeling calm and at ease, yet energized and alert. We so often indulge in late nights, boozy brunches, and day-long Netflix binges, all in the name of letting loose and leisure, when in reality, we are unknowingly putting more strain and stress on the body and mind. What the body truly craves is gentle and restorative activities, designed to nourish and evoke it's relaxation response.
Within each of us lies a natural stress-defense system, and with a little practice, it can be accessed easily and frequently. Known as the relaxation response, this system evokes a state of deep yet mentally-active rest. Research has shown that re-activation of the relaxation response combats illness, increases energy and focus, relieves aches and pains, decreases inflammation, regulates hormone health, heightens mental alertness, and boosts motivation and productivity. Think of it as a natural and calm-inducing alternative to your morning cup of java.
So, how do we tap into this wondrous, bliss-inducing biological response?
- Deep breathing
- Light exercise (in actual nature!)
- Stream of consciousness writing
Even more important than how you choose to relax, is how often you actually do it. Set aside time, either once or twice daily — first thing in the morning or last thing before bed — allowing a minimum of 10 minutes for each session. Keep in mind, the longer and more frequently you engage in these relaxation techniques, the more benefits you'll reap!
By harnessing the power of your body’s relaxation response, you’ll be decreasing feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression, allowing you to look and feel your very best and brightest. You may even find situations that once upon a time would have sent you for a whirlwind, don’t bother you so much anymore.
By actively and regularly tapping into our relaxation response, we strengthen our mind’s ability to cope with stress, allowing us to remain perpetually cool, calm, and collected.
So the next time life has you feeling drained, and anything less than radiantly empowered, skip the Starbucks line and resist the urge to check out with a bottle of wine and reality tv (because let's get real, we’ve all been there one too many times...), and rather, reach for your meditation pillow and the strength of silence. Never underestimate what a few deep breathes can do for that beautiful body, mind, and soul.