Relaxation Tips from the Relaxation Expert
If you’re anything like me, finding quality relaxation time is something that falls down on my to-do list on a regular basis, often despite my best intentions. This is ironic considering that I run a large e-commerce site dedicated to the best relaxation products available today—Wish Rock Relaxation—where I am considered a “Relaxation Expert” helping my customers to select the right massage chair at the right price. As a mom of two girls, entrepreneur, author, speaker and coach sometimes I find myself not putting ME first even for an easy 15 minutes a day. “Just after I finish this task” or “later” becomes tomorrow or next week or honestly, not at all. This self-destructive mindset of constantly pushing yourself to the back of the line must stop. Now.
There are many reasons why relaxation should become a top priority and is even a necessity in your life—make sure that you keep this comprehensive list of relaxation tips handy. We’ve all heard the oxygen mask metaphor of putting on your O2 mask before your child’s during an emergency landing in a plane, but rarely do we treat ourselves with the same care in our everyday lives as we would in a high-stress situation. Most of us are barely keeping up with our lives—running from the gym to work and kid pick up while in traffic scratching our heads trying to decide what’s for dinner. By the time we finally do come up for air, we’re exhausted and overwhelmed.
According to Psychology Today, Stress (cortisol) is Public Health Enemy # 1 and causes a whole slew of physical and emotional problems not to mention takes years off your life. The truth is that we are useless to others and even ourselves if we don’t deliberately make time for self-care. I propose that we all decide today to make at least 15 minutes for ourselves each and every day.
Here are some relaxation tips to help you bring more quiet and joy into your life every single day. These will help you to protect your energy and more deliberately plan your downtime so that you can feel refreshed, relaxed and at peace.
Map out how you currently spend your day
The first thing that I recommend is mapping out how you spend your precious time each day. Take stock of what you are doing and how you are spending your time. Sometimes, we have a tendency to run on auto-pilot whether it’s slapping the kid’s lunches together for school or mindlessly sitting in traffic on your way to work. Have you ever caught yourself all the way to your destination and can’t quite remember how you got there? If you have, it’s called driving (or walking) on Autopilot.
In fact, just this past weekend, I was hiking up a 14er in Colorado called Torrey’s Peak. My partner, Esteban was pretty far ahead of me and I couldn’t see him as he made a turn. Determined to catch up, I just got in the zone and was looking down putting one foot in front of the other trudging up the trail. At one of the switchbacks, there was a sign that said “Closed” where the trail continued sharply up to the left but you could see a trail behind the sign. With my head down, I continued down the closed section and went another 100 feet. The scree that I was stepping on was shaky at best with a very sharp decline below me with an even steeper climb up to meet the other section of trail. I still couldn’t see Esteban when I looked up and thought for a moment about if I was willing to make my way up the steep and dangerous route up-trail. I decided that I must have made a mistake and headed back to the sign only to realize that I had been off the trail. There’s a reason that it was closed—it was way too dangerous. In my autopilot mode, I just mindlessly kept walking forward instead of paying attention to what was right in front of my face. This was a good reminder for me to be mindful of what I’m doing even if I’ve been moving on autopilot.
Are you sleepwalking through part of your commute or different sections of your day?
Have you ever gotten sucked into facebook or Instagram only to realize that 45 minutes have escaped you?
Psychology Today actually did a study where the hung money on a tree branch that people had to move around on their way to class at a University. Many people just walked by—especially those on their phones and had no recollection of even maneuvering through an obstacle. “Their minds were someplace else while they moved through the environment, without running into things. They were autopilot zombies stumbling through the world without awareness.”
Now that you have your list, think about changes you can make to the moments you felt your time was not used for your greatest good. Instead of scrolling your Facebook or Instagram feed, could you spend that doing something that serves you better? Could you actually take some time to feed your soul and relax a little?
Think back to when you were young
I recommend a short and easy memory exercise—this is one of my favorite relaxation tips and quite a fun one to boot. Think back to when you were much younger and the days spanned out in front of you in an endless fashion. What did you really enjoy doing as a child? Did you like coloring or doing crafts? Did you enjoy trying to make shapes out of the clouds as you gazed up at the sky? Did the feeling of wet mud squishing between your toes light you up? Did you climb trees, read books or make model airplanes? Take stock of the things that really made your heart sing when you were young enough not to overthink it.
Make a list of whatever pops up in your mind.
How long has it been since you actually did one of those things?
Commit to revisiting one of them this week.
Sometimes, all you need to do is nothing but breathe. Take a deep breath filling not only the top of your lungs, but your belly. When you think that you can’t breathe any deeper, sip in a tiny bit more air. Then, slowly exhale. Repeat. Again and again. Imagine that the air is reaching down to your lowest rib.
If you’d like to get more creative in your breathing, you can try some advanced yoga breath methods. With Pranayama breathing, you are able to quickly improve your mental clarity, energy and overall physical health. According to TIME Health, “this is the fastest way to calm down.” At its most elemental form, our breath is the biggest prana (universal life force of energy) in our life and one that we do even without thinking throughout our days. We get prana from food, rest, breath and by being ina calm and happy frame of mind. The experts at The Art of Living believe that If you learn the ancient Indian practice of Pranayama Breathing you may experience the following benefits:
- Calms the mind, reducing worries and anxieties
- Improves focus and attention, removing brain fog
- Increases energy, bringing enthusiasm and positivity
- Boosts the immune system
- Rejuvenates the body and mind
- May even slow down the aging process
There are many different types of Pranayama Breathing that you can explore on youtube or in your local yoga studio. I have personally tried the Nadi Shodan technique of alternate nostril breathing and found it to be surprisingly effective at improving my focus, energy and inner calmness. You can check out this short tutorial and Beginner’s Guide to Pranayma Yoga Breathing here.
Adopt a Regular Meditation Practice
Most of us think of meditation as “doing nothing” and sitting comfortably for a while to just be. In fact, I had to just change the title for this section based upon what I’ve learned—it’s much more than simply doing nothing, but rather an active and mindful practice. In my opinion, this is one of the most important relaxation tips we’ve mentioned so far given its ability to positively alter your parasympathetic nervous system. Researcher Madhav Goyal conducted a famous study at Johns Hopkins which looked at the relationship between meditation and its ability to reduce the symptoms of depression, anxiety and pain. According to Goyal, “A lot of people have this idea that meditation means sitting down and doing nothing…but that’s not true. Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programs approach this in different ways.”
Meditating has proven to have an amazing variety of neurological benefits—from “changes in grey matter volumes to reduced activity in the “me” centers of the brain to enhanced connectivity between brain regions.” (Forbes) A 2015 study from UCLA found that long-term meditators had better-preserved brains than non-meditators as they aged. The researches expected to find small and distinct effects in some regions of the brain, but what they found was a “widespread effect of meditation which encompassed regions throughout the entire brain.”
Whether you choose to do your mediation directly after your workout as I do or it’s the way you begin or end your day, take a moment to clear your mind. Sit comfortably. Breathe. And just be. Notice the thoughts that fly in and out, accept them and let them go. Come back to your breath. If your “monkey mind” is overly active during a meditation session, you may find some of the meditation apps available to be helpful. I like the Omvana App and the 6 phase meditation by Vishen Lakhiani.
Listen to Pink Noise
If you’re like me, you didn’t know that there were different colors assigned to different types of noise. White noise is like the sound of a TV set on the wrong channel which helps to mask other noises such as a car door slamming outside or a bird chirping out the window. According to UC Berkeley expert Jeanine Barone, “The various colors ascribed to noise—in addition to white, there are also pink, blue, and brown noise—refer to differences in the distribution of the frequencies audible to the human ear that make up the noise. The colors of noise may be thought of as analogous to the colors of light. Just as white light is made up of all the colors of the rainbow that humans can see, white noise is made up of all the sound frequencies that humans can hear, with every frequency distributed equally.”
Pink noise is very similar to white noise, but with more powerful lower frequencies. If you enjoy the sounds of nature such as rain falling, ocean waves repetitively breaking on the beach, water gurgling through a stream, leaves rustling through a breeze then you would benefit from listening to white noise. I used to listen to different nature CDs while I was a midshipmen at the Naval Academy while I was studying. It helped me to stay grounded and focused.
There have been a few studies done on the positive effects of pink noise on memory and sleep quality. The Journal of Theoretical Biology published a small study in 2012 which measured the participant’s brain activity during sleep (both night and daytime napping) indicating an improvement in the most refreshing and restful sleep stage, deep sleep. While participants showed improvement during nighttime sleeping, they showed an even greater level of relaxation and deep sleep if they used pink noise while napping.
Another 2103 study by Neuron validated the other study’s improved sleep quality and also found some other interesting results. Subjects were able to recall almost double the amount of word pairs shown to them the night before after sleeping with pink noise versus no noise.
If you’re intrigued, give pink noise a try by downloading one of the many apps available. We recommend Noisli or Simply Noise or you can stream the different colors of noise directly from your computer at PlayNoise as I’m doing right now. 😉Even better if you stream it through one of our Bluetooth massage chairs.
Get yourself a book that feels good in your hands and a pen that glides across the paper well. When you wake up or before you go to bed, you can begin by recalling the good things that have happened in your life that day or what you are grateful for. Studies have shown that the more you focus on the things that you are grateful for, the happier you are in life and the more positive your outlook on life.
I’ve used journals for many years to collect my thoughts about big decisions or to capture moments that I wanted to make sure I never forgot. In fact, I have over 15 journals throughout the years and they served as a good blueprint when I was writing my book, Girl At Sea: Stories of Courage, Growth and Strength From One of the First Women to Serve on Warships. Now, I mostly write daily in my gratitude journal—at least for now. I feel my next book bubbling up soon too.
If you’re interested in getting in touch with your higher self, consider giving auto writing a try. Auto writing has been effective in helping people to connect with their intuition (higher self or spirit guides if you prefer) by removing their inhibitions. This is particularly beneficial if something is bothering you or if you need to confront a big life decision.
Open up a word document… or take out a blank piece of paper with your writing instrument of choice.
Shut your eyes.
Start the first line of your session with “My Higher Self” or “My Angels” or “My Spirit Guides” as the first line.
Hold the question or issue in your mind for a moment and then begin writing. Anything and everything that pops into your mind. Don’t back space or open your eyes to correct spelling errors or typos. Just follow the thought trail all the way down the rabbit hole or where ever it may take you. There is no right or wrong here. Just allow your thoughts to completely flow freely.
You may be surprised by what comes up or what insight you have drawn from your uninhibited writing session. And, you’ll likely be very relaxed too.
Indulge in a Good Book
Read a book that isn’t at all tied to personal development or self-betterment. That may feel decadent for those over-achievers in the crowd. But, once in a while, it’s a practice that is just plain good for the soul. Even better if you can do it from the zero gravity position in one of our zero gravity recliners. You may find that when you return to your day, you’re more energized and focused.
Get Upside Down
Spend a few minutes a day in an inverted position. You can do this by sitting in a zero gravity recliner, an inversion chair, an inversion table, gravity boots or doing a headstand or handstand for a few minutes a day. Not only will it remind you of being a kid hanging upside down from a jungle gym, but also the health benefits are pretty amazing too. Zero Gravity and Inversion Therapy help to remove all pressure from the spine and allow it to decompress. 1-2 minutes in the beginning does the trick on a regular basis while frequency is more important than duration. Inversion Therapy helps to rehydrate discs, reduce nerve pressure, realign the spine and relax overall tense muscles. You also will notice an improvement in your posture as the spine is stretched regularly.
We have a great sale going on right now for our Human Touch Perfect Chairs which are featured in many chiropractor’s offices around the country. These chairs specialize in allowing you to recline easily back into the zero gravity position which removes all pressure from the spine and allows you to evenly distribute the weight along the spine.
Take a mental trip
Imagine stepping into a beautiful picture or painting and being able to smell the faint salty smell of the ocean breeze or the sweet scent of flowers. Give yourself a few moments to daydream. Feel and experience the place in your mind. You don’t need virtual reality glasses in order to experience something or have it feel real. There are many apps available to find soothing scenes.
Scent makes good sense
Engage your sense of smell through the use of essential oils naturally extracted from flowers, leaves, fruit, bark and roots. Studies show that there are true physical and emotional healing benefits. The brain’s limbic system is activated when you breathe in the scent of an essential oil which controls your emotions. Below is a list the more popular essential oils and their health benefits from Canyon Ranch.
- Bergamotis a citrus-scented oil that helps lower stress and anxiety levels.
- Cedarwoodhas a woody fragrance. While its scent can help you relax, it can also aid in respiratory problems.
- Chamomile, often consumed in tea, is known for its calming effects. But this essential oil can also help lift your mood.
- Eucalyptushas cooling qualities and is used as a natural decongestant for those who suffer from respiratory ailments.
- Jasmineis a sweet-smelling essential oil used to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as boost libido.
- Lavender, soothing and calming, is often used for relaxation and to ease insomnia.
- Lemonnot only increases energy and focus, but boosts your immune system and promotes healthy digestion.
- Peppermintis energizing and refreshing, and it can improve concentration and help relieve headaches and nausea.
- Rosemaryis a stimulating essential oil that can boost mental activity and sharpen your focus. It’s also used to ease pain and cramping.
- Sandalwoodcan help release tension and increase your sex drive.
- Tea tree oilcan have an uplifting effect and help calm your mind.
I have a very vivid sensory memory during the summer of my plebe year in Annapolis, Maryland. This was a very crazy time for me and my classmates filled with sweat, many pushups, an immense amount of professional knowledge that needed to be learned let alone how to quickly become a midshipman. For most of us, this was one of the most intense summers of our lives—and it was designed to be this way in order to train us to become the kind of leaders that could make critical choices at the most intense moments to save people’s lives. That summer, we were marching rapidly to an event that we were late for. A subtle breeze blew through our formation and I could pick up the sweet smell of flowers for a very brief moment. That 5 seconds brought me back to myself and home even though my “eyes were in the boat,” I was wearing a crisp military uniform and on the verge of becoming a different version of myself. That small respite helped me to maintain my sanity in a very stressful time.
Have a cup of tea
A good cup of Chamomile Tea can reduce stress and anxiety as well as help treat insomnia. If you’re struggling with getting a good night’s sleep, try a cup of tea. A study by Dr Malcolm Cross at City University of London confirms that participants showed a 25% reduction of stress levels. Sharing a cup of tea with a good friend is even better and can help you to relax and unwind even further.
Peppermint Tea is also a great option. Peppermint works well to reduce stress and relieve anxiety. The menthol within peppermint is a natural muscle relaxant. You can use both dry and fresh peppermint to make leaves—simply add leaves to boiling water and let steep.
Lemon Balm Tea also has many calming effects and is a part of the mint family. Lemon balm helps to reduce cortisol and relaxes the body without causing drowsiness.
You may also want to check out Green Tea and Rose Tea.
I hope that you’ve gotten something out of our relaxation tips—this one was fun to write and I even learned a few things myself along the way.
Top Rock @ Wish Rock Relaxation