Our ability to relax can have far-reaching effects on how enjoyable our lives are in general.
If we fail to regularly give ourselves the opportunity to relax we’re more likely to be chronically stressed which can have some consequences like:
- Our bodies age faster.
- We’re always in a high alert fight or flight state of mind.
- We experience higher levels of systemic inflammation.
- We become more susceptible to disease.
Whereas if we look after ourselves and give ourselves time to relax every day we can reverse these unwanted consequences.
Here are some time-proven tips on how to relax your muscles and mind:
1. Take Actions To Solve Deep-Rooted Problems
I start with this because things like drinking green tea, meditating, and listening to classical music won’t help you relax completely if your deep-rooted problems that are causing stress don’t come any closer to fruition.
For example, if you inherently dislike your job and dread going to work then the solution to reducing your job induced stress would be to find another job.
Or if you’re stressed because you are in a lot of credit card debt then your first port of call would be to start making monthly payments to your credit card.
Or if you’ve neglected your health for the past few years and feel self-conscious and unhealthy and this problem is causing most of your stress then improving your diet and regularly working out is what you should focus on to get healthy and solve your problem.
2. Listen To Relaxing Music
Classical music is perfect for relaxing your body and mind. Research shows that classical music:
My go-to classical music choices are Mozart, Beethoven and Bach.
Although you may find that other musical genres may help you relax. For example, listening to a wide variety of music can help me relax and uplift my mood.
3. Drink Green Tea
Green Tea contains L- Theanine which is a chemical that can help reduce your body’s stress responses.
There was a large study that included 42,093 Japanese Individuals and showed that drinking green tea was associated with lower levels of psychological distress.
The colour green is also considered to be an emotionally calming colour so just staring at a cup of green coloured liquid can have a calming and relaxing effect.
4. Try Meditation
Meditation has many benefits such as:
- Lowering levels of anxiety and depression.
- Reducing levels of pain.
- Can help to reduce stress and help improve sleep quality.
Meditation is often made more complex than it needs to be. You don’t need to go on a Buddhist retreat to learn how to do it. You can do it anywhere here’s how you meditate:
Take 5-10 minutes to yourself and make sure you go somewhere where you won’t be distracted.
Then simply sit on a chair with an upright posture, close your eyes and focus on your breath for the whole 5 -10 minutes.
Once you’ve gotten better at this, start focusing on how each body part feels for 15 seconds per body part.
Also instead of focusing on your breath or each body part, you can just watch your thoughts.
Meditation is deeply satisfying and helps you develop a feeling of equanimity.
The billionaire American Investor Ray Dalio is an ardent fan of meditation and has been doing it since the 1960s.
He describes it as the greatest gift he can give anyone.
5. Go For A Walk
There’s nothing more relaxing than going for a walk in nature, I personally try and go for one walk every day.
The psychologist Carl Jung was a fan of meditation and long walks in the countryside.
Beethoven spent many afternoons walking in the Vienna Woods. Many other creative and influential people throughout history made daily walks a staple in their routines.
6. Help Others Or Start A Project
Doing something for someone else, becoming a giver is deeply satisfying and can provide you with a sense of calm and achievement.
Just the feeling of being productive can have its own benefits. For example, I personally feel a lot better if throughout my day I have done something that matters or I’ve come a bit closer to my goals.
7. Breath Deeply
Breathing deeply can help you get out of your own head and reduce your stress levels in difficult situations.
Breathing deeply has almost identical benefits to meditation. If someone or something is getting to you and you feel overwhelmed with stress take 10 deep diaphragmatic breaths (not shallow breaths into the chest).
Once finished you’ll feel calmer, more present and less overwhelmed by daily stressors.
8. Have A Good Pre Bed Routine And Focus On Getting Good Quality Sleep
Ever had a bad night’s sleep and been cranky and irritable the next day? Yes, you have? me too. When we have a poor night’s sleep our bodies create more of the stress hormone cortisol.
To become calmer and avoid this spike in cortisol, focus on having a regular sleeping routine and ensuring that you get good quality sleep.
Here are some actions you can take to improve your quality of sleep:
- Avoid looking at screens an hour before going to sleep. (The blue light from screens can mess with our sleeping patterns and thwart a good night’s sleep). Or you can use f.lux or the night shift mode (on apple devices) which reduces the blue light from electronic devices.
- Have a reasonably firm mattress ( having a firm mattress can help our spines stay in proper anatomical alignment, thereby helping us sleep in a more natural and comfortable way).
- Drink chamomile tea before going to sleep.
9. Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
This study shows that individuals with cancer who practised PMR had a greater perceived quality of life.
This study also shows that PMR can reduce feelings of anxiety and improve sleep quality.
PMR is relatively straightforward to do. Here’s how you do it:
Take 10 minutes out of your day and either lie down or sit somewhere where you won’t be distracted.
Then either sitting with an upright posture or lying down, focus on each body part.
You’ll first start with your feet, and focus on tensing your feet as hard as you can for 15 seconds and then relaxing, once you’re finished with your feet go to your calves, then quads then hamstrings all the way up to your face and forehead.
Again focus on each body part for 15 seconds and upon finishing you should feel a sense of calm and relaxation.
As long as you’re tensing each body part for 15 seconds and then relaxing you should feel the benefits of PMR.
PMR was invented by Edmund Jacobson and he believed that physical relaxation gives rise to mental calmness.
10. Get A Massage
Getting a massage can relax your body and mind for different reasons.
Getting a massage:
- Reduces pain and anxiety.
- Reduces depression.
- Increases immunity
The Sympathetic Vs Parasympathetic Nervous System
Using the aforementioned advice is all well and good but if you don’t know what the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are and how they relate to your life, you won’t be able to make relaxation a fundamental part of your life.
The Sympathetic Nervous System
The sympathetic nervous system is what triggers a fight or flight response. Next time you get a fright/ shock from someone or something and feel the sudden unease and alertness the fight or flight response has been triggered.
Generally, when we spend more time in a fight or flight state we find it harder to relax because the fight or flight response is typically activated by a stressor.
Of course, we need both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system in this world, but too much time spent in sympathetic system over drive can have many consequences such as :
- A suppressed immune system.
- Excessive oxidative stress.
- Raised blood pressure.
- Persistant inflammation.
- Higher risk of diabetes.
- Promote atherosclerosis.
- Accelerate the onset of heart disease, kidney disease and dementia.
Ideally, we want a good balance between the sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system.
The Para Sympathetic Nervous System
This nervous system is primarily activated in rest and digest conditions and all of the 10 tips I have mentioned in this article have a positive effect on activating the parasympathetic nervous system.
As a rule of thumb the more time we spend in the parasympathetic state the more relaxed we’ll be.
And the more time we spend in the sympathetic state the more stressed we’ll be.
My favourite ways to get into the parasympathetic state are deep breathing, reading, drinking tea and listening to music.
How To Relax Your Muscles And Mind: 10 Proven Strategies That Actually Work
- Being in a chronic state of stress can give rise to a whole host of ailments.
- Whereas spending more time in a relaxed state can make life more enjoyable, make us more productive and help us sleep easier.
- Our ability to relax has a significant impact on our lives. If we regularly carve out time in our days to relax, our lives will be more enjoyable.
What are your favourite ways to relax? Let me know in the comments below.