Learning How to Relax – Five Key Life Changes to Make Today

Learning how to relax does not have to be difficult or time consuming. Stress wreaks havoc on the health of our bodies, minds and spirits. Therefore, relieving stress is critical to our overall wellbeing. As a stress management consultant, I recommend five key lifestyle that can make a significant impact on your stress level and your ability to relax more easily.

1. Think Positively – Having a positive attitude is key to stress reduction as well as to happiness in life. To learn to be more positive and optimistic:

o Try to minimize criticism and complaints; instead seek opportunities to praise others. 
o Be as non-judgmental as possible and avoid drama by refusing to jump to conclusions or “read-in” to what other people are thinking. 
o Avoid the need to constantly defend your position which disrupts inner harmony Retreat A Course in Miracles . Instead, seek to surround yourself with positive, supportive people. 
o Use positive affirmations (brief meaningful statements) to reinforce your goals and objectives. Notice the way each statement makes you FEEL as you say it and use the ones that elicit the most positive emotional response frequently.

2. Be Mindful – Mindfulness is a key component in managing stress. Being mindful means living fully in the present moment without focusing on regrets from the past or worries about the future. To help you be more mindful:

o Try changing your focus to relaxing and “being” sometimes vs. constant action or “doing”. 
o Seek times of solitude which will promote inner peace and relaxation as well as creativity. 
o Try a walking meditation. Get out in nature and as you walk really notice all of the sights, sounds and scents around you which will help keep your thoughts in the present moment. In addition, noticing nature’s beauty and abundance can help to minimize any problems you may be encountering and make them seem smaller and more manageable.

3. Self-Nurture – Self-Nurturing is learning to love and take better care of yourself. Continually putting yourself at the bottom of your list of priorities will result in stress, burnout, exhaustion and resentment. We are unable to be at our best for others, unless we take time for ourselves to rest, relax and renew. Self-nurturing is not selfish, it is sensible. To incorporate more self-nurturing into your life try the following:

o Pamper yourself with small indulgences that you enjoy personally (simple pleasures) throughout the day. 
o Follow your bliss by learning to use your natural talents and gifts, by choosing hobbies you enjoy and following your dreams. 
o Create healthy boundaries and personal priorities. Learn to pace yourself, listen to your body and realize that saying no at times is essential.

4. Declutter – Having excess clutter in your home, office and/or vehicle can significantly add to your stress level. Clutter can rob you of time looking for items such as keys, tools, shoes, etc. that could be used for more pleasant activities as well as cause us to worry about managing the clutter itself. It may also cause additional stress and embarrassment when friends and loved ones visit and can even be responsible for excess financial strain (such as late charges) because you are unable to locate bills that need to be paid. Its important to realize that decluttering does not have to mean going without or lacking the things you desire, but instead should be viewed as keeping only the best (things you truly love, truly use or that have sentimental value). To reduce clutter in your environment follow these simple steps:

o Go through room by room and divide your items into four bins (1. things to throw away, 2. things to donate, 3. things to store, 4. things to keep) 
o After disposing of things to throw away and donate, put items that need to be stored away. Now go through the box of things to keep and organize, finding a place for everything. This should be a logical location near the area where the item will be used and should stay consistent so everyone in your home knows where things belong. 
o Always complete one room fully before moving to the next room. Decluttering can be done in one day or in small increments so that it doesn’t become overwhelming. Choose the method that works best for you personally. 
o Once you’ve organized each room, be sure to return items to their designated place after each use so that your home remains organized and to avoid the need for a lot of decluttering in the future. Be sure to reward yourself with a treat when you are finished. Why not make it a soothing home accessory that will help you create a serene haven in your home – a calming, comfortable space where you can relax and unwind.

5. Practice Relaxation Techniques — In addition to helping you feel more calm and relaxed, learning relaxation techniques also has many health benefits including lowering blood pressure, regulating digestion, helping you to get a better night’s sleep and boosting the immune system. These techniques are fun and easy to learn and regular practice will teach your body to relax faster and easier.

o Deep Breathing – When stressed we tend to breathe with shallow, rapid breaths which trigger the body’s stress response. Taking just a few full, deep breaths can activate the body’s relaxation response. Be sure as you practice deep breathing to breathe slowly and deeply expanding your belly first and then your chest. 
o Meditation – Learning meditation is intimidating to many people because they think it is difficult and time-consuming. This does not have to be the case. Doing a basic meditation for 10-15 minutes each day is highly beneficial (before getting out of bed in the morning is best). Simply sit or lie down and get very comfortable, begin to focus on your breathing and clear your mind. When thoughts come into your mind, briefly acknowledge the thought and then let it go. It’s that simple! If you’d like to add a mantra (word or statement) to your meditation to help you stay focused, try “I am” as you breathe in and “calm” or “relaxed” as you exhale. 
o Visualization – Visualization and Guided Imagery are simple, gentle, yet powerful techniques in which you focus and direct your imagination for a desired result. Guided Imagery is actually much more than visualization alone because it seeks to engage all of your senses and evoke feelings. Different types of imagery can be used for relaxation or as a complementary therapy for healing from injury or illness. Many studies have shown the effectiveness of Guided Imagery and it is now being used in many hospitals throughout the United States.

Learning how to relax is essential to living a happier, healthier life and should be an integral part of your wellness program. There are many other relaxing therapies available to choose from including such things as massage therapy, aromatherapy, music therapy and journaling to name a few. Both stress and relaxation are very personal to the individual. What one person finds stressful isn’t necessarily stressful to another and in the same way what one person finds relaxing isn’t necessarily relaxing to another. Therefore, it is best to sample the different therapies, techniques and treatments available to find the balance that works best for you.

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