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The 8 best relaxation techniques

July 17th, 2022 | 17 min. read

The 8 best relaxation techniques

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The best 8 relaxation techniques

 

From the moment we rise in the morning to the time our head touches the pillow at night, most of us are on the go.

 

There is breakfast to make, kids to wake, lunches to pack, dogs to feed, work to do, errands to run, gym workouts to crush, dinner to cook, dishes to wash, and did I forget to mention the laundry???

 

Unfortunately, when we are finally able to find that one moment in the day (or week) to relax and recharge, it is almost impossible to turn off our busy minds.

 

Now, more than ever, people need a practice that they can turn to relax.

 

At the Paseo Club, we know that fitness is only one key ingredient to feeling great. Quality sleep, nutrition, friends, time in nature, and a relaxation practice all contribute significantly to good mental health.

 

Many people know that they are “supposed to” relax. But it can be hard to know how to relax.

 

In this article, we will outline the best 8 relaxation techniques with the hope that at least one of the options (or many) will be a good fit for you.

 

We selected these methods based on them being effective, scientifically researched, easy to implement, and free or low cost.

 

The best 8 relaxation exercises

 

The primary focus of relaxation is to quiet our thoughts and bring a sense of peace to our bodies and our minds.

 

1. Meditation 


Meditation is an ancient practice that dates back thousands of years. According to the National Institute of Health, meditation is the act used to focus on mind and body integration to calm the mind and enhance overall well-being

 

Meditation can take many forms.

 

  • Guided meditation is also called guided imagery or visualization. This method of meditation encourages you to form mental images of places or situations you find relaxing. It can be led by a teacher in a class or you can use an app when you are at home. 
  • Mindfulness meditation is simply the practice of being “mindful” — having an increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment by using the flow of your breath. Meditators observe their thoughts and emotions but let them pass without judgment.
  • Walking meditation is “meditation in motion.” The well-known Vietnamese meditation master and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh describes walking meditation as “printing peace, serenity, and happiness on the ground.” You can walk in nature, at a labyrinth, or even to your mailbox and back. Try to go slow, breathe while you walk, and notice the sensations in your feet, legs, and body. Observe your thoughts and do your best to let them go. 
  • Prayer or chanting is a meditation that uses mantras or calming words, thoughts, or phrases. You say them silently to yourself to prevent distracting thoughts. Some popular modern mantras are: 

 

  • I am enough.
  • Every day in every way, I am getting stronger.
  • I am a magnet for health, wealth, and happiness.
  • I love you.
  • In me, I trust.
  • I am open to the possibilities of the Universe.


Meditation is used to improve mental and physical health.

 

  • Lower blood pressure 
  • Lower cholesterol levels
  • Help with quitting smoking
  • Improve overall cardiovascular health
  • Reduce chronic pain
  • Reduce fixation on negative emotions
  • Improve relationship satisfaction
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Reduce stress

 

 

 

Meditating is something that can be done anywhere and at any point in the day — at work, at home, or while in nature. You can meditate for just a few minutes or longer if you prefer. If you are wondering if you are meditating successfully, have no fear. The only criterion is that you enjoy the moments during meditation.

2. Yoga


Yoga is an ancient discipline that originates from India. The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root “yuj,” meaning “to join” or “to unite.” To practice yoga you join a series of postures with controlled breathing exercises. Yoga is done to promote a more flexible body and a calm mind. As you move through poses that require balance and concentration, you're encouraged to focus less on your busy day and more on the moment.

 

There are several branches of yoga, some focused more on relaxation while others emphasize strength, mobility, and balance. 

 

  • Hatha yoga is a great form of yoga for beginners. It is usually slower-paced and involves a set of physical postures (yoga poses) and breathing techniques. These are typically practiced more slowly and with more static posture holds.
  • Iyengar yoga was developed by B.K.S. Iyengar. It is known for its focus on precision and timing and the use of props, which were designed by Mr. Iyengar, to help the practitioner achieve any asana (pose).
  • Vinyasa yoga is a type of yoga that strings movements together, one posture flowing smoothly into another. It is different from other forms of yoga that emphasize holding static postures. It is often referred to as “flow” yoga.
  • Kundalini yoga is unlike any other type of yoga. Whereas Hatha, Iyengar, and vinyasa yoga focuses on physical exercises, Kundalini focuses on the spiritual practice of yoga. The goal of Kundalini is to help you connect with your consciousness through meditation, mantras, breathing exercises, and certain postures.
  • Bikram (or hot) yoga was developed by Bikram Choudhury in the 1970s. It involves doing a series of poses in hot, sauna-like conditions. The rooms are generally set to 105 degrees with 40% humidity. The purpose of Bikram yoga is to build strength and tone muscles. The high heat opens pores and allows toxins to flow out of your system.

 

3. Tai Chi/Qigong


Tai Chi and Qigong are ancient Chinese practices that use gentle exercises that are characterized by coordinated body posture, deep rhythmic breathing, meditation, and mental focus. In contrast to the more vigorous forms of yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong emphasize graceful, slow movements. 

 

These practices may be viewed as meditative movements and share many of the healing elements observed in mindfulness meditation.

 

Tai Chi and Qigong are considered a “gentle way to combat stress.” It is also associated with these advantages:

  • Decreased anxiety and depression
  • Improved mood
  • Improved aerobic capacity
  • Increased energy and stamina
  • Improved flexibility, balance, and agility

    4. Forest Bathing

Forest bathing may sound like a newfangled idea but it actually was developed in Japan in 1982. In fact, shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) was so successful for its citizens, that Japan made it part of its national health program. 

 

There is nothing complicated to do or learn to forest bathe. Forest bathing is the practice of absorbing the forest atmosphere. It is simply spending time in nature, immersing your senses in your surroundings, and attempting to enjoy the present moment. 

 

If you do not live near a forest that is ok. Select from the natural areas available to you: meadows, beaches, gardens, deserts, or even city parks.

 

The benefits of forest bathing are scientifically-backed. Interestingly enough, the higher the person's stress level is, the greater the effect of forest bathing is on their mental health. Researchers found that forest bathing facilitated:

 

  • Reduced depression
  • Reduced feelings of hostility
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Reduced cortisol
  • Increased feelings of liveliness

 

5. Hydrotherapy


Have you ever come home after a hectic day at work and the first thing you do is draw a bath for yourself? If so, then you are practicing hydrotherapy for relaxation and stress relief. 

 

Hydrotherapy includes:

 

  • Warm water baths
  • Saunas
  • Sitz baths
  • Foot baths
  • Cold water immersion

 

Hydrotherapy can improve both mental well-being as well as physical health. Research has indicated that with various forms of hydrotherapy people can experience:

 

  • Stronger immune systems
  • Lower cortisol levels
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Reduced pain

 

6. Aromatherapy


Aromatherapy is a holistic healing treatment that uses essential oils distilled from plants to promote health and well-being. 

 

Aromatherapy has been in existence for thousands of years and has historically been used in China, India, Persia (Iran), and Egypt. Essential oils were used for both physical and psychological applications.

 

Aromatherapy is thought to work by stimulating smell receptors in the nose, which then send messages through the nervous system to the section of the brain that controls emotions.




Recently scientists have become curious about aromatherapy’s benefits and more time and money have been invested into understanding its merits.

 

It is understood that the use of essential oils in diffusers, sitz baths, creams, and other applications may provide:

 

  • Relief from anxiety and depression
  • Improved quality of life, particularly for people with chronic health conditions
  • Improved sleep

Essential oils that are commonly used to aid in relaxation are:

  • Lavender
  • Rose
  • Chamomile
  • Frankincense
  • Bergamont
  • Ylang ylang
  • Jasmine


    7. Music

Many of us find that putting on our favorite tunes on the drive home from work or when picking up the kids from school is a great way to relax and feel upbeat. 

 

Depending on the type of music you choose, you can affect your brain waves, allowing you to feel optimistic and lively or relaxed and calm.

 

Research shows that music that plays at 60 beats per minute can cause the brain to synchronize with the rhythm that causes alpha brainwaves. These brainwaves are what are present when we are relaxed and conscious.

 

Professors at Stanford University have evidence that listening to music may affect brain functioning as effectively as medication for some individuals.

 

Music has been shown to:

 

  • Increase a sense of optimism and positivity
  • Increase concentration
  • Increase relaxation
  • Reduce stress

 

So the next time you are looking to wind down from a busy day, turn to your collection of Native American, Celtic, Indian stringed instruments, light jazz, classical, or easy listening music. You can also put on music that features drums and flutes or recordings of rain, thunder, or other nature sounds. 

 

8. Art


Though our children may turn to making art projects far more than we do, drawing and painting can help adults too. There is a whole body of therapy called Art Therapy that has been created to assist in the healing of personal trauma and to relieve stress. 

 

Making art often functions similarly to meditation. It allows participants to be in the moment, focused on their experience, which allows for stressors and worries to dissipate.

 

Studies suggest that art can help:

 

  • Reduce stress
  • Reduce depression
  • Minimize symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder 
  • Reduced anxiety

 

How does relaxation positively affect us?

Learning relaxation is an important tool for reducing stress and coping with life’s challenges. 

 

When we take time to relax we are not only helping ourselves feel better, we are changing the physiology of our bodies. It is one of many instances that the link between our bodies and mind is undeniable. These techniques can help with long-term stress or stress related to various health problems, such as heart disease and pain.

 

Whether you are in an acute crisis or just need to relax as an antidote for day-to-day stress, practicing relaxation techniques can benefit you.

 

Best of all, most of these techniques are free or low cost. 

Mental benefits of relaxing

  • Improved focus and mood
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Lowering fatigue
  • Reduced anger and frustration
  • Boosted confidence to handle problems
  • Reduced depression
  • Reduced stress

Physical benefits of relaxing

  • Slowed heart rate
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Slowed breathing rate
  • Improved digestion
  • Controlled blood sugar levels
  • Reduced activity of stress hormones
  • Increased blood flow to major muscles
  • Reduced muscle tension and chronic pain

How often do I need to relax?

There is no simple answer to this question. How much you need to relax is dependent on the situation you are in. 

 

If you are experiencing high external stressors such as grief, financial or job worries, or health problems, you may want to carve time to relax more often and/or for longer periods. 

 

If you are feeling pretty good in your life you may find that you need to use relaxation techniques less frequently and for shorter segments.

 

As a rule of thumb, Harvard recommends taking 20 minutes per day to relax

Can all people use relaxation techniques?

People of all ages and backgrounds can practice relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques are being taught in different types of institutions to many types of people.

 

  • Schools
  • Colleges
  • Prisons
  • Senior living facilities
  • Medical centers
  • Fitness clubs and gyms

 

Which relaxation technique should I choose?

 

You should choose the relaxation technique that you are most likely to do regularly and that you will most enjoy. 

 

It is recommended to try a few different methods to see which one (or few) is the best fit for you.

 

How to get started relaxing

 

Now that you have read this article about the best relaxation techniques you have a wealth of ideas to explore to help you decompress, unwind, and reduce your stress levels. 

 

Remember, the longer and the more often you practice these relaxation techniques, the greater the benefits are and the more you can reduce stress.

 

At Paseo Club, we believe in supporting our members’ whole health — physical and mental. We offer a range of resources for fitness, swimming, court games, yoga, and socialization. 

 

So whether you come in to relax at Paseo Club or choose to go outside for a walk, make sure you carve out time to take care of yourself by resting and recharging.

 

If you would like to learn more about supporting your mental health, read this how-to article. 

 

Want to branch out and try yoga for the first time? Sign up for a class today!


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