Regular relaxation is essential for our well-being. But most of us Wandering Minds, don't know how best to relax. Some of us are constantly in fight-and-flight mode. Digital devices provide distraction and dissociation, and our mind never shuts up. We may not even notice this. The good news is: we can learn to relax! In this blog post, you will find tips and ways to learn to relax.
I had to go through my own journey of discovering the importance of relaxation.
In 2015, I found myself battling a burnout, a wake-up call that revealed the constant stress and tension I had been living with. It was a revelation I hadn't seen coming.
My physiotherapist had gently pointed out several times that I held a significant amount of tension in my body. “Nonsense!” I would dismiss, convinced I was stress-free. Little did I know that my state of perpetual tension had become my norm, leaving me oblivious to the fact that I was never truly relaxed.
The toll of years of this unrelenting tension became evident when I faced a burnout. Recovery was a lengthy process, taking over two years. However, the real turning point in my healing journey occurred when I finally learned the art of relaxation. Mindfulness, along with other tools like breathwork, played a pivotal role in helping me achieve this newfound state of tranquility.
– José, founder of Wandering Minds
How not to do it: relax with Netflix & smartphone
Most of us are completely dependent on digital devices and need a constant connection to the internet. If you ask someone ‘what is your most relaxing moment of the day?', many will answer with ‘the moment when I can finally settle down on the couch, watch Netflix and check my social media. Often this happens in a dissociative way; half an hour later you may not even remember what you were doing. Your mind is so exhausted and overwhelmed that you “take yourself out of the situation.” This may sound wonderful, but unfortunately, our mind and body do not relax in this way.
We can no longer do without our digital devices, and this makes it increasingly difficult to really switch off and relax. Our screens are used as a distraction technique.
– Psychoanalyst David Morgan of the Institute of Psychoanalysis.
Relax, relax, take it easy! Easy?
It sounds very simple: just take it easy! Just take some time for yourself to relax. Go for a walk, listen to music or read a book. Unfortunately, the reality is that many people find it difficult to relax. Because we are always busy, whether with doing things or just thinking about random stuff, it is becoming increasingly difficult to slow down or take a break. Sometimes we even feel guilty when we take time to relax. “But I have so much to do!”, you may think. Or we ‘try to relax', but we continue to feel stress in our bodies.
Yet relaxing is essential for our well-being and functioning.
What is relaxation, really?
When we watch a movie or check social media, we are not really relaxing. Our brain produces beta waves or gamma waves; we are wide awake, alert and focused (beta) or involved in information processing (gamma).
If we really want to relax, feel calm and recharge our body and mind, we want to create the right brain waves. The slower the brain waves, the more relaxed we are. Delta brain waves are the most relaxing brain waves; we are in a deep sleep. A ‘light sleep' or deep relaxation produces theta waves. But alpha waves also fall within the ‘spectrum of relaxation'; alpha waves make us feel calm and relaxed.
Learn to relax by producing alpha brain waves
Alpha brainwaves are produced in different ways, for example by meditating and focusing on gratitude. But binaural beats can also help us create alpha waves. Yoga, running and walking in nature also create alpha waves in our brain.
Learning to relax with breathwork & breathing exercises
Perhaps one of the best ways to learn to relax is breathwork, also known as breathwork. This is in fact the most effective means of taking control of our nervous system and our mood; it works instantly and is very powerful!
My recent encounter with breathwork was a revelation for me. In just one session, I experienced its profound impact. Following that session, I not only felt exceptionally relaxed, but I also connected with inner depths I had never before explored—a truly remarkable experience!
Breathwork is a collective term for practicing certain breathing techniques. This method is used in the west to de-stress, relax and to create more connection with ourselves. Breathwork is extremely popular and very effective if you want to learn to relax. Because breathing is the foundation of relaxation. When we calm your breath, we calm the tension in our muscles, our heartbeat and our emotions. Breathing sessions create space in our head and heart, and we experience more peace. The more often we are aware of our breathing, the easier it becomes to relax.
Breathwork can be done at home, but if you are not yet familiar with these techniques, it is wise to seek guidance. More and more yoga studios are offering breathwork sessions, but you can also contact Wim Hof instructors. A simple Google search will bring you to someone near you!
I've been attending weekly breathwork classes at the yoga studio for some time now, and the results have been remarkable. Right after that very first session, I could already sense the positive effects on my breathing and overall well-being throughout the day. I've felt notably calmer and far less exhausted.
Other ways to learn to relax
Breathwork, for us, is the best way to learn to relax, because we can take instant control over our nervous system. But of course, there are many other ways to relax. Think of listening to music, reading a book, taking a walk in nature, exercising, taking a bath or hot shower, getting a massage and drinking tea.
For me, it was important to realize that I really needed to ‘practice' relaxation. I see it as a kind of muscle that needs to be trained, although that sounds very contradictory, to relax & to train.
How did you learn to relax? We are very curious to see what works for you, scroll down and share it with us in the comments!
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