Ten Ways to Relax
You deserve to relax. And making time for it allows you to be more productive the rest of the day, which boosts your metabolic rate. Taking a break gives your brain and body time to recover and operate the best they can. Research shows that taking just 15–20 minutes to relax every day can do all of the following:
Improve your immune system
Lower blood pressure and risk for heart attack and stroke
Reduce pain, headaches, and digestive issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Improve pre-menstrual symptoms
Reduce cortisol levels and junk food cravings
Improve your sleep, energy levels, and mood
Improve your memory and help you make better decisions
At some point in your life, you knew how to chill out, and it’s possible you just forgot along the way. How do you re-learn how to relax? Here are some ways to do it.
Take a class
Take a class at a local studio or gym as a primer. Many activities that help you relax are based on repetition, whether it’s with breathing, saying a word, or doing an action.
There are many different types of meditation, but here’s a simple way to do it at home. For 15–20 minutes every day, sit in a comfortable position — maybe with your legs crossed on the ground or in a cozy chair — and close your eyes. Dim the lights. Take deep breaths and repeat a word or mantra (such as “I’m boosting my metabolism!”) over and over. Whenever a stressful thought comes into your head, try to push it out quickly (this gets easier with time).
Yoga means union in Sanskrit. The practice of yoga is an ancient form of exercise that can help you connect with your breath, your body, and mind. It’s not just about stretching — it also helps increase flexibility and strength.
Do martial arts
The Chinese martial arts of Qigong and Tai Chi can, like yoga, be thought of as meditation in motion. Often, they involve repeating the same motions at varying levels of difficulty, whether while standing, sitting, or lying down, depending on which art you’re practicing.
Get a spa treatment like a massage or pedicure. Or draw yourself a bubble bath with aromatic oils. If you have trouble disconnecting from your stress in these situations, close your eyes and imagine a place (a beach, a forest, etc.) that makes you calm.
Put on a happy face
A study published in Psychological Science found that people who smiled during stressful experiences, whether or not it was forced, had an easier time recovering from that situation than those with neutral expressions. Want an easy way to smile? Rent a funny movie and laugh. Laughing also releases endorphins.
Develop a hobby
Knitting, crocheting, and painting are thought of as particularly calming because they involve repetitive motions that distract your mind. But anything you enjoy will serve the same purpose, such as fishing, reading, or playing a sport. Hobbies can help you unwind.
Alongside any of the activities already mentioned, or all on its own, music can be very powerful for helping you relax. Music affects your brainwaves to help bring about a more positive state of mind. In fact, music therapy is used in hospitals to help calm patients and improve depression. So, rock out to your favorite tunes whenever you’re feeling down.
Biofeedback uses machines that measure signs of distress, such as heart rate, brain waves, muscle tension, and skin temperature, to show you what triggers your stress response. Then you can test out different types of relaxation techniques to see what works for you in addition to learning how to prevent the stress from getting to you in the first place. Biofeedback can be done with a professional like a therapist or at home with less sophisticated devices.