6 Easy Tips to Activating the Relaxation Response
I'm sure you've heard the saying about how you can think yourself sick. If your thoughts can make you sick, wouldn't the opposite be true? I believe we can think ourselves well. The power of the mind is so incredibly powerful. The mind can make decisions, learn new things, and feel emotions, and heal our physical bodies. There may just be an untapped into hidden part of your mind that can heal you. When we get out of balance, and stress too much, or chronically get triggered by past trauma or unresolved emotions our bodies take a critical hit. The body's natural defense system is not operating at an optimal level, this is when illnesses may creep up in the body. Studies confirm the adverse effects of stress on the body and our immune system. Read more here :Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry (nih.gov)
The body works through the stress response system, and relaxation. A lot of the time, we tend to default to the fight or flight mode, that with consistency, can make us sick. There are many inevitable stressors throughout our life, and even just our day, which lead to an unhealthy or imbalanced system. When we elicit the relaxation response, we send a signal to the brain and body to heal from stress. We must bathe in the regenerative state.
What is the Relaxation Response? According to Dr. Benson "The relaxation response is a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress… and the opposite of the fight or flight response.” It is “an opposite, involuntary response that causes a reduction in the activity of the sympathetic nervous system. Check out more of Dr. Benson here: Using the relaxation response to reduce stress - Harvard Health
I feel the essential idea of staying healthy, vibrant, and living a long meaningful life, comes from the power of the mind. Our responses to stress and set backs may be the greatest measure of courage and resiliency there is. Here are 6 easy steps to find your calm, relax and step back from the stress:
How can we elicit the relaxation response?
Sit quietly, close your eyes. Get comfortable. Tune into your physical body. Let any thoughts just pass by like clouds in the sky. Scan your body from head to toe, as detailed and tuned in as you can. Feel all the sensations such as the texture of the clothes on your skin, your heart beats, any pain or tension, the rise and fall of the belly with inhalation and exhalation, any restriction, the air on your skin, feel each muscle and fiber, and feel each breath. Follow all the sensations good and bad. Then use progressive muscle relaxation. Sense a group of muscles melting and releasing all tension with every exhale. Start from your feet upwards, or the top of your head downwards.
Deep slow diaphragmatic breaths. Breathing deep into the abdomen for at least 10 minutes. Place a hand on your heart space, and a hand on your abdomen. See if you can only allow the belly hand rise with each inhalation. Become aware of your breathing. Or try another breathing exercise that works for you. (Trance Release Breath, Wim Hof Method, Holotropic or Transformation Breath).
Use a positive word or mantra with slow rhythmical breaths. On the inhale, silently say to yourself I am lovable, or just LOVE IN, and exhale any surface tension or negativity. You may have an affirmation or inspiring word that works for you. Repeat that affirmation or word with each breath, allowing yourself to let go and surrender on the exhale. For example, breath in what you want to bring in, like a sense of GRATITUDE or SELF TRUST, breath out any tension or pain and just relax and surrender. Tell yourself how f*cking awesome you are with each inhalation. Whatever works for YOU. Do this for just 5min to begin with. Positive affirmations and thought patterns are powerful with consistency.:)
Play some calming music and journal your thoughts, feelings, ideas and emotions. Don't worry about how it looks, let it come up like a flow of consciousness. Or get some coloured pencils out and colour a picture, whatever happens when the pencil hits the paper, let it, no internal judgements. (Or try those adult meditative colouring books).
Try a mindful meditation or some guided imagery. Imagine yourself in a beautiful calming place. Activate all your senses, and just keep your mind and body engaged in this imagery. Enjoy the journey. See what you see, hear what you hear, feel what you feel... notice the colours... take it all in.
Get to greenery! Immersing yourself in Mother Nature has a unique way of connect you to YOURSELF in a deeper kind of way. There is something spiritual about being surrounded by trees or just simple nature. Connect your feet with the earth. Feel the sensations, vibrations and energies moving from the ground, into you. If you don't that's ok! Just absorb yourself in the natural unjudged beauty around you. Notice the little things as you look around. Observe the scenery in as much detail as you can. Things you would not normally pay attention to, challenge yourself to see the tiniest of things, like a small bug on the ground, or a droplet of water on a leaf or a flower petal. Take a short mindful walk. Breath in the fresh air and try smiling!
Along with healthy emotional resiliency and body-awareness, try surrounding yourself with positive situations and people. This may just be the secret to maintaining a healthy body and stimulating the natural human control center — the mind.