The theme of relaxation runs throughout all of the practices, courses and retreats that we hold here at The Tree.
Being in a relaxed state of mind and body has positive effects on our physical and psychological health, our energy levels, our creativity and our relationships. However, many of us experience varying degrees of stress on a daily basis, juggling the demands of work and family life in a hectic, fast-paced world. It’s no wonder that so many of us struggle to relax.
We are getting to the point where we are becoming a very stressed-out society and the cracks are starting to show. We could all benefit from a little relaxation in our lives.
It’s important to remember that small amounts of stress are not necessarily a bad thing. Stress can in fact motivate us and give us the boost we need to get a job done. However, the unchecked stress that builds up in our bodies and minds over a period of time will begin to have an effect on our physical, mental and emotional health.
The stress epidemic
Doctors believe that around 80% of health issues start with stress in one form or another.
Many people use distraction as a means of coping with stress. This can take many forms, ranging from watching TV, reading magazines and checking smart phones to consuming alcohol, taking drugs, having sex or overeating. We all have our own coping mechanisms.
The problem is that these methods of distraction are just temporarily relieving the stress, or masking it, rather than addressing the root cause. The good news is that tackling stress and releasing it from our minds and bodies is a lot easier than you might think, once you know how.
Scientific research has highlighted an effect known as the relaxation response, which involves doing something that brings our attention into the present moment. Studies show that it only takes around 10 minutes of being present for our bodies and minds to begin to relax and naturally release the build-up of stress and tension.
The present moment
There are many things we can do to bring our attention into our own being in the present moment, from mindful breathing and Hatha yoga to Qi Gong and guided relaxation. We teach all of these practices here at The Tree during our Relaxation and Yoga Weekends. Other ways to become more present and alligned with yourself could include drawing, cooking, gardening or just mindfully washing the dishes.
Modern life is incredibly hectic, and many of us struggle to switch off and relax. Our minds are consumed by a constant whirl of thoughts. In fact many of our guests at The Tree tell us that they just don’t have time to fit relaxation into their lives – it simply isn’t a priority.
If you’re feeling burnt out and struggling to relax, then we can help. Here at The Tree we teach a range of simple techniques and activities which can have great benefits but won’t take much time out of your day. If you have time to watch a TV programme or check Facebook then surely you can spare some time for a few minutes of relaxation.
Here are some of our top relaxation tips:
How many of us truly take the time to stop and relax? We often spend our lunch hours answering emails at our desks, or we eat our dinner in front of the TV whilst checking our smartphones. Even our much cherished holidays go by in a whirl of activity, leaving us feeling like we need another one!
We can all find time to just stop and have a short break during our busy schedules. Even if it’s just for a few minutes to breathe and re-connect to our self. Opting to have a bath rather than a quick shower is a great way to relax and take time out. Switch off your phone, lock the door and light a few scented candles. Add some soothing aromatherapy oils to the water to really help your mind and body unwind.
We are all so much more connected in our modern world, thanks to our laptops, smartphones and tablets. We can access the latest news, message our friends or post a social media update at all times of the day and night. But the cost of this 24/7 lifestyle is that it is so much harder to switch off and relax.
It sounds simple but that’s what we actually need to do – just switch off. Switch off the smartphone, tablet or laptop and give yourself a proper break. This is particularly important at night when we need to get a restful night’s sleep. At first it will probably be quite difficult, and maybe a little stressful, but give it a try and see on the other side how much more relaxed you feel when you take a break from technology.
Focusing on your breathing is a very simple way to bring about a state of relaxation. It costs nothing and can be done anywhere, so why not give it a try? All it takes is five minutes.
Start by finding somewhere quiet where you won’t be disturbed. Make yourself comfortable and begin to focus on your breathing. As you breathe in, silently say to yourself, “inhale”. And as you breathe out, say to yourself, “exhale”. Or you could count “1, 2, 3” as you breathe in, and then “1, 2, 3” as you breathe out.
Simply practising this technique and coming back to your self in the present for a few minutes is a great way of bringing about a state of relaxation. Gradually try extending the time that you practise this method and see how relaxed you feel.
This is another technique that is very simple and costs nothing! When we laugh and smile, our brains release neurotransmitters called endorphins. These are brain chemicals which make us feel happy and also help to lower stress levels. The interesting thing is that this effect works just as well when you fake it – because the brain can’t differentiate between a real or fake smile. So even if you’re feeling a bit down or stressed, put on a smile, have a good laugh, and you will soon feel more relaxed.
Time spent in nature is very therapeutic and relaxing. Whether you are walking along a beach, through a forest, beside a lake or just in the garden, you can enjoy the healing and relaxing benefits of being close to nature. Research has suggested that people who spend time in nature are more relaxed and less stressed. Research has also shown that walking barefoot on the earth (earthing) and grounding the electricity from your body has incredible healing benefits. So whenever you can, let the beauty of nature wash away your stresses and strains and spend time connecting with Mother Earth.
If you can’t physically be outside in nature, you could try a visualisation technique. Find somewhere quiet where you won’t be disturbed. Close your eyes and visualise yourself in a place that makes you feel calm and peaceful. This could be a beach, a forest or your own comfy bed. Choose a place that resonates with you. Just imagining yourself in a place of complete tranquillity can really help to bring about relaxation. If you struggle with visualisation we have a download that might help you.
The key to relaxation is the ability to become absorbed in the present moment. Many people are able to achieve this state through activities like painting, drawing, cooking or running. Resuming a hobby that you once loved but have let slip can be a great way to relax. Mindful colouring has become very popular as it helps people to focus on something, gives them a sense of being a child again and can bring out a creative side which has been underused, often since childhood.
Exercising in a mindful way can help us to relax and release stress hormones from the body. Gentle practices such as Qi Gong, hatha yoga and walking can be very relaxing, as can activities such as swimming, cycling and many other sports. There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that moving and walking mindfully can be conducive to relieving stress and promoting relaxation.
Spending time with loved ones
Researchers have found that good relationships with family and friends are linked with higher levels of health and happiness, so try to make time to spend with your loved ones. Children can teach us a great deal about mindfulness because they live in the present moment and don’t spend time worrying about the past or present. Our furry family members are of course included in this, as a great deal of happiness can be gained from enjoying a walk with your dog. You both benefit from the fresh air, exercise and time spent in nature.
Recognise our true basic nature
Underneath all of the ups and downs and changes in our life, there is something that doesn't change and is constant and reliable. It's the deepest essence of who we are, the most basic and intimate experience of being alive and what we connect to in its deepest sense when we say "I". It is subtle and is therefore easily over looked. Though through bringing our attention back to our true basic nature and recognising and living from this place we discover a place of deep certainty in our life, we are more able to remain calm in the midst of a storm and a feeling of relaxation begins to permeate our whole experience of life.
Here are just some of the amazing health benefits that can be gained from a simple 10-minute daily relaxation practice:k
It helps to lower blood pressure, which in turn protects the heart.
It boosts our immune system, giving us more consistent and robust health.
It helps us to experience a good night’s sleep, so when we wake up in the morning we feel refreshed and restored.
It increases the levels of the brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine. These are known as the feel good hormones because they make us feel happy.
It helps us to make better decisions and keep things in perspective.
According to studies, it can reduce your risk of having a stroke by 24%.
It enables us to feel more aware of eating healthily.
It helps our skin to repair and heal, giving us a healthier-looking complexion.
· When we are more relaxed we tend to be more patient, more understanding and more empathic. Therefore it improves all of our relationships.
If you’re feeling burnt out and would like to make time for your self and more relaxation, then we highly recommend one of our relaxation weekends. During these weekends we explore the benefits of relaxation in more detail and will teach you simple techniques to release built-up tension from the body-mind and generally feel much calmer and in tune with your self.
All our guests who take part in our relaxation weekends will be able to take home easy-to-follow instructions on how to practise Hatha yoga stretches, mindfulness meditation and Qi Gong at home. If you want to get started right away, visit our shop where you can buy and download a guided progressive relaxation practice
We hope to be able to welcome you here at The Tree soon.