Ever have one of those experiences where you are so relaxed, you felt you could melt right through the lounge chair? Or run an extra mile without any effort? Or laugh off every nuisance that would normally be a deep source of irritation?
Sometimes life feels so good, you want to take it out to dinner, drive it home and tuck it into bed with a kiss on the forehead. Why? Because relaxation is a great pleasure. It also helps us move and think better.
Muscle tension consumes energy inefficiently and decreases circulation, leading to physical aches and pains. Whereas if you can achieve a relaxed state, you can get relief from aches and pains and improve digestion, cardiovascular function and sleep – all of which will improve your mental functioning.
The good news is that you can induce this magic state using a technique called Progressive Relaxation, which consists of alternating 3-5 seconds of tension and 10-15 seconds of relaxation of various muscle groups.
- Sit in a chair
- Lean back and make yourself comfortable.
- Close your eyes.
- Lift your toes as high as possible. Hold. Release and let the tension go into the floor. Point your toes. Repeat.
- Tense the upper part of your legs. Hold. Relax. Feeling your legs against the chair and your feet against the floor. Experience the relaxation.
- Tighten your stomach muscles . . . then relax. Take a deep breath. Feel the tension in your chest. Exhale and relax. Concentrate on how calm you can get.
- Make tight fists with your hands and hold for about 5 seconds. Unclench your hands and let the tension flow out, noting how it feels different to relax.
- Do the same with your upper arms, then your neck. Frown, and then relax. Take a moment to notice any other areas of tension and concentrate on releasing those as well.
- Take a few deep breaths and open your eyes – you will be totally alert and relaxed!
If you would like a guide to doing this technique check out The Inside Edge audio program by Dr. Peter Jensen on iTunes.
Practice the progressive relaxation techniques outlined above for five minutes today. I've found the best time to do this is right before I fall asleep while lying in bed. It's incredible how this can help you release tension from the day, calm your mind and set you up for sleep.