July 26, 2014
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Keep Your Resolutions

Relax more

Relax more

You would think people would take any chance they get to relax. But many people feel that they don't relax enough - "relax more" is a popular New Year's resolution. How many times have you found yourself wishing that you took more time to "smell the flowers" and less time on the go-go-go? And yet the problem with deciding to be less busy is that, well, we all have too many things to do. And then, when we do have time to relax, we tend to collapse in front of the TV. And somehow, even if we use up a whole evening watching TV, we still don't feel like we get enough relaxation.

This is at least in part because relaxation is not just "not doing anything." It's a state of bodily relief, of reduced tension, and of calmness. You will be able to relax better if you're healthier - which includes eating right and exercising. Far from being the opposite of relaxation, exercise is an important key to it. So, in fact, "vegging out" in front of the TV with pop and chips is not really the best way to relax at all - especially not if it's the only thing you do to relax. If you want to relax more, the first steps you should take are to eat right and exercise more - see the corresponding sections in this health feature.

There are several other things you can do to increase the benefit you get from relaxation. Here are some suggestions:

  • Find an absorbing hobby - many people relax best when they're in their workshop, or out taking photos, or drawing, or sewing. You can focus and calm the mind, and you will also gain a sense of accomplishment.
  • Help other people - for example, volunteer at a charity. You will see more of life - and more interesting parts of it - than you will by watching TV. You will feel satisfied with your use of time, and you will have gotten your mind off of your own concerns.
  • Perform deep breathing exercises whenever you have the opportunity - on the bus, for instance, or even when waiting in lineups or walking. There are a variety of techniques. The most basic is simply to breathe in to a count of four and out to a count of six, and then increase the counts as you go on. You will get the most benefit, of course, from taking some time every day to sit in a quiet space, focusing on your breathing or on a word or image.
  • Do yoga - even if you just learn a few basic positions and moves and do them for a few minutes every morning, your body will be better equipped to encounter the day more calmly.

The more you do things that actively release stress and tension, the less you will feel a need to "veg out" - and the less you may want to try to take shortcuts to relaxation with the aid of alcohol or tobacco.

Part of the problem for many people is that they think of relaxation as "filler," something of no actual importance - an absence of activity. But relaxation is very important. People work long, hard hours just so they can afford to relax later on - and then they don't get around to it. Schedule some time in to relax. Give it a priority on your list of things to do, and don't let other things bump it out of place. Remember: it's not "doing nothing." It's recharging your batteries!

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