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Top 5 healthy relaxation techniques

The ability to relax at will is an important ability that everyone should possess, in my opinion. Today’s life in the western world is very tense, stressful, both mentally and physically. This is true for high-tech and computer workers, who sit long hours in front of the screen, creating constant tension in some muscles and joints, for many hours a day. This is also true for other workers, such as those who drive a lot, especially in dense traffic, when the mental pressure is high. Stress is a very common word these days, as people blame stress for many of their problems. People have a hard time to relax. In this article I’d like to summarize the best 5 ways for a healthy (and legal) relaxation, in my opinion.


Relaxation technique 1: Breathing to relax and to calm down

The most basic skill you need to allow yourself to calm down quickly and relax is controlled breathing. Taking your breathing under conscious control for some time distracts from other stressful thoughts you might have. Some breathing techniques have fast tranquilizing effect. I suggest the following breathing exercise:

  • If possible, lie down or at least sit comfortably.
  • Close your eyes and concentrate your attention on your nostrils, where air enters the nose.
  • Take a slow and deep breath in through your nose. Notice how the air is cold, entering your nose.
  • Hold your breath for a seconds holding your attention on the same spot.
  • Breath out slowly and quietly through the nose. Notice how the air is warm on your nostrils on the way out.
  • Do this for a few minutes, until you let disturbed thoughts go and feel relaxed.

The above exercise uses several techniques to calm you:

  • Closing eyes and getting in a comfortable position already induces a little relaxation.
  • Slow breathing with a stop in middle reduces the heard rate. It is especially useful when you feel agitated for some reason and need to calm down fast. You might do this at times of pressure, without all the preliminary steps, if there’s no time or place for them.
  • Concentrating on the cold and warm air moving through the nostrils occupies the mind and distracts you from other, negative thoughts, you might have. See also technique #8, Thought substitution for calming and relaxation.

Relaxation

Relaxation technique 2: Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is a known relaxation technique. It was developed by American physician Edmund Jacobson around 19391. The argument is that since muscular tension accompanies anxiety, relaxing muscular tension will reduce it. While performing the exercise, don’t tense the muscle too much and don’t tense muscles that are not at the specific group mention at each step. The muscles should be more relaxed after releasing tension than before it was applied to that group. Sit comfortably in a chair or lie down. Do a number of slow breaths. Then move in the following progression2:

  1. Hands. The fists are tensed; relaxed. The fingers are extended; relaxed.
  2. Biceps and triceps. The biceps are tensed (make a muscle – but shake your hands to make sure not tensing them into a fist); relaxed (drop your arm to the chair). The triceps are tensed (try to bend your arms the wrong way); relaxed (drop them).
  3. Shoulders. Pull them back (careful with this one); relax them. Push the shoulders forward (hunch); relax.
  4. Neck (lateral). With the shoulders straight and relaxed, the head is turned slowly to the right, as far as you can; relax. Turn to the left; relax.
  5. Neck (forward). Dig your chin into your chest; relax. (bringing the head back is not recommended – you could break your neck).
  6. Mouth. The mouth is opened as far as possible; relaxed. The lips are brought together or pursed as tightly as possible; relaxed.
  7. Tongue (extended and retracted). With mouth open, extend the tongue as far as possible; relax (let it sit in the bottom of your mouth). Bring it back in your throat as far as possible; relax.
  8. Tongue (roof and floor). Dig your tongue into the roof of your mouth; relax. Dig it into the bottom of your mouth; relax.
  9. Eyes. Open them as wide as possible (furrow your brow); relax. Close your eyes tightly (squint); relax. Make sure you completely relax the eyes, forehead, and nose after each of the tensings.
  10. Breathing. Take as deep a breath as possible – and then take a little more; let it out and breathe normally for 15 seconds. Let all the breath in your lungs out – and then a little more; inhale and breathe normally for 15 seconds.
  11. Back. With shoulders resting on the back of the chair, push your body forward so that your back is arched; relax. Be very careful with this one, or don’t do it at all.
  12. Butt. Tense the butt tightly and raise pelvis slightly off chair; relax. Dig buttocks into chair; relax.
  13. Thighs. Extend legs and raise them about 6in. off the floor or the foot rest but don’t tense the stomach’ relax. Dig your feet (heels) into the floor or foot rest; relax.
  14. Stomach. Pull in the stomach as far as possible; relax completely. Push out the stomach or tense it as if you were preparing for a punch in the gut; relax.
  15. Calves and feet. Point the toes (without raising the legs); relax. Point the feet up as far as possible (beware of cramps – if you get them or feel them coming on, shake them loose); relax.
  16. Toes. With legs relaxed, dig your toes into the floor; relax. Bend the toes up as far as possible; relax.

Relaxation Technique 3: Calming visualization

Visualization is a powerful mind tool. Research showed that the subconscious mind can’t differentiate between real events and visualized ones. Because of that visualized imagery can have a profound effect on the mind.

  • Sit comfortably or lie down. Close your eyes and do a number of slow breaths. Allow yourself to be undisturbed by turning off communication devices near you.
  • Imagine being in a quiet, calming place of your choosing. It could be on a quiet beach, in the woods, sailing on a boat or any other place that generally makes you feel relaxed.
  • Hold that image and imagine experiencing the bliss of the moment, all the positive feelings that come being at that place.
  • The more realistic your imagination is, the more positive you will have.
  • When you feel comfortable and more relaxed, slowly get out of the visualized world and return to the real one.

Relaxation Technique 4: Inducing alpha and theta levels using audio programs

The human brain operates at different states of consciousness and attention. The different levels differentiate by the frequency of the brain waves, as can be seen on EEG (Electroencephalography1). These are called using letter of the greek alphabet. The general agreement regarding the brainwave patterns is as follows:

  • Beta – 14Hz and higher. Alert, active state of mind. Associated with thinking and being awake.
  • Alpha – 8 to 14Hz. Relaxed state of mind. Associated with daydreaming, general relaxation.
  • Theta – 4 to 8Hz. Deeper relaxed state. Light stages of sleep. Hypnosis. Meditation.
  • Delta – below 4Hz. Deep sleep. No conscious awareness.

The alpha state was discovered to be a very healthy state of mind as it is associated with relaxed brain activity. It is also used a platform for advanced mind control techniques such as meditation, Jose Silva Method, and similar.

It is possible to induce alpha brainwave activity using special audio recordings, utilizing binaural beats2 effect to directly affect the brain and bring it to work at the desired frequency. One such recording that gives good relaxation results is Immrama Institute’s Insight CD. It provides the benefits of binaural beats to reduce stress layered over the sound of falling rain, which by itself has a tranquilizing effect.

There are many other recordings available that utilize similar technology but some are said to be better than the other.

Relaxation Technique 5: Entering alpha state of mind by yourself

It is also possible to learn and enter the alpha state of mind by yourself, without the aid of special audio recordings. Of course, it requires some learning but has the benefit of allowing you better control over your brain. Jose Silva1 has dedicated his life to develop a technique to better utilize the human potential. His work is based on knowledge to enter and stay in the alpha state of mind. There are several ways to induce alpha state. Here’s one that works well for me:

  1. Sit comfortably or lie down, closing your eyes. Perform a number of deep breaths.
  2. Visualize the number 3 and say to yourself “Three” 3 times.
  3. Visualize the number 2 and say to yourself “Two” 3 times.
  4. Visualize the number 1 and say to yourself “One” 3 times.
  5. Visualize the number 10 and say “I’m relaxing”
  6. Visualize the number 9 and say “I’m calming down”
  7. Visualize the number 8 and say “I’m relaxing more and more”
  8. Visualize the number 7 and say “I’m calming down more and more”
  9. Visualize the number 6 and say “My consciousness is clear and tranquil”
  10. Visualize the number 5 and say “My whole body is relaxed”
  11. Visualize the number 4 and say “I’m so relaxed so that I can’t feel the weight of my body”
  12. Visualize the number 3 and say “I’m totally calm”
  13. Visualize the number 2 and say “I’m totally relaxed”
  14. Visualize the number 1 and say “I’m totally calm and totally relaxed. I’m at alpha.”

When you get to this point, you’ll be at alpha and should feel very relaxed. Note, that if you perform this while lying in bed and a bit tired, you can fall asleep even before your reach the end of this exercise. If you have trouble falling asleep, this is a good exercise to do every time you lie down and intend to sleep.

Other relaxation techniques to consider:

This post is part of ProBlogger.net group writing project

Footnotes:

1 Jacobson, E. (1938). Progressive relaxation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

2 Jacobson’s Progressive Muscle Relaxation

3 Electroencephalography

4 Binaural beats

5 Jose Silva

   

 

 

30 Comments

  1. This crap never works its sooooooooooooooooooooooo stupiddddddddddddddddd !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Hello
    Deep breathing is probably one of the most effective techniques for relaxation. Deep breathing is free and people can practice is almost everywhere. And it is proven that there is a positive effect in terms of stress reduction.

  3. Hi, i found your blog through googling. your blog give to us very good knowledge about Powerful Relaxation technique. and This blog gives very well impotence of wellness program
    and how we can improve our mind through easily Relation Exercise .

    Thank you,

  4. It is so Comfortable to do

  5. Great ideas for relaxation and there is nothing better than finding that perfect peace in your day even if it is only for 10 minutes.

  6. Hi,

    Thanks for these tips. I am physically disabled i use to sit on my Wheelchairs and work on my computer for the full day. This is really hectic for me. After reading your article i used techniques mentioned by you and now i feel relax when i go to bed.

  7. These are some of the top techniques. The best way to
    relax in some cases is not as easy as this though.

    Many people are stressed because there are deeper
    reasons beyond what meditation can fix.

    In many cases these strategies mask true reasons
    for stress because they temprarily relax people.

    Thanks,

    George

  8. I can relax with a lot of deep breathing but with this ringing in my ears from my work its hard to relax any other way but those are great tips.

  9. Great meditation techniques. I’ve tried a few of them and I’ve really enjoyed the relaxation that surrounded me. Thanks for all of the help.

  10. There are more meditation techniques, and links at the ezy-build website, on page 2, but I will certainly be adding a reference to yours. Thanks, Shan.

    • Sadly, Ezybuild sunk without trace. Check out Yoga Nidra (actually a meditative technique; a series of easy mental exercises, only; no bodily flexibility is required) at
      http://your-mental-health.weebly.com/l.html Also worth trying is the Tibetan Marching Meditation. Mantra (word/phrase repetition) is on page B. I have noticed that using the EMDR variant beforehand, in the post about insomnia, on page 1, reduces distractions to the meditative process

  11. Very nice! I am the writer of “Top 5 things to do in Istanbul” This was my first group activity, but i liked it very much.

    http://meeting-continents.blogspot.com/2007/05/top-5-things-to-do-in-istanbul.html

    Have you ever been to Istanbul which links east to west, and west to east like a weblink. Istanbul played such a critical role in the world politics and culture throughout the history.

    Now i have a dream i would like to share with you and Darren Rowse. All the Probloggers should meet at Istanbul and join the 29th edition of the Eurasia Marathon on Sunday 28th of October, 2007.

    Let’s meet where the continents meet : As the Istanbul Eurasia Marathon starts from the Anatolian side while taking the runners to the most beautiful spots of town, signing its name under a touristic attraction as well. The Bosphorus is one of the most beautiful spots on the world and as you run through it, history of the centuries run with you on the streets.

    I joined the 28th Intercontinental Istanbul EurAsia Marathon on 5th of November, 2006 together with my friends, Joe and Suat San. We enjoyed the wonderful Bosphorus, and beautiful streets of Istanbul on a cold but sunny Sunday morning. The slogan for last year’s marathon was “let’s run for a non-smoking world”.

    this was my blog post for last year’s marathon:

    http://meeting-continents.blogspot.com/2006/12/intercontinental-eurasia-marathon.html

    I would be happy to invite you to the 29th Intercontinental Istanbul Eurasia Marathon, the only marathon to run between two continents – Europe and Asia. Istanbul is one of the oldest settlements on the world. What about participating in the 29th EurAsia Marathon in 2007 which takes place in the most beautiful places of a wonderful city that has been the capital of three empires ?

    You may find details about the marathon here:

    http://www.istanbulmarathon.org/english/main.asp

    Please let me know if you are interested.

    Have a nice day!

    Mert

  12. Hi Jacob, these are great. I have taught 3 of these techniques for years and find them to be very helpful. Thanks for these reminders. I think they are a great addition to the Top 5 list.

    Check out my blog about life, passion. purpose and consciousness at http://www.explorelifeblog.com

  13. Don’t know about alphas or delta or anything like that. I am into the Martial Arts though so I use deep breathing techniques quite a bit whenever I’m performing forms.

    Anyway, I’m also in the big Top 5 list. Check me out if you have a chance. If not then keep up the good work. I like the site!

  14. Wow! I feel more relaxed just by reading this. Great suggestions…

  15. Visiting from problogger

    That was a fantastically comprehensive list! Your blog is a great read.

  16. Hey

    Nice top five.

    I will be trying numbers 1 and 2 as I continue to surf. Very nice stuff. I’ll be marking your site to come back and read some more soon

    Tom

  17. Great tips. I also found you from Problogger. I’ll probably link to this post on my blog, as I am always encouraging my readers to relax.

  18. What an informative read. I really find the visualization technique works best for me.

    Ian
    My Top 5 Inspirational Quotes

  19. Great suggestions. Found you through the Problogger project and I’ve just bookmarked the post for future reference.

    Thanks!

    btw, here’s the link to my entry in the Group Writing Project, if you’re interested.

  20. Very useful techniques. I have to practice them myself.

  21. Very nice! I also came in from ProBlogger and found that your post could be quite handy right now. I´m expecting a baby any day now and your relaxation techniques are just what I need. Thanks for doing your Top 5 post on this!

  22. hi jacob,

    wow i can’t believe i actually spent 20 minutes to read one article. good read bro, good insights.

    i’m also part of the problogger project and i found you from there as well. anyway, maybe u want to check mine out too! :)

    http://robinsongo.com/2007/05/08/top-5-tips-to-be-the-next-darren-rowse/

  23. Oh my. It takes a lot of work to relax! Perhaps that’s why I’m always tense…. ;)

  24. I too found you from ProBlogger’s Group Project. I really like number 4. That’s something I didn’t know. While it’s very “scientific” you’ve explained it very clearly. Thanks for sharing these tips!

  25. Hi Jacob,

    I found your post on the Problogger group writing project list. Your post is the first I have ever seen on a blog that uses footnotes. Very, very nice. :)

    These are all very good techniques for relaxation. I own a set of tapes that alter your brain waves while you listen. You have reminded me of them as I haven’t used them in awhile. I’ll be getting them back out, thanks!

    All the best,

    JoLynn

    • I agree, good use of footnotes. It’s always useful to track down the original source of ideas.

      Also, great job on the post, and on being brave enough to make one post of what on most blogs would be five seperate ones or more.

    • Great list! If you like lists like this one – check out http://www.listafterlist.com/

      It is a great place for YOU to find and create lists about anything and everything.

      You can create a list just like this one at ListAfterList.com.

    • Brain Flex v2 is AWESOME! To enhance its effects, I HIGHLY recommend listening to it with the “Virtual Light & Sound Machine” FREEWARE. This fully-functional, “one-of-a-kind” software is based upon an older program that was originally designed to entrain brainwaves with flickering lights. This entrainment is totally different from and complementary to binaural beats.

      Simply choose the settings you want, sit in front of your monitor, and close your eyes. The software then pulses your computer monitor so that you see the flickering behind your closed eyelids. This meditation enhancer was recently given new life, by a computer programmer, with whom I had recently consulted. The freeware now allows the previously out-dated program to function within our modern Windows environment. offers a surprisingly effective, and seemingly effortless, feeling of DEEP HYPNOTIC RELAXATION, within only a few minutes. The effect appears very similar to the experience of using actual Light & Sound Machine goggles.

      Download your free copy at: http://www.tucows.com/preview/509052

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