Learning to Relax (3)

Relaxing doesn’t always mean taking an hour to go through a full yoga relaxation routine. Taking time out can also be as simple as stopping everything for three to five minutes and focusing on the outside world. Making a habit of taking short breaks in your daily routine can do wonders for your overall mental health and productivity. Try it!

The pressures of work or raising a family can often build insidiously until we discover we are reacting in ways we do not like or feel unhappy about. So it is important to take steps to let off small “heads of steam” before we find ourselves going off like a firecracker.

It can be difficult to tune out from our problems at times: we notice our hearts are racing after a heated argument with a colleague, we feel overwhelmed after a difficult morning with the children. We naturally focus inwards on these feelings, and worse, we focus inwards on our negative thoughts. This results is even more stress.

Making a habit of taking regular three-to-five minute breaks during the day can help head off bigger health issues further down the track. So, how best to let go of our daily molehills before they become mountains? One of the best methods is to use nature to help us relax.

Research has shown that children who are regularly taken out of city areas for a day in the countryside have lower levels of stress hormones and aggression, and have greater powers of concentration, higher school grades, and generally feel more positive about themselves. Clearly nature has a very calming effect upon the human body and so we, too, can use this information to help ourselves to relax.

Finding three to five minutes to leave the office is possible for most people, but often outside the office can be as noisy and stressful as inside. If you cannot access a park nearby, you may have to bring nature to your office. Collect interesting leaves, nuts, flowers, pebbles: any natural object that you finding pleasing to look at or touch, and keep them on hand when you need to chill out at work.

For working mums at home, use the same technique. If you have a garden, wander out in it for the allotted time. If you have no garden, make a similar collection of natural objects that appeal to you and keep them in a special container where they are easily accessed.

When it comes time for your “relaxation break” try to let go of what is bothering you for these three to five minutes. Focus away from your bodily feelings and thoughts and carefully examine the leaf or the stone or the flower in your hand. Notice the intricate veining in the leaf, see the differing colors in the flower, feel the smoothness or roughness of the stone in your hand. Imagine that you must describe the object to a blind friend: this will help your powers of observation and concentration. If intrusive thoughts come, simply tell yourself that this is your “relaxation break” and you will deal with those thoughts later. Continue with your investigation of your object.

Regular daily practice of this technique will, over time, produce an enormous impact on your overall wellbeing. Nature is a miraculous healer: it reminds us of the bigger picture, allows us to expand our view of the world, yet permits us to marvel at the simple complexity of the earth on which we live in. It helps us to remember who we are, and what is important in our lives. In doing so, it helps us to find our place in the world, and immensely improve the quality of our lives. All this, in just three to five minutes per day!

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