From more laughter and hugs to being present and having a clear out, make these simple seven steps part of your daily life and you’ll be well on your way to channelling inner calm.
1. Just breathe
When we become aware of our breath, we discover the peace of the present moment no matter how frazzled we’re feeling. All too often we don’t even realise we’re shallow breathing, so we’re reducing our intake of oxygenated air which can leave us feeling exasperated and anxious without knowing why. Simple, yet powerful, deep breathing techniques give an instant calming effect, regulating oxygen and carbon dioxide in a flash while slowing our heart rate and lowering blood pressure.
Practice this 4-7-8 technique for fast relaxation:
- 1. Exhale completely through your mouth.
- 2. Close your mouth and breathe in quietly through your nose to a count of four.
- 3. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- 4. Release your breath to a count of 8.
- 5. Now breathe in again and repeat the cycle three more times.
2. Laugh more
Whether it’s giggles galore with a best friend or watching a funny movie, laughter really is one of the best (and let’s face it, most enjoyable!) medicines for relaxing. Not only does it boost our mood thanks to our brains releasing heaps of happy-making endorphins, it also ups our intake of feel-good oxygen and boosts our hearts, lungs and muscles, easing physical symptoms of stress in a jiffy.
3. Hug it out
Apart from making us feel connected, loved and smiley on the inside, in just one hug we release an abundance of feel-good stress-relieving hormones, causing an instant decrease in our heart rates and a drop in stress-triggered cortisol. Hugs have even been shown to ward off colds and flue!
4. Declutter your life, declutter your mind
To feel relaxed often what we need is less, not more. By decluttering our lives we can declutter our minds and simplify each day with a genuine sense of peace. In her New York Times bestseller – The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo chimes the benefits of having a clear out – however instead of discarding unwanted items, Kondo recommends keeping items that “spark joy”. Try it and feel the relief!
See Kondo’s video here
5. Pick up a page turner
Book worms rejoice, just six minutes of reading can reduce your stress levels by more than two thirds, according to research at the University of Sussex. Not only does it give your mind a break by escaping to an imaginary place, it slows down your heart rate and eases tension in your muscles.
For the ultimate relaxation experience, sink into a warm bath, immerse yourself in the blissfully-scented vapours of essential oils and bath salts and indulge in that un-put-downable novel… bliss!
6. Get moving
Exercise boosts endorphins, reduces stress and anxiety and aids sleep… need we go on? So whether it’s an invigorating windswept walk, a jog around the park on your lunchbreak, or a sundown yoga class, make time for it, do it and you’ll reap the relaxation rewards.
7. Master mindfulness
A constant buzz-word at the moment in the press, but for good reason… even science says so. While Buddha told us this centuries ago, the benefits of mindfulness have now been backed up by nearly three decades of global neuroscience research — it’s been proven to significantly reduce stress, aid a range of medical conditions and boost our enjoyment of life. From swapping screen time for serene time and learning the art of meditation, to getting out in nature and paying attention to your surroundings, mindfulness can be built into our daily lives easily with profound results.
For a few mindful moments, try this little exercise:
- 1. Stop what you’re doing and set a timer for three minutes
- 2. Pay attention to your breathing, without trying to change it
- 3. Focus each of your senses in turn while staying in touch with the breath – what can you hear? What can you feel (focus on what you can feel on your skin and where you feel contact with the floor or chair)?. What can you see? What can you taste?
- 4. When thoughts arise, acknowledge them and return your attention to your senses and breath.
Listen to Mindfulness Expert and Founder of the Headspace App, Andy Puddicombe’s Ted Talk, All it Takes is 10 Mindful Minutes3