A wonderful way to relax your mind and shut down your inner critic - meditation is especially good if you are under a lot of stress. Research has shown that meditation can help to lower your heart rate and blood pressure, even improving cognitive performance.
It's also pretty simple to do: just find a comfortable place, close your eyes, relax your muscles, and focus on one thing, whether it's your breathing, an object (a flower, or a painting)—or even a picture in your mind—perhaps you are sitting on a beach in the Caribbean. You can do this for as little as 10 minutes to experience benefits. The key is staying focused and not letting any distractions or thoughts enter your mind—being mindful is key. If you have a bit more time, take a Yoga or Tai Chi class!
Famous for being incredibly soothing - green tea contains theanine, an amino acid that gives flavour to the tea and also promotes relaxation. Theanine is also a caffeine antagonist, meaning it counters the stimulating effects of caffeine. So, drink green tea, and avoid caffeinated beverages, since caffeine can worsen the stress response.
We all know the feeling when we are craving indulgent carbohydrates like cookies, ice cream, pretzels, and other sweet and starchy foods when we're stressed, anxious, or tense. These foods can have a soothing effect, and it may have something to do with low serotonin levels during these mood states. Serotonin is a brain chemical responsible for feelings of calmness and relaxation. It's thought that consuming these carbohydrates helps boost serotonin levels, which results in feelings of contentedness and relaxation. So, enjoy these treats if they provide some instant satisfaction, but ensure to watch your portion sizes very carefully!
Plenty of spas around the world have relaxation rooms to sit in before and after treatments, and it's a great thing to create at home too. A relaxation room doesn't have to be a "room" per se - it can be a space in your bedroom, for example, but the key is having an area or room at home, solely devoted to getting into a relaxed state of mind. You can have a really comfortable chair or daybed, with pretty fairy lights, lamps or candles nearby - whatever it is that you enjoy and find relaxing. This will give you an opportunity to decompress, with very little stimulus - which is the key. Forget the smartphone and laptop - this is a time to kick back and relax. You might want to read a book or magazine, but the idea is to clear your mind of distractions.
Listening to soothing music can slow down breathing and heart rate, lower blood pressure, and relax tense muscles too. This can be particularly beneficial when you're getting ready for a tough day at work, or if you're in your car stuck in traffic, or, if you're lying in bed trying to free your mind of stressful thoughts.
Getting a professional massage is a great way to free yourself of tension and relax, and adding aromatherapy oils such as chamomile or lavender can be particularly beneficial. If you don't have a lot of spare time, you can get aromatherapy oils and massage tools to use at home.
Taking a long hot bath can be soothing for the mind as well as being good for your muscles. Stock up on your favorite bath salts and soaps, get a bath pillow, put on some relaxing music and decorate the room with candles. You can even create an in-home spa, by incorporating spa treatments like facials.
Research shows that just 20 minutes of exercise per day is enough to experience health and wellness benefits. Exercise helps to boost endorphins and reduce stress, hence why you should make exercising a priority in your daily life to help you relax.
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