This list is a recipe of science, personal preference, and common sense. Make the time to take care of your health, or you will spend the time trying to regain it. There is no doubt there is a mind body connection. Sometimes you can relax the mind to relax the body. Other times you can relax the body to relax the mind. Below are methods for both; Activate the Body to Relax the Mind, or Activate the Mind to Relax the Body.
One of everyone’s favorite ways to relax is getting a massage. A study showed getting a thirty minute massage daily helps with sleep. Massage is good for sore muscles and overused muscles. Tactile touch, deep touch, compression, stretching, movement, and heat are all sensations that are important to fine tune our body throughout and when activated those sensations override the pain.
TIP: Foam Rollers, tennis balls, and trigger point kits are all great self massage tools if you want to work on your aches and pains at home.
2) Sensory Deprivation
80% of our nervous system is sensory information. Each day we’re bombarded with sights, sounds, tastes, and smells that can push that system to the max. Sensory deprivation clinics are a way of turning down (or off) the volume and feature large saltwater tanks that you float in. While in the tank, which look like large pods, there is no sense of hot or cold, weight, noise or light (you dictate how much or little). Some call it sensory deprivation, I call it a neurological reset button. After an hour long treatment floating in a tank with water set at your body temp, you will literally feel like you‘re floating on clouds. The positive effects of salt on the skin is a secondary benefit.
TIP: Water is therapeutic. If sensory deprivation is not your cup of tea, consider a dip in the ocean, relaxing in a jacuzzi, or floating in a pool to take some pressure off of the joints and reset the body.
3) Guided Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This is a great way to relax after work, during work or post workout! It takes about 5-7 minutes, and can be done most places. Do it in your office, in the car, on the floor, or in bed. I wrote an entire step by step article that you can read here.
Click here for free podcasts on guided relaxation – iTunes.
4) Gratitude Walk
Jon Gordon of the Positive Energy Addict developed one of my favorite tools for relieving stress – the gratitude walk. Take a 5-10 minute walk daily and focus on the little things for which you are grateful, but maybe take for granted; like the ability to walk, the gift of sight, and ability to hear and appreciate music etc. I promise you that you will feel more relaxed, energetic, and positive. Make it a daily routine (like brushing your teeth) for improving your attitude and stress levels.
TIP: Write it down in your calendar! I find the best times to do it are Monday mornings, lunch time (recharge & reset your mind-frame for the day), after doing bills, or after work before coming home.
5) Reset your Pineal Gland (Sun Up and Sun Down Challenge)
LCD and plasma TV’s, laptops and PCs, smartphones and iPads – Our electronic devices emit and expose us to bright light throughout the day. Our pineal gland is one of the more ancient structures in our nervous system which helps regulate sleep using hormones such as melatonin to cycle our sleeping patterns. “Light” stimulates and inhibits this gland, which then sets in motion our sleeping/waking pattern. Lack of sleep is a huge stressor that effects many Americans.
TIP: Limit your electronic device usage to 2-3 hours before bedtime. Read an actual book, listen to music or audiobook, or take a gratitude walk.
TRY: Sun Up and Sun Down Challenge. Try waking up and watching the sun come up, then take time out of your day to watch the sun go down. Do that 3 days in a row and limit your artificial light stimuli during the challenge.
6) Vagus Baby! Vagus! Exercising the Vagus Nerve
The Vagus nerve is a cranial nerve responsible for 3 major things; swallowing and activation of your deep voice vocal chords, taste..mostly bitter, and activating or inhibiting your flight-or-fight (sympathetic) nervous system or rest-and-digest (parasympathetic) system. So when we are “amped” up in that flight-or-fight state from work deadlines, road rage, screaming kids, alarming news and internet headlines, we experience an increase in blood pressure, decrease in digestion, suppression of our immune system, and decreased memory. When the Vagus nerve is inhibited, we are not in a state of healing, repair, digestion, or growth.
TIP: Resetting the Vagus nerve is easy. Drink through a straw! The more you have to gulp, the better (smoothies, soups, yogurts). Chant. Why do you think monks and indigenous tribes do it? Sing! Either in your car or in the shower (Karaoke..not so much). Exhale! Take a deep breath in and a loud vocal exhale out.
7) Get Goofy!
Stuck in traffic, waiting in line, or surviving a long staff meeting? Imagine your life as a cartoon. My best friend Micah called me laughing hysterically one day. When I asked him what was so funny he said he had been stuck in traffic. Instead of banging on his steering wheel and cursing his predicament, he simply started imagining the people around him were characters in a Simpsons episode. Exaggerating their expressions, mannerisms, and appearance as if they were cartoons instantly changed his mood. It’s the same thing kids do when they play make believe and when was the last time you saw a grumpy kid? By changing the lens through which we view our world, as goofy as it may be, we have the power to turn an unpleasant scenario into an entertaining and humorous experience.
TIP: Want to see yourself as a Simpsons cartoon? Click here – www.simpsonizeme.com.
8) Hiking or Walking
Movement drives the nervous system. Relaxation isn’t always in the form of lounging in a spa like setting. I prefer slow long bouts of exercise (55-75% of heart rate) in the form of walking or hiking in nature. Burn away the stress and muscle tension by movement. Many times you can quiet the to-do list and details or even problem solve by exercising. BDNF (neuro-transmitter) is like a neuron fertilizer and your brain is flooded with it when you do cardiovascular exercises. Why do babies need to be rocked, kids need a recess at school, and YOU need to exercise? Because movement puts the brain and body into homeostasis (well being).