Relaxation refers to the state of body and mind that is free from tension, stress and anxiety. It can be gained in a variety of ways. For example, you could have a long soak in the bath, listen to music or go out for a walk. But for some, specific types of relaxation therapy are preferred.
Relaxation techniques are popular among many for reducing worry. They help people to gain control and a sense of mindfulness. These are a set of exercises designed to help slow down your breathing and heart rate. The relaxation exercises lessen blood pressure and muscle tension.
Others however, will find complementary therapies such as hypnotherapy to be more effective.
On this page we will explore a number of relaxation techniques and discover what relaxation therapy is. We will also look into a number of relaxation exercises and how hypnotherapy can help.
On this page
Relaxation for stress relief
Many studies have explored the benefits of relaxation therapy and various relaxation techniques in combatting long-term stress. This is mainly because of the constant demands of our work, family and social life affecting our stress levels on a major scale.
Relaxation is thought to be key to maintaining a healthy body and mind. A great deal of research from around the world has studied the relationship between stress and health. Results show how stress not only affects our mood but can also lead to health implications. This includes digestive problems, bowel conditions and high blood pressure. It is also thought to lower our immunity and slow our body’s recovery from major traumas.
Daily relaxation techniques for stress relief are thought to effectively restore a sense of harmony to the mind and body. This is with the aim to help your emotional and physical well-being to quickly recover from everyday tension and stress.
Healthy living is a matter of balance. Relaxation can play a key part of the balancing process, alongside what we eat, how much physical activity we do, and how we handle stress.
Relaxation techniques tend to follow behavioural therapeutic approaches. But they all tend to differ widely in practice, philosophy and methodology. Many aim to achieve a state of non-directed relaxation. They refrain from trying to control the content of the mind. Instead they work to cultivate the ability to tolerate its spontaneous wandering without getting involved.
There is no single relaxation technique that is best for everyone. The choice of practice should depend on your specific needs, preferences, fitness level and the way you respond to stress. You will know if you have chosen the right relaxation technique for stress relief, as it will fit in with your lifestyle, and will help your mind to focus and reduce everyday tension.
Here is a guide to some popular forms of relaxation techniques:
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Dr Edmund Jacobson developed this relaxation technique back in the early 1900s. Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a two-step process that involves tensing and then relaxing specific muscle groups. With regular practise, Progressive Muscle Relaxation is thought to provide an intimate familiarity with what tension – as well as relaxation – feels like in different parts of the body. This awareness is considered beneficial for spotting and fighting the first signs of muscular tension.
Deep breathing relaxation
Heavy and fast breathing is a symptom of the ‘flight or fight’ response that can lead to heightened anxiety levels. Deep breathing techniques are considered beneficial for helping to control this reaction. By concentrating on your breathing, the body can relax and get back into synchrony. For this reason, deep breathing is an important part of yoga and martial arts due to its relaxing effects.
Autogenic means self-regulation or self-generation. This technique involves the use of only your mind and motivation to tackle stress. The repetition of words or phrases in the mind is thought to help stimulate physical sensations. It also helps to slow breathing and heart rate.
There are a number of different types of meditation. Yet all practices involve techniques to encourage and develop concentration, emotional positivity and relief from stress. Meditation helps you to learn the patterns and habits of your mind. This can lead to the cultivation of new, more positive ways of being.
Transcendental meditation is considered the simplest type of meditation. It involves the repetition of a single word or phrase (mantra). This allows the mind to naturally and effortlessly transcend thinking and to experience a state of restfully alert consciousness.
Mindfulness meditation is a research-based type of meditation which originated from Buddhism. It’s designed to develop the skill of focusing on our inner and outer experiences with acceptance, understanding and patience. This type of meditation involves concentrating on thoughts and sensations of the mind and body. It’s often taught in stress-reduction programmes.
Visualisation or guided imagery is a variation of traditional meditation that involves the use of visual sense, taste, touch, sound and smell to achieve the relaxation response. This relaxation technique requires you to imagine a scene in which you feel at peace.
Other common relaxation techniques include:
- tai chi
Relaxation exercises and advice
If you are stressed, unhappy or need to calm down, you might find it helpful to train your mind to relax. You can try a number of relaxation exercises until you find one that really works for you. When you find one that’s helpful, practise it on a regular basis. Over time, these relaxation exercises will help you calm down more quickly and easily.
Here are a number of relaxation exercises and pieces of advice you can implement into your daily life:
Drink plenty of water
Drinking lots of water will keep your body hydrated and help to flush out toxins. This will help keep your mind focused. Drinking water can help with other relaxation exercises too.
Try foods that help you relax
Eating certain foods which help to lower hormone levels that are linked to anxiety, and foods which raise the hormones that create peace and happiness, can help.
- Foods rich in selenium can help lower depression and anxiety. These include shiitake mushrooms, nuts (particularly Brazil nuts), salmon, cod and tuna.
- Try foods that have a high magnesium content. These include pumpkin seeds, halibut and spinach.
- Foods with a high tryptophan content helps produce serotonin, which increases happiness. Such foods include nuts, red meat and dark chocolate.
As you exercise, your body will release endorphins. These endorphins will create a feeling of happiness. After a stress-filled day, try to do a bit of exercise to lighten your mood.
- Find a place that’s quiet or that allows you to be alone for a while.
- Try to do repetitive exercises like swimming or running.
Listen to calming music
Even though you might enjoy listening to rap or hard rock, try some slow, soothing music to help relax your mind.
- Avoid loud vocals or heavy instruments, as they will make it harder for you to relax. Sometimes instrumental music is best.
- You could also try listening to various nature sounds such as those from the ocean or a forest.
Spend time with animals
As a relaxation exercise, this can be the most enjoyable. Many studies have shown that being with animals can lower blood pressure and reduce stress.
- If you don’t have a pet yourself, visit a friend who does or go to a petting zoo.
For some, relaxation techniques are not enough to reach a state of emotional and physical calm. Certain therapies are considered an effective alternative as they produce states of deep relaxation. It can help those who have ongoing issues with stress and anxiety.
Hypnotherapy for relaxation
Hypnotherapy is a recognised form of relaxation therapy. It can reduce ‘stress chemicals’ and bring the body back to balance. Regular sessions ease built up pressure and tension, helping you to learn how to look after yourself better.
The hypnotic trance is the induction of a deeply relaxed state. The mind is guided away from the troubles of everyday life and into a place of tranquillity and peace. During this process, the hypnotist may offer therapeutic suggestions to encourage changes in attitude and behaviour, or relief from stress-related symptoms. This relaxation therapy is comfortable, safe and considered to be a highly liberating experience. It’s beneficial for both the mind and body.
The key benefits thought to arise from this type of deep relaxation are:
- helping to restore and strengthen the immune system
- lowering of blood pressure
- stress relief and the lessening of chronic pain, tension headaches, back pain and migraines
- diminishing any emotional upsets and unlocking emotional blockages that can contribute to stress
- aiding concentration ability
- improving energy levels
- aiding sleep.
Often, hypnotherapists will send patients away with post-hypnotic suggestions that allow them to induce self-hypnosis after the treatment course is completed. This will encourage them to keep on top of their stress levels. It can also act as a tool to help them cope with the problems of everyday living in the future. Self-hypnosis is essentially an extension of hypnosis. It provides a source of regular relaxation that is simple to carry out with a range of positive effects on emotional and physical well-being.
During your hypnotherapy sessions, your hypnotherapist may teach you self-hypnosis to use at home. Self-hypnosis can be one of the best relaxation exercises to implement. Before you attempt it, you should let others know that you do not want to be disturbed.
Here are 12 steps you can take to employ self-hypnosis for relaxation:
- Try to clear your mind to feel totally relaxed. Refer to our relaxation techniques and exercises if you are having any trouble.
- Find an object to focus on. This object should ideally be just above your eyeline (possibly on the wall or ceiling).
- Focus on the object to fully release all other thoughts from your mind.
- Think about your eyelids slowly closing, becoming far too heavy to keep open. Breathe evenly and deeply as you eyes begin to close.
- Tell yourself that as you breathe out, you will feel more relaxed. Try to slow your breathing to become more and more relaxed after every breath.
- Visualise a sideways or up and down movement of an object. Watch it sway in your mind’s eye.
- Slowly count down from ten and say ‘I am relaxing’ after each number.
- Believe that when you reach zero, you will enter your hypnotic state.
- When you reach a hypnotic state, focus on your positive messages. Repeat them in your thoughts, staying focused and relaxed.
- Clear your mind and relax once more before you leave the hypnotic state.
- Slowly (but increasing in speed) count up to 10. This reverses the process you used to get into the hypnotic state. After each number you can repeat a positive statement such as ‘I will get a good night’s sleep tonight’.
- When you finish counting, you will return awake and refreshed.
Do you need relaxation therapy?
Stress affects us all in different ways, and many of us don’t even realise how stressed we actually are. This is because we often become accustomed to being tense, almost without knowing. Gradually we become used to the sensations of living in a tense state and just think of it as normal.
So while you may not think you’re overly stressed, it is important to watch for the signs and stay mindful about relaxation therapy and relaxation techniques for stress relief.
See below for some signs that may help you to spot excessive levels of tension:
- tense muscles
- waking up tired
- difficulty sleeping
- grinding your teeth
- aches and pains
- persistent tiredness or exhaustion
- heart racing
- sense of rush, panic or lack of time
- growing number of minor ailments such as headaches or stomach upsets
- ‘stomach in knots’ sensation
- loss of appetite
- difficulty thinking straight or concentrating.
As discussed before, some people will benefit more from therapies such as hypnotherapy. Others may prefer solo relaxation techniques such as meditation or Progressive Muscle Relaxation. Hypnotherapy provides a confidential and comfortable setting in which your mind and body can be safely filtered of tension and stress, easing you into a relaxing state of mind.
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