You can learn to relax

You’ve worked all day, come home tired, you plop on the couch and you fall asleep. When you lie in bed at night, you cannot sleep because you are tense and thinking about everything and anything.

Recognizable? Then you’re probably telling yourself to relax, but no matter how hard you try, you just can’t.

Your friends, your partner, your colleagues or even your doctor advise you to relax. Only that’s easier said than done.

Relax, how the hell do you do that?

Should you exercise, watch TV, read a book? Or are there better techniques that actually work? Maybe you are afraid to relax? You may think that if you relax and don’t worry, you’ll get less done.

If you discuss it with colleagues or your boss, you think that the subject of relaxing might leave you vulnerable. How many times do you hear people say at work that a little stress is healthy? I can tell you, and I speak from experience, a little adrenaline to meet a deadline can’t hurt, but persistent stress is not healthy, believe me!

When you are relaxed you perform much better, you can think much more clearly and your brain is much more creative. Relaxation is a natural skill that anyone can learn, although it is not self-evident. You have to learn to relax and you can also learn. Once you have mastered some techniques, you will notice that relaxing is beneficial. You will even be able to relax quickly at the slightest stress or tension and then calmly resume your tasks.

There are some important ways to achieve mental relaxation such as abdominal breathing, sensory fixation, concentration and meditation. Does that seem too complicated to you, or does it scare you? Don’t worry, we guide you step by step in your search for the technology that suits you best.

Get started with your relaxation moment every day and you will soon experience its positive effect. You will be able to relax faster and more deeply, your thoughts will run wild less, you will be able to concentrate better and your brain will be much more creative.

Abdominal breathing

The autonomic nervous system controls almost all unconscious functions in your body, such as your breathing, your heart rate, your blood pressure, energy production, digestion and metabolism. You don’t have to think about those kinds of functions. Breathing is the only bodily response of the autonomic nervous system that can be consciously influenced.

The one caught in a dormant flight or fight response will inhale and exhale rapidly, twenty to thirty times per minute. In a relaxed state, the breathing may decrease between six and twelve calm, quiet, and fluid breaths.

Chest breathing is typical of a flight or fight response. This means that the rib cage expands when you inhale and contracts when you exhale. Chest breathing will not only maintain the flight or fight response but also increase it, creating and sustaining tension.

Abdominal breathing, on the other hand, is associated with a relaxation response. In this form of breathing, the abdomen expands when you inhale, and then contracts when you exhale. The diaphragm (which is a flat muscle under the lungs) rises as you exhale and pushes the air out of the lungs. As you inhale, the diaphragm contracts downwards toward the abdomen, allowing the lungs to expand and allow air to flow into them.

Abdominal breathing is extremely efficient and can provide peace, relaxation and calm. It is the most direct technique for reducing autonomous tension.

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Sensory fixation

When we are relaxed, we are fully aware of sounds, smells and everything going on around us. We use our perceptive powers to direct our thoughts to the present and relax.

Imagine your next situation: you drive by car or bicycle through the beautiful nature and you see a spectacular landscape or sunset. You focus on these sensory stimuli and you instantly forget your worries. Worries and problems give way to feelings of joy. A beautiful piece of music can have the same effect.

Unfortunately, such experiences are the exception. Usually we look at that nature, that sunset, but we don’t see the splendor of it. You cannot grasp the content of the music because your mind is drowned out by an incessant stream of thoughts. Each time your perception had the opportunity to be aware of the present, but the influence of the tense mind was stronger. You don’t enjoy the beautiful things around you because you are tense or stressed.

Yet we can learn to use the power of perception to direct our consciousness to the present. We can look for a beautiful view, a sound, or a daily activity that we focus on in order to guide consciousness into the present.

The point is that you should not make judgments about what you hear or see. When we open up to sensory impressions, we bring our awareness to the present, slow our breathing, and relax the muscles of your face, neck and shoulders. Our emotions calm down.

Do you recognize this situation? Do you have a hard time concentrating or relaxing? Then now is the time to learn to relax and enjoy yourself. Are you ready to get started?

A good exercise for sensory fixation is the ‘sound circle’. You can do this exercise anywhere, indoors or outdoors. You can do it in a quiet place, or in a noisy environment. It’s up to you to choose your favorite spot.

When you regularly practice sensory fixation with the sound circle, you will notice that you will become more attentive to what is happening around you.

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Concentration is the process of directing your attention to a single subject. As you practice concentration, your thoughts are focused on a single thing, not flying from one place to another. Just as a confused and distracted mind indicates tension, a concentrated and centered mind is a sign of relaxation.

The idea that concentration leads to relaxation can be surprising. When we think of concentration, we usually think of exertion, work or studying. In reality, it takes more mental energy to dart from one thought to another than focusing on one subject at a time.

When we get into the habit of jumping from scratch in our minds, it can take some practice and effort to maintain concentration. You will have to take small steps and especially not force them, because that only leads to even more mental tension.

We guide you step by step in your concentration exercise. Let’s get started.

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There are many misunderstandings about meditation and that is why it scares many people. We often imagine mystical practices or Tibetan monks lost in thought for hours on end. But that’s not the case at all. Meditation can be practiced by anyone.

Research has shown that people who meditate regularly start to feel better spiritually. People who meditate regularly develop stronger self-esteem, have less anxiety and depression, and generally enjoy better health.

But what is meditation?

Meditation is a conscious effort to focus the mind in a non-analytical way, not to think about things.

It is no more than ‘an uninterrupted stream of thought, directed towards an object of concentration’. The object of meditation can be a word, an image, or simply your breath.

Once you have chosen your object of meditation, begin to focus on that object. As your concentration deepens, your thoughts flow to that object in a ceaseless stream. When you get even deeper into meditation, your thoughts are completely absorbed in that object.

During meditation, the thought process comes to a complete standstill. The stream of thoughts stops and comes to rest. When your thoughts become active again after the meditation, they are refreshed and energized.

Meditation is the best method for relaxing your mind and guarding against runaway thoughts or stress.

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Possible obstacles

Meditation seems simple but make no mistake, it is not. We can be easily distracted. It took me weeks to calm my mind without being distracted.

One of the difficulties and obstacles is the tendency to want to achieve results as quickly as possible. When you force yourself to concentrate, it actually leads to tension. Start slowly, without forcing.

All you need to do when meditating is to bring your thoughts to a standstill. When you succeed, the nervous system comes into balance and you come to complete rest. This form of relaxation is much deeper and not at all the same as resting in the sofa or watching TV in a relaxed manner.

When you are distracted by external factors such as noises, smells, aches or memories, identify without a shred of emotion where the disturbing element is. Don’t judge it, give it a place and let your consciousness return to the object of your meditation. In most cases, the interfering factors disappear on their own.

Keep practicing and don't get discouraged if you don't succeed immediately. Practice makes perfect 🙂 Good luck in your quest for a relaxed mind.
Carine Sermon

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