It’s no secret that relaxation can lead to better health. But how can you make the most of it and get the most mileage out of your relaxation time? Harvard researchers recently found that ‘disease fighting genes’ were far more active in long-term practitioners of relaxation methods than in those who had no relaxation practice. The good news for those who didn’t have genes that were actively fighting disease was that the genes in fact could be turned ‘on’ and could help fight things such as pain response from arthritis, infertility and high blood pressure. When the researchers asked the control group with no relaxation practice to begin actively pursuing one, over a period of months their bodies began to change and the genes became active. The researchers suggest their work was groundbreaking because it demonstrated how the mind affects the body over time.
Take a deep breath… How to relax deeply
So how can you access relaxation’s healing powers? Harvard researchers found that yoga, meditation and even repetitive prayer and mantras all induced the relaxation effect. The more regularly these techniques are practiced, the more deeply rooted the benefits will be. Have a go at one or more of the following for 15 minutes once or twice a day.
Starting with your head and working down to your arms and feet, notice how you feel in your body. Taking in your head and neck, simply notice if you feel tense, relaxed, calm or anxious. See how much you can spread any sensations of softness and relaxation to areas of your body that feel tense. Once your reach your feet, work back up your body.
Sitting comfortably, become aware of your breath, following the sensation of inhaling from your nose down to your abdomen and out again. As you follow your breath, notice your whole body and let tension go with each exhalation. Whenever you notice your mind wandering, come back to your breath.
The relaxation response can be evoked by sitting quietly with eyes closed for 15 minutes twice a day, and mentally repeating a simple word or sound such as ‘Om’.
Guided imagery Imagine the most wonderfully relaxing light, or a soothing waterfall washing away any tension or worries from your body and mind. Make your image as vivid as possible, imagining the texture, colour and any fragrance as the image washes over or through you.
Enjoy! And remember to relax your way to better health!
- Calm Your Nerves With Relaxation Exercises (everydayhealth.com)
- 5 Free Ways to De-Stress (getrichslowly.org)