What Is Relaxation?

Relaxation is a simple way to quiet the mind and the body.  Relaxation can slow the heart rate and breathing rate and decrease blood pressure and muscle tension. 

Using relaxation techniques can help you learn to let go of stressful thoughts and feelings.  One way to do this is by focusing on:

  • A calming word such as “peace”
  • Your breath
  • A part of the body such as your heart
  • A relaxing mental image such as the ocean or the forest

Both the body and the mind are able to deeply relax—the direct opposite of the state of stress.  Regular practice, even for very short periods during the day, can calm your mind and body and help you focus on the present moment.

How Can Relaxation Help Me?

Long-term stress can take a toll on the body and on our feelings of well-being. When you become stressed, your body reacts by increasing your heart rate, blood pressure, and rate of breathing. By themselves, these are normal reactions and once stress has passed your body returns to normal. 

When stress lasts over a long period of time, however, all these body responses may stay high.  This leaves you open to both physical and emotional problems that can sap your energy and your enjoyment of life.  Long-term effects of stress can include daily anxiety, chronic sleep problems, a lowered immune system, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and stomach and intestinal problems.

When practiced over time, relaxation techniques can have a beneficial effect on many areas of life.

  • On an emotional level, they can help reduce worry, distress, anger, anxiety and depression
  • On a mental level, they can help improve memory, focus and creativity
  • On a spiritual level, they can help increase awareness of self and others, compassion and well-being 
  • On a physical level, they can help decrease symptoms of illness, pain, blood pressure, and stress and can improve sleep, energy and overall quality of life

Perhaps most important of all, they are a powerful tool that you can use at any time to:

  • Connect to yourself
  • Shift gears
  • Slow down
  • Lower tension and stress
  • Enhance awareness of your thoughts, feelings and surroundings
  • Feel better able to cope in any situation