In this week’s blog, the third in our series looking at how to achieve improvements in your mental health, we’re going to focus on something many of us struggle to find the time for – relaxation.
In 2018, a study carried out by Healthspan asked 2000 adults in the UK about their ability to relax. Astonishingly, it found that long working hours, struggles with switching off at the end of the day and hectic family lives was leaving many people feeling like they had no ‘down time’ at all.
One in four said they never get any time to themselves and, of those who did, a quarter admitted they no longer know how to relax. Over half of the people surveyed stated they had suffered negative consequences from not being able to relax, including sleep problems, anxiety and feelings of depression.
If you’re one of the many people finding it hard to switch off and relax, here’s some techniques you could try:
Pause for thought
Your life may well be busy but there are ways in which you can introduce small moments of relaxation into each day. Whenever you get a free moment, take this as an opportunity to stop or look around you, taking in all that you see. Alternatively, close your eyes for a short time and listen to all the sounds you can hear. Mindfullness techniques like this can help you to feel calmer and more in the moment.
Try a breathing exercise
A really simple relaxation exercise is to gently breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, keeping the pace slow and regular. Slowly tense, then relax all the muscles in your body, starting at your toes and working your way up to your head (this will probably take around 10-15 minutes). Afterwards, just take a minute or two to be still and really focus on how your body feels. These days there are a number of apps that can guide you through these sorts of breathing exercises and other meditation techniques (one example is Calm).
Listen to some music
Listening to your favourite tunes is a good way of switching off and allowing your mind to be free. If you’re really trying to unwind, tracks with a slower tempo or those designed specifically for relaxation might be a good choice.
Try active relaxation
Gentle exercise is known to give your body and mind the time it needs to unwind. Try something like yoga, tai chi or pilates, or you could even just take a regular stroll in the fresh air. Exercise also releases ‘feel-good’ hormones which can help reduce depression and anxiety.
Where are you happiest?
Picture a place where you have felt totally happy or at ease. Perhaps it involved lying on a tropical beach, walking through a park or forest on a sunny day, or even enjoying a cosy meal with friends on a winter’s night. Now, imagine you’re there right now. Think of the sounds and smells around you and how you feel. Bringing back nice memories like this is a great way to promote a relaxed state of mind.
The weird thing is that with modern day lifestyles, a great many of us have got to a point where relaxation doesn’t come easily. So, don’t worry if relaxing doesn’t come naturally for you. Set aside some time every day (or as often as you can) to try relaxing. Find a quiet warm space where you can keep your mind focussed without interruptions or distractions. Good luck!
Why is any of this relevant to you?
It’s really important to remember that mental health issues can affect anyone at any time. In fact, 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 10 children experience these kind of health problems. In the construction sector, it’s been reported that 76% of workers have suffered from stress at work with 35% admitting to having suffered with a mental illness at some point. Learning to relax can really help overcome some of these issues.
We hope these tips for relaxation are useful for you. It would be great to hear your ideas too so do share your thoughts with us over on Facebook.
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