Always remember that refilling your inner well is never a sign of weakness.Read More
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Discovering the benefits of practicing relaxation techniques can transform the way you feel in your daily life. Finding methods for coping with stress, anxiety, pain, and a variety of other issues can help you handle whatever comes your way. As you build relaxation techniques into your routine, you might begin with a weekly session, work towards practicing daily, and then you can achieve what I consider the ultimate goal of relaxation training—accessing relaxation on the fly, when you need it most. Here is the process I recommend:
Commit to a weekly relaxation time.
If you have trouble remembering or making time to relax, a great way to start is by finding a good time during the week and committing to an hour of relaxation each week at that time. It can be a class, an individual session, or just a time to listen to a guided relaxation recording. It’s important to make it a recurring appointment in your calendar, so other tasks and activities can’t creep into that time slot. If something unavoidable comes up, then make sure to reschedule relaxation training for another time that week. Tell yourself “no matter what happens this week, I know that I will at least have this hour to relax and recharge.” Once you have established this weekly relaxation time successfully, you can work on practicing relaxation techniques on a daily basis.
Develop a daily practice.
How do you move from a weekly relaxation practice to a daily one? I find that if people are able to commit to weekly sessions for an extended period of time, they are much more likely to start fitting in relaxation breaks during each day. On the other hand, people who try to dive right in with daily breaks often struggle to find the time or even remember to do it. It’s like the gradual process of beginning with a weekly practice and then slowly adding in small daily breaks gives the mind and body time to adjust to this new healthy habit. Since they can be as short as 5 or 10 minutes, you can look for times when you have a little space—between meetings or appointments, before bedtime, during a part of your lunch break, waiting in line, riding the bus or train, etc. Once again, treat these breaks as actual appointments in your calendar—writing them in your schedule will help you remember and make them a priority. Then when you find yourself using relaxation techniques each day without struggling to remember, you are ready to enjoy a huge benefit of relaxation training—accessing relaxation when you need it most, aka on the fly!
Use relaxation techniques on the fly.
Whether you are in an argument with someone, taking a test, speaking in front of a group, or some other anxiety-provoking activity, you will greatly benefit from having a set of effective relaxation techniques to access in the moment. Have you ever felt stuck in an argument with no way out of it? Now you can excuse yourself, go into another room (even the bathroom if necessary) use a relaxation technique or two, and return feeling refreshed and perhaps with a new perspective on the situation. Possessing the skills to relax yourself and making it a priority to practice them regularly will make you much more likely to use them when you really need a stress release.
Are you willing to try this process of developing a regular relaxation practice so you can access stress relief on the fly? If you feel some hesitation, I invite you to visualize yourself handling stressful situations with ease and notice how good that feels. It’s worth the time to devote yourself to a relaxation practice—your mind, body, and spirit will thank you!
May you move through your life with more ease and enjoyment…
"You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here." — DesiderataRead More
"The time to relax is when you don't have time for it." — Sydney J. HarrisRead More
Why are good habits so hard to develop? Not only is it challenging to establish certain regular routines, it can often be a stressful process. If you find yourself struggling to adopt a desired habit, creating a ritual can be an enjoyable, effective way to facilitate positive change.
We all have routines we easily do on a daily basis (e.g. personal hygiene, simple chores, etc.) but others are not so automatic (e.g. getting enough sleep, meditating, eating healthy). Rituals provide more than a process for developing a habit—they also have elements that relieve stress, add meaning and motivate us to keep it going.
The Calming Effect
One of the most important reasons why incorporating rituals into your daily life enhances positive wellbeing is the overall comfort factor. Having a calming ritual can improve your overall wellbeing by helping to ease your fight or flight response. This reaction is activated when you face the unknown. With daily rituals in place, your fight or flight response is softened immensely. Adding pleasant activities to a ritual creates a calming effect, so you actually look forward to the process instead of avoiding it. Even when things at work are hectic or there is an issue in your personal life, knowing that you can rely on the welcome distraction of a comforting ritual makes it much easier to move forward instead of drawing back. For example, if you want to create a bedtime ritual to improve your sleep habits, you could add activities such as drinking soothing lemon balm tea or warm cinnamon milk, doing some gentle stretching, taking a bath, listening to a relaxing recording and/or reading a light-hearted book. The key is to choose activities you truly enjoy so you associate the healthy habit (in this example, getting enough sleep) with the pleasant ritual.
A Way to Add Meaning
As you create a ritual for your desired habit, it helps if you can truly connect it to your daily life in a soulful, meaningful way. Think about what it would mean to you if you could fully embrace your desired habit and succeed in making it a daily practice. Imagine yourself already accomplishing this goal, and what it feels like doing it every day. You could also make a vision board, write in a journal, check in regularly with a friend or coach, or find some other way that works for you to add meaning to this habit you desire. Once you decide, you can incorporate it into your ritual. To use the sleep example again, you could include a brief exercise of imagining yourself sleeping peacefully as a part of your bedtime ritual—each time you do this, it will become easier and easier to accept this image of yourself as a healthy sleeper. Making a sleep vision board with all kinds of positive sleep images and/or using a dream journal are other ways to create a bedtime ritual that is meaningful to you. You can adapt this idea to other types of habits such as healthy eating, meditating, exercising or any habit you want to acquire.
O.K., so you have added some calming elements to your ritual to relieve any stress associated with developing a habit, and you have decided on a way to make the ritual and the habit meaningful to you. Is this enough to keep you on track? Perhaps it is, but if you need more than that to fully embrace the habit, there might be a way to further motivate you to maintain it. This is a time to look deeply within yourself to find what motivates you. Maybe you are already aware of it, or maybe you have to dig a little to discover what could be a reward or motivation you can build into your ritual to keep you going. I will give some examples, but it is up to you to figure out which rewards work best for you. With our sleep example, you could reward yourself with aromatherapy (choose your favorite scent), splurge on some luxurious socks (e.g. cashmere) to wear to bed (the National Sleep Foundation suggests wearing socks to promote sleep), use special sheets on your bed (e.g. high thread count cotton, satin, flannel—whatever feels good to you), wear silk pajamas, affirm yourself for sticking to your routine (more about affirmations here), and/or start doing things you were too tired to enjoy when you were so sleep deprived. What motivates one person might not work for another, but once you discover your rewards and motivation, any habit will be much easier to develop.
Although I used the example of getting enough sleep, you can choose any habit you want to develop, and try applying these ideas to see if they can help you succeed. If you have any questions or ideas to share, feel free to comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Practicing loving kindness meditation fosters a sense of kindness and friendliness toward the self and others through extending good wishes and intentions, and opening the heart to a life of love and acceptance.Read More
I remember when sleep came easily to me...Read More
I’ve heard it said that two things are better than one. In the case of relaxation, that might not be too far from the truth. More often than not, the idea of relaxation conjures up images of a solitary person walking in nature, taking deep breaths on a park bench, practicing yoga or some other activity to rebalance your state of mind. Relaxing on your own can be very effective, but have you considered just how beneficial it could be to have someone there practicing the fine art of relaxation beside you? Having a partner in relaxation can provide you with benefits you never knew you lacked when practicing relaxation techniques. Below are a few reasons why you might want to consider making part of your relaxation time a group effort.
Discovering New Relaxation Techniques One of the biggest benefits of inviting someone else to join in on your relaxation time is allowing them to bring something new to the table. Since everyone has their own specific techniques, you might be missing out on one which could open a whole new world of stress relief. In turn, you will be able to share with your new partner the ways in which you find the most peace through relaxation techniques.
Focus Assistance If your personality leans towards always-on-the-go, then you might find it difficult to just sit in one place and focus on relaxation for longer than a few moments. Having someone there to help might be the perfect missing piece. A relaxation partner can help you remain focused when your mind tends to wander towards other things going on in your life. Taking time out of your schedule to make sure your needs are met can be a major challenge for many people. With someone at your side helping you stay on the right track, it can make all the difference.
Guilt Eraser As we’ve previously discussed on this blog, many people have a difficult time indulging in “me time”, so to speak. Setting aside time to practice relaxation techniques can often lead to feelings of guilt over being too self-indulgent or not productive on projects you need to get finished. Partnering up with a relaxation friend or small group can help it feel less like an indulgence and more like an actual event that is important enough to put on your calendar. Relaxation time is very important, and practicing relaxation techniques together can help you shed the guilty feelings because you see how it benefits each other.
Bonding Experience By sharing a common experience with another person, you begin to build a bond with them. Through the years as a relaxation coach, I’ve noticed that when people relax together, a peaceful energy occurs that can be a wonderful bonding experience. Whether it’s with a spouse, your children, siblings, coworkers, or even new friends, these bonding experiences can serve to help you reach your optimal level of relaxation as well as ensure a strong connection between you.
As you continue to enjoy individual relaxation, it can be so rewarding to invite others to join you at times. If you ever have questions about relaxation and stress management, feel free to email me at email@example.com
May you find joy in relaxing together
This is the time of year when we see many of our friends and family members announcing their resolutions for the New Year. While resolutions may work for some, I prefer to focus on intentions for how I want to live my life in the new year. Intentions encompass more than just the things you would like to do, but also the ways in which you would like to live your life. Fulfilling your 2017 intentions may involve adapting your routine, mindset or practices to live more in line with your desires and worldview.
If your intentions involve being more resilient, at peace or focused on the positive things in your life, integrating a regular relaxation practice into your daily life can support these goals. The key to building a sustainable relaxation practice is making sure that it fits with your lifestyle (so that you will be more likely to stick with it). Here are some questions to ask yourself as you build a relaxation practice that will support your intentions in the year to come.
What activities do I find relaxing?
Relaxation comes in many forms. Think through activities that you have done in the past (or currently do) that relax you. These could involve exercise (yoga, stretching, biking, swimming, etc.), reading, watching a movie, listening to music, creative projects (art, cooking, singing), being in a relaxing environment (a museum, spa, or park), or spending time with people who make you feel at ease. Taking a relaxation class or listening to relaxation recordings is another great way to calm your mind and body. Once you’ve identified these activities, schedule in at least one or two per week and allow yourself time to fully enjoy doing them.
When do I have breaks or downtime during my day?
Many of us tend to think that we need to carve out large chunks of time for relaxation. While it can be wonderful to spend multiple hours or an entire day relaxing, this is not realistic for most of us as we move through our daily lives. The good news is that there are plenty of shorter relaxation exercises that can be done during your lunch break or right when you come home from work. One of the most effective ways to relax during the workday is using relaxation techniques such as intentional breathing, muscle relaxation exercises, guided imagery or meditation. Deep breathing allows for more oxygen to enter the body, which can be both relaxing and restorative. Muscle relaxation involves bringing your awareness to various groups of muscles and relaxing them with breathwork, imagery and/or tensing and releasing the muscles until your entire body is relaxed. Guided imagery is a narrative that engages the imagination and senses and guides the mind toward a relaxed, focused state. The loving kindness meditations that I like to use are a way to calm your heart and mind while encouraging peaceful and loving thoughts about those around you. If you only have a little time, you can choose one technique for a 3-5 minute session, or if you are really in a hurry, try my 1-minute relaxation break. When you have more time to relax, you can combine these four techniques into an enjoyable, effective relaxation training session. These relaxation techniques can be practiced with the help of a recording or on your own once you know how to do them.
Where is the best place for me to start? How can I build relaxation into my life in a sustainable way?
Once you’ve thought through your options for relaxation and the times during your day or week when you can relax, decide on a starting point and build from there. This process will be different for everyone. For example, begin by committing to a weekly relaxation hour, whether it’s a yoga or relaxation training class, an individual relaxation session, or even setting aside a time to listen to a guided relaxation recording. Committing to that weekly time and making it a priority cues your mind and body to relax. Once that gets going, then layer in a daily relaxing activity that can vary in length depending on how much time you have that day (see relaxation training for ideas). The next week, try a calming audio book or guided relaxation recording as you settle into bed. The key is to gradually build sustainable relaxation activities into your life.
Consistent relaxation can help us live a more peaceful and fulfilling life in 2017. If you have any questions about relaxation, coaching or wellness feel free to email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wishing you a refreshing feeling of ease in the New Year!
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How often do you find yourself wishing for more hours in the day? If there were a way to magically snap our fingers and find a few extra hours to finish up tasks, most of us may be tempted to make the change. With so many things packed into a single day, it can be difficult to cut loose and find a little time for relaxation. Even the most hectic schedule can be maneuvered with a little planning. If you are the type of person who just can’t seem to find any time to take a deep breath, then check out some tips below on finding time for relaxation.
Must Do and Should Do – Tasks often fall into two categories—must do and should do. Whether they are chores around the house or projects for work, each category comes with its share of weight on your schedule. By stepping back and looking at them objectively, you can help ease your time crunch. Some things can wait until tomorrow.
Putting Yourself First – If you are the type of person who drops everything for everyone while leaving no time for yourself, then chances are you could stand to carve out a little “me” time. Taking care of yourself with regular relaxation breaks will actually increase your ability to do more and feel a whole lot better throughout the day. The best way I’ve found to fit in relaxation breaks is to completely rethink how we create our schedules. Before putting in tasks, meetings and appointments, begin with scheduling some relaxation breaks. I recommend actually assigning a time for each break, so that you can’t schedule something else in that time slot. You can experiment with a combination of a few very short breaks (1-5 minutes) and a couple of longer breaks (15-30) minutes, and treat them as the essential energy boosts that they are.
Make Use of Obstacles – Stuck in traffic or construction? Standing in a long line at the store or DMV? Is your daily bus taking a little longer to arrive? These overlooked blocks of time can be used to recharge with relaxation, if only for a few moments. Changing your perception of how you view these common inconveniences helps. Instead of having a negative notion of delays, start looking at them as opportunities to relax. You can try an intentional deep breathing exercise, do some gentle stretches, tense and release different muscle groups (otherwise known as progressive muscle relaxation), or spend a few moments thinking about one of your favorite places to be. Important tip: turn off your phone and/or computer during these times to prevent interruptions.
My wish for you is to find some space in your life for moments to relax, re-energize and enjoy life. If you have any questions about relaxation or would like to share your experiences, feel free to comment below or email me at email@example.com
"I love and accept myself." — Affirmation Kitty
Although some people might think positive affirmations are a little corny, in my coaching work, I find they can be very helpful for anyone who wants to boost confidence and set positive goals. If you’re curious (or even skeptical) about the effectiveness of affirmations, I invite you to read on to see how positive affirmations can impact your life for the better.
Affirmations Can Be Negative or Positive
If you take a moment to think about all of the places your mind goes to in a day, you’ll realize that there are both positive and negative things that you think (and speak) about. This means that affirmations can be either positive or negative. As we move through our lives, we develop thought processes that turn into belief systems. If we think of affirmations as being the same as thoughts, negative affirmations turn into negative belief systems, which can impact the way we perceive ourselves and our places in the world. For example, by repeatedly thinking, “I’m not good at writing,” you ingrain in yourself the belief that you are not (and will never be) good at writing. In doing so, you cut yourself off from opportunities because you’ve decided (through your self-talk) that you aren’t good at it, and you might lose all hope of getting better. Many people suffer from these negative thought patterns that lead them into a downward spiral and block them from reaching their goals or enjoying their lives. One way to counteract these negative beliefs is by consciously changing the way we think. A concrete and effective way of doing this is by thinking and saying positive affirmations.
How do positive affirmations work?
Positive affirmations are a powerful way to stop negative thought patterns. When you think or speak a positive affirmation, it signals your subconscious mind that you are making a change and beginning to think about yourself and your life in a different way. Just like any process of change, it takes time and practice for these affirmations to sink in and “stick” as part of your thought pattern.
The effectiveness of positive affirmations in certain situations is backed up by science. A study recently published in Psychological Science explores the neurophysiological reactions that help explain how positive affirmations help people deal with threats to self-integrity. Another study by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University (published in PLOS ONE) determined that positive affirmations protect individuals against the negative effects of stress on problem-solving abilities. In addition to scientific research, there is a large body of anecdotal evidence that people feel more optimistic about certain aspects of their lives when they use positive affirmations.
How do I increase the effectiveness of my positive affirmations?
There are several things you can do to increase the effectiveness of positive affirmations. Saying the affirmations out loud gives them weight and signals your subconscious mind to take them seriously. To increase the effectiveness of positive affirmations, make a conscious decision to think positive thoughts throughout the day. Challenging yourself to find one positive thing about each situation also helps. At the end of your day, review everything you did, your conversations with people, your reactions, etc., and think of at least one positive thing that came out of it. These positive thoughts will “prime” your mind to accept the positive affirmations, thus making them more effective. When you dedicate yourself to this process, before long, you’ll notice that you feel better and that you are able to approach life in a more positive and productive way.
What are some examples of positive affirmations to try?
The great thing about positive affirmations is that they can be tailored to your specific goals or general in nature. Here are some general affirmations you can try.
I love and accept myself.
I listen to my inner wisdom.
Wonderful opportunities are out there for me.
I surround myself with loving people.
I sleep soundly and awaken refreshed.
All my problems have a solution.
I am loved.
I am good at ______.
I am valued and respected.
If you’re interested in learning more about positive affirmations, I invite you to listen to my guided relaxation recording that focuses on positivity, Uplifting Guided Relaxation. http://www.atimeforexpression.com/recordings-1/uplifting-guided-relaxation
Kate Britt, “How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Using Affirmations,” Tiny Buddha, http://tinybuddha.com/blog/how-to-change-your-mind-and-your-life-by-using-affirmations/
J. David Creswell, Janine M. Dutcher, William M. P. Klein, Peter R. Harris, John M. Levine, “Self-Affirmation Improves Problem-Solving under Stress,” PLOS ONE, http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0062593
Lisa Legault, “Self-Affirmation Enhances Performance, Makes Us Receptive to Our Mistakes,” Psychological Science, http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/self-affirmation-enhances-performance-makes-us-receptive-to-our-mistakes.html