Become More Focused By Learning to Really, Really Relax

Article By Dee DeWitt

We all think we know how to relax.




It’s easy to lounge around and waste time.  But most of us are much too busy to do it much. 


And when we do try to relax, our minds are often on other things.


It is difficult to just relax and enjoy the nothingness.


Relaxing can be a waste of time, or it can be an art form.  Here’s how to become an expert, and in the process increase your concentration when you need to focus and be productive.


Start small.  Relaxing can be difficult if you try to do too much relaxing at one time.  Try relaxing in small increments.  Focus on 5 to10 minutes at a time, and start your practice sessions at home … not at work or in a busy public place.  Find a time and place where there are not many distractions … not much noise, not a lot of people to bother you.  Now, close your eyes, and do nothing. After 5 to 10 minutes of relaxing by focusing on doing nothing, you can stop and go do something.  If possible, try to do this every day.


Breathing.  The first place to start in the journey to learn to do nothing is breathing.  Start first by breathing slowly in, and then slowly out.  Now closely monitor your breath as it enters your body, through your nose, and goes down into your lungs, and fills your lungs.  Now feel it as it goes out of your body, through your mouth, and feel the satisfying emptying of your lungs.  Do this for 5-10 minutes, if you can.  Practice this as you can. When you start thinking about other things, bring your thoughts back to your breathing.


Comfort and Self-Massage.  An important part of relaxing is getting comfortable.  If we are tense, then trying to relax is next to impossible.  Start by finding a comfortable place  - a soft chair, a plush couch, a well-made, clean bed. Once you’ve found this spot, sit or lie in it and get comfortable.  Next, try the breathing technique.


If you are not completely relaxed by now (nodding off to sleep is a good indication of being relaxed), then try self-massage.  Massage is much better when administered by other hands, but self-massage is good too.  Start with your shoulders and neck.  Work your way up to your head and even your face.  Also do your back, and legs and arms.


Another great way of relaxing is an exercise where you tense each muscle in your body, one body part at a time, and then let the tensed muscle relax.  Start with your feet, then your legs, and work your way up to your forehead.


Bathing.  Once you’ve become proficient at the above steps, the stage of the bath can be pretty great.  The bath must be nice and hot.  Not lukewarm, but hot.  Again, you must have all distractions shut off.  Step into your bath, one foot at a time, very slowly.  Once you are fully immersed, close your eyes, and feel the heat penetrating your body.  You may begin to sweat.  This is a good thing.  Allow the sweat to flow.  You may need a glass of water as the sweat could dehydrate you.  A good book is another great way to enjoy your bath.  Allow your muscles to be penetrated by the heat, to be relaxed completely, and feel all your worries and stresses and aches and inner turmoil flow out of your body into the water. 


Tasting and feeling.  Relaxing is also great when accompanied by very good beverages.  Good tea or coffee, wine, hot cocoa, and other sensual beverages go very well with learning to relax.  It’s best to take these beverages by themselves, with no food, and without a book or other distractions.  Focus on the liquid as you sip it slowly, savoring every bit of the flavor, texture and temperature. Close your eyes as you do this.  Truly enjoy the beverage.


Relaxing in nature.  Once you’ve succeeded in the steps above, it is time to practice the art of relaxing in nature.  Find a peaceful place – in your front or back yard (if that’s peaceful), a park, the woods, at the beach, a river, a lake – places with water are excellent.  Places out of reach of the sounds of traffic and city life are best.


In nature, you can practice relaxing for 20 minutes, an hour, or even longer.  There are fewer distractions, and you can really shut yourself off from the stresses of life.  Don’t just let your mind wander everywhere … focus on the natural surroundings around you.  Look closely at the plants, at the water, at the wildlife.  Truly appreciate the majesty of nature, the miracle of life.


Make relaxing part of daily life.  This is the final stage.  Start by relaxing while you are waiting in line, at the doctor’s office, on a bus, or for a plane.  Wait, without reading a newspaper or magazine, without talking on the phone, without checking your email, without writing out your to-do list, without doing any work, without worrying about what you need to do later.  Wait, and do nothing.  Concentrate on your breathing, or try one of the relaxation techniques above.  Concentrate on those around you – watch them, try to understand them, listen to their conversations.


Last, try relaxing in the middle of chaos, in your workplace or other stressful environment.  Just shut everything out, close your eyes, and think about your breathing.  Try a relaxation technique.  Do this for 5 to 10 minutes at a time, building up to 20 or 30 minutes.  If you can do this in the middle of a stressful day at work or with the kids, you will allow yourself to focus more fully on the tasks at hand.  You will be relaxed and ready to concentrate when you need to focus and be productive.


“Don’t take yourself too seriously.  If you can develop ability to laugh at yourself, you will be much more relaxed when given or giving criticism … Blessed is he who can enjoy his blunders.”
-John C. Maxwell


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Posted on 29 April, 2009 in Fitness & Health, Productivity
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