Alert. Focused. Calm. Difficult in today’s world.

In recent years, I’ve developed an interest in methods of relaxation.

It began shortly after I started CBT with a therapist, and deepened a few months later when I successfully quit smoking after years of heavy chain-smoking.

Long term smokers suffer the consequences of their actions. In my case, lingering problems propelled me to seek methods of self-improvement, both physically and mentally.

Setting A Goal (even for relaxation)

Here I outline some simple tools designed to improve psychological and physical health.

First, setting an intention for relaxation practice. A goal.

For instance, I decided to give up smoking purely for health reasons. Similarly, I have pursued various relaxation and breathing techniques for health alone.

Second, deciding on how much time needed on a regular basis. I believe that ten minutes each day could potentially bring benefits.

The Tools

Selecting one or two methods. My preferred are:

Slow breathing, bringing the breath to a rate of between five and six breaths per minutes.

Personally, I like to work with Pursed Lips Breathing, as I feel it’s a kinder, less stressful technique that helps ex-smokers gain greater control over their breathing, thus activating the relaxation response.

To do PLB, blow out softly through the mouth, then take a gentle inhale through the nose. Over several minutes, practise blowing at an imaginary candle, never extinguishing the flame, only moving it gentle, gradually increasing the length of the exhale and inhale.

Next, move to a simple Body Scan, paying attention of the various pulses in the body, one by one.

Toes. Feet. Ankles. Knees. Stomach. Chest. Fingers. Elbows. Throat. Lips. Temples.

If time permits, expand awareness by repeating the Scan at a faster rate to include all the pulses simultaneously.

Awareness of Breath. Finally, return to the breath, observing it for a few minutes. Focusing. When the mind wanders, simply bring it back to the breath.

Day To Day

People can combine various practises to suit their busy schedules.

For instance, a combination of slow breathing, body scan and breath awareness in the morning (12 minutes), followed later in the day by short awareness of breath meditations on sixteen breaths (lasting about 4 minutes in all), and a simplified slow breath combined with mindful aware of breath after work or in the early evening (lasting about 5 minutes).

Just a few of my thoughts.

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