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The Importance of Relaxation

Relaxation is so important in our lives as it helps to keep our stress levels down, and consequently improves our health. Too much work and not enough time out for ourselves can result in mental health problems, memory failure and even heart attack. So, it's important everybody takes at least 10 minutes a day to wind down. Try soaking in a bubble bath, or doing a quick relaxation session before going to sleep.

Relaxation and Stress

Meditation, massage, yoga - the list goes on and on. Relaxation is the key when it comes to stress relief therapies. Studies have shown evidence of many other benefits coming from regular relaxation treatments, such as a decrease in the risk of heart attack, protection from mental health problems, improvement of your immune system and your memory. Stress levels are so much higher than they used to be, so it's important for our health to bring these levels down. Sometimes, finding time for ourselves can be difficult, so with added stresses and little spare time our levels of stress hormones can be raised. This then causes anxiety. Too much adrenaline and cortisol in our bodies can cause our blood pressure to rise, making our brains behave differently.

Relaxation and Sleep

Sleepless nights can be terrible if your mind's buzzing with information and you desperately need sleep. Relaxation can help you switch off, and you'll be asleep within seconds. Follow this short exercise before going to bed, and it should help your body recuperate from the day and let your mind settle.

  1. Get yourself into a comfortable position in a place where no sounds or lights are going to distract.
  2. Adopt a passive attitude and let yourself become relaxed, but don't force it.
  3. Concentrate on how you feel, a relaxing image, a place and a time which you feel comfortable with.
  4. Think about a 1 or 2 syllable word to repeat over in your mind, and close your eyes.
  5. Relax all of your muscles, starting with your feet and working up the body. If a particular part of the body feels tense, tighten those muscles then release.
  6. If a part of the body still feels tense, stay there for a while and repeat tensing and releasing.
  7. As you focus on your body, remind yourself that parts of your body are becoming heavy and relaxed.
  8. Now focus on your breathing. As you breathe out, say your chosen word to yourself.
  9. When distracting thoughts enter your mind, try to put them to the back of your mind for later, and return to your chosen word. Continue for about 15 minutes, but don't use an alarm clock.
  10. Lie or sit quietly for a few minutes with your eyes closed, and then open your eyes slowly.
  11. Practice this relaxation technique daily, but not within 2 hours after a meal. Once you're well practiced, you should be able to relax yourself in stressful circumstances by realxing your body, focussing on your breathing and focussing on your chosen word.

How to Relax

Many people find it difficult to actually relax. Whether it's not having the time to, or finding your mind wanders when trying to relax, it can be difficult, especially if you're a generally busy person. Here are a few suggestions to help you.

Indulge in a Hot Bath

Warm water loosens up muscles, so its a great way to feel pampered without really doing alot. It will also deepen respiration and take any tension away from your body, pushing those stresses and strains straight down the plughole! Just a 30 minute soak in a warm bubble bath will help you feel relax and lighten your mind. A hot bath (preferably no hotter than 37° C) can ease tension and make you feel relaxed before going to bed.

Relax with some music

Music is a great way of helping you to relax, relieve stress and any anxieties you may have. It also helps you function mentally and physically, which is why music is a great therapy. It's regularly used for meditation and Tai Chi, and as an aid for sleep disorders. Music that has a tempo of 60 beats/minute works in syncrony with the human heartbeat, and therefore creates a relaxing effect. It slows down the heart rate, breathing rate and thinking rate, and lets you relax into deep levels of rest. Studies have suggested that slow, gentle, soothing music can improve learning, creativity and memory. Music can have such an impact on people that it's used in many hospitals, clinics, schools, nursing homes, and psychiatric hospitals to calm the inner body and revitalise both life and spirit.

Try a Relaxation Exercise

You only need 10 minutes, and you should feel the benefits of this session for the rest of the day.

At the beginning of each session:-

  1. Loosen your clothing and remove your shoes. Lie down with a pillow under your head.
  2. Go as limp as you can, and let your shoulder blades go slightly flat.
  3. Gently shake your feet, then legs, then arms, and roll your head back and forth.

Legs - Lift your left leg 8 inches off the floor to flex your muscles, and point your toes slightly up. Hold this position for about 10 seconds until your muscles begin to tremble.Let your leg drop, then rest it for another 10 seconds. Repeat the whole exercise for that leg, then repeat exactly the same with the right leg.

Buttocks and Thighs - Tighten the muscles as tightly as you can. Hold for about 10 seconds, then release them. Rest for 10 seconds and focus on the relaxed feeling in those muscles, and feel the tension flowing out. Repeat the exercise.

Stomach - Do the same exercise as for the Buttocks and Thighs with your abdominal muscles.

Back and Neck - While lying on the floor, arch your spine so that it is tightened from your tailbone to your neck. Hold and release, then repeat.

Arms and Shoulders - Raise your hands above your chest (palms up), and grab an imaginary bar thats suspended above you. Clench your fists around it as hard as possible. Hunch your shoulders up tightly, and hold in that position for as long as possible, then release. Rest for 10 seconds, letting the tension flow, and repeat.

Jaw - Clamp down on your back teeth to tighten your jaw muscles. Repeat a couple of times.

Face - Scrunch up your face, feeling all of the muscles tighten. Rest and repeat.

Eyes - Focus on a point on the ceiling and then slowly move your eyes from the right and to the left then back to the centre. Cover your eyes with your hands (hold them together to make them warm beforehand), and rest, feeling the warmth.

Body - Clench your feet and hands, pull your shoulders up, tighten your face and jaw, then flex your entire body, arching yourself as much as you can. When your body begins to tremble, just let it all go. You should feel the tension drain away.

Once you feel loosened up, it's time to focus on your breathing (stay lying down). This should be alot easier now that you're not feeling any tension.

Breathing - Inhale slowly and deeply, couting 4 seconds in your mind. Hold your breath for another 4 seconds, then exhale slowly. Feel yourself relaxing as you do this. Feel your shoulders and back sink into the floor as you exhale. Repeat this exercise 10 times. After this, breathe normally, but focus on relaxing phrases. Repeat the concentrated breathing exercise another 10 times, then breathe normally again. This time focus on pleasurable feelings in your body. Repeat the whole procedure, alternating the inhale-hold-exhale exercise 10 times with mental encouragement.

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