Four Relaxation Exercises for Good Living©

Charles Emmrys PhD


Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing or tummy breathing is the single most powerful non-chemical relaxation technique that psychology possesses. It is simple to explain but takes a bit of time for it to figure out. It consists of breathing by moving your tummy only. This means that your rib cage is totally quiet and unmoving. A good way to learn tummy breathing is to lie down and place a book on your tummy. Then breath by making the book move up and down with your breath. Five deep tummy breaths will relax you for 20 to 30 minutes. The more you do it, the more powerfully they induce relaxation. Best to do throughout the day as often as you feel you need it.


Grounding

Grounding exercises are exercises that are useful if you are in a highly anxious state and you need to decrease your anxiety quickly. This exercise is probably best done together with breathing. You would do the grounding exercise first and then the breathing.


The grounding exercises can be done anywhere and take very little time. They consist of the following:

  • Withdraw your attention from whatever you are doing and feel three sensations right as you are. For example, a person might feel the pressure of their shoes on their feet, the pressure of their glasses on their nose and the feeling of the chair pressing against their body. The important thing is to feel it as intensely as possible. This will distract you from the anxiety feeling.
  • Next look at two things intensely, perhaps a lamp, or a door frame or a carpet. Again, the important thing is to focus on that image as strongly as possible.
  • Finally, take a deep breath through your nose and smell something in the air. It could be a distinct odour or simply the freshness of the air. But again, focus on it.


In short, the grounding exercises are feel three things, see two things, smell one thing.


Meditation

Meditation for psychologist can simply be defined as being awake and not thinking. If you are awake and not thinking, you are meditating. Being awake is pretty simple but not thinking while awake is a bit of a trick. There are various levels of meditation that psychologist will use. They vary from guided visualizations to focusing on body functions to the more difficult mindfulness exercises using no alternative centre for your attention. Let us here describe a middle of the road meditation technique. It is best done in the morning before breakfast.

  1. Begin to loosen your upper body by rolling your shoulders one direction and then in the other direction (three to four rotations in each direction).
  2. Next, you can do head rolls (rolling your head around in a circle) a couple of times in each direction. If you have neck problems, omit this exercise.
  3. Then position yourself comfortably in a chair or couch, keep your back straight, place your hands in a comfortable position and close your eyes. The key here is putting the chin in the right place. Push in your chin with your index finger until your back is straight. It is rather fun to do once you master it.
  4. Next, remain quiet and focus on your breath. Don’t make yourself breathe but just be aware of your breathing.
  5. Be – Here – Now By this old Ram Dass instruction, we mean that the meditator tries to stay awake, stay aware of where they are (sitting in a chair for example) and stay in the present (does not let his thoughts drift to the past or future).
  6. If other thoughts come into the mind, simply allow them to drift away.
  7. Try and stay in this aware and non-thinking state for 5 to 15 minutes.


Tension Release Exercises

The old saying is that it takes 5 minutes to teach meditation and ten years to master. Continue to work on it. Its relaxation value is not as powerful as tummy breaths but it lasts much longer 12 to 24 hours). This is the technique that has the lowest level of application (people usually give up on it after a few weeks or months). For those that stick with it, it does bring great relaxation benefits.


Nine Muscle Groups for Tension Release

The body has lots of old mechanisms to save energy. One of these is particularly useful for inducing relaxation and better quality sleep. Tensing and releasing muscle one group at a time sends messages to the brain that the time for work is over and that it is time to relax. Like tummy breaths, the more you use this technique, the stronger it gets. The best time to use this technique is bedtime or during relaxation periods in school.


The technique consists in tensing your muscles until they feel tired and then releasing them (letting them flop like a rag). You then proceed to the next muscle group. Usually, you can tense the muscle for a count of 20 to 100 depending on how quickly they tire. After you tense one group, you move to the other. The muscle groups are:

  • Left Leg
  • Right Leg
  • Pelvis (Kegel exercise)
  • Abdomen
  • Rib Cage
  • Right Arm
  • Left Arm
  • Neck
  • Face

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