Mind-Body Health

Vitamin "R": Relaxation, Establishing a Practice for Rejuvenation and Renewal

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A daily dose of vitamin R can be one of the healthiest things to incorporate into your everyday life. Here are six relaxation techniques to try.

Many people find themselves asking the question, “What matters most in life in a time of uncertainty?" A top answer is peace. It seems to be a rare asset these days, but it's a practice you can cultivate and commit to, despite what's happening around you.

To establish peace, you must find ways to relax to gain the necessary nourishment needed to keep you moving forward—healthfully. Let's dive into the renewing benefits of how a regular vitamin R dose can nourish your life and rejuvenate the soul.

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What Is Relaxation?

According to the Mayo Clinic, relaxation is a practice that decreases the effects of stress on the mind and body. It's a state where you can feel calm and can manage your stress or anxiety.

Why Relax?

Dr. Herbert Benson, founder of Harvard's Mind-Body Medical Institute, coined the term “Relaxation Response.” In his book The Relaxation Response, he shares the importance of establishing relaxing practices to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. When you commit to setting aside time for mind-calming exercises that focus on breathing and awareness of the present moment, it's "one of the most valuable things we can do in life." In a Harvard Health article, he explains that mindfulness meditation is one of many techniques that can evoke the relaxation response.

Author Amid Sood, MD, shares that meditation is sometimes considered an altered state. But in actuality, persistent stress, depression, and anxiety are considered the altered states because calm and peace serve as the natural essence of who you are—peace and tranquility is your nature. The most profound form of relaxation evolves when you cultivate equanimity, described in Psychology Today as a mental calmness and an even temper, especially in a difficult situation. Taking time to relax is the gatekeeper to establishing inner peace. Peace of mind or inner peace is a deliberate state of either psychological or spiritual calmness despite the potential presence of stressors, according to Dr. Srikant Manchiraju, an assistant professor at Florida State University.

Since 60-90 percent of healthcare visits are stress-related, the potential of the relaxation response to help people is enormous, according to the American Psychological Association. It also reverses aging and dramatically improves overall health. The Mayo Clinic outlines many health benefits, which include the following:

  • Slows heart rate
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Slows breathing rate
  • Improves digestion
  • Maintains normal blood sugar levels
  • Reduces stress hormone activity
  • Increases blood flow to major muscles
  • Reduces muscle tension and chronic pain
  • Improves concentration, mood, and sleep quality
  • Reduces anger and frustration
  • Boosts energy and sleep patterns
  • Increases a sense of calmness and confidence

Now those are quite some benefits! How can you reap this plethora of rewards?

How to Relax

Many mind-body programs, particularly relaxation techniques like meditation, show outstanding benefits such as bettering symptoms of many health conditions. According to the book, The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living, “meditation encompasses a wide range of practices intended to promote relaxation, train attention, regulate emotions, and create a heightened sense of well-being." However, there are many relaxation techniques you can choose to begin a path to peace. Most relaxation practices produce remarkably similar results—choose one that suits your style and preferences.

Here is a variety of relaxation techniques to pick from:

Deep Breathing
Learning to breathe deeply will help your body take in more oxygen, which helps to relieve anxiety, slow heart rate, and stabilize blood pressure.

Visualization
The variations of this practice include connecting visual images and physical sensations. You can visualize by imagining a relaxing setting and focusing on its details. Stress subsides because you begin to focus on calming the physical body.

Prayer
Prayer is the wisdom conveyed in loving surrender—it's an expression of your faith. Amit Sood, MD, says, "The mind forgets itself during prayer." He suggests praying out of love, not burden or duty, and doing so with your heart, even if you must pray for the mind. Have patience as the results unfold.

Meditation
There are different styles of meditation. All involve regulating attention and emotion and accepting what is. Meditation can include chanting mantras or using breathing exercises that increase body awareness and peace of mind.

Yoga
This practice incorporates postures with breathing exercises. Yoga benefits not only help the mind to relax, but it also improves strength and flexibility while balancing the systems within your body.

Tai Chi
This practice uses its own distinct movement that incorporates slow, circular motions with deep breathing, meditation, and self-massage. It's lovely for a light exercise and for improving circulation and increasing energy.

A Daily Dose of Vitamin R

Relaxation techniques take practice and patience. Have you ever tried aggressively relaxing? We all know that doesn't bode well. Experiment with some of the relaxation techniques above and find one that appeals to you. Consistency is essential, so try one out and give it a good go before you experiment with another. When you embark on establishing a relaxation practice, you are developing a new skill, so the importance of being patient with yourself is vital. If one of the ways above does not work for you, consider consulting with your doctor to assess other options.

The human mind is eternally curious and busy, and daily stressors take a toll on physical and mental health. Each time you achieve a state of relaxation and realize how good it feels, it becomes easier to do the next time. Even when the mind starts buzzing again, with continued practice, you'll begin to feel more rested and rejuvenated while reaping the benefits of renewal, resilience, and peace. A daily dose of vitamin R can be one of the healthiest things to incorporate into your everyday life.