Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Soaking in the Tub: One more way to relax and unwind

Soaking in a warm bath has many benefits, but relaxation and unwinding are top on the list.  Intuitively, we humans just seem to be drawn to warm water and natural springs as the body knows what it needs, and it’s a good thing since soaking in warm water has traditionally been associated with both relaxation and healing.

Warm water helps the muscles relax after hard work or vigorous exercise and hot tubs are popular at various resorts where activity and exercise take place (i.e., at places like ski areas) where participants can sink into the healing properties of the water at the end of the day and encourage tired muscles to recuperate. 

Submerging in warm water is also a part of many spas and fitness centers where they are used to help relax muscles and increase flexibility, which serves to enhance healing of injuries.   These methods have been used for ages as it’s believed that hot water releases endorphins, which are our body’s natural pain killers.  Soaking in a warm bath also dilates the blood vessels, which helps to increase circulation.

For us regular-folks, soaking in a warm bath at the end of the day is just a way to unwind from the stresses of the office  or day's work.  A warm bath can be enhanced with bubbles/oils, candles, incense, or soft relaxing music, all of which can help you to let go of lingering worries and prepare to end you day with meditation and sleep.

Photo by Daniela at Witches Falls Cottages in Australia

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Aroma Therapy: Enhancing Your Relaxation With the Use of Aromas

In the Native American traditions, there is a ritual called smudging in which the smoke from burning herbs (frequently sage) is waved over and around an area to remove negatively.  Those who are familiar with the ritual find they are more relaxed when the smell of the burning sage reaches them due to the memory association with the ritual and their belief that it is attaching to the negativity in the area and carrying it away with the smoke.

These kinds of associations related to aroma are emphasized in a form of therapy called aroma therapy, which is a natural way to alter mood, consciousness, and thinking patterns, while stimulating the brain and body (including memory).  For instance, perhaps each time you smell the distinct aroma of pine, you think of pine trees, which leads you to think of a forest where you once walked and all the related memories and senses attached to being there, such as the feel of the air in the forest and the sounds of the birds and streams flowing through your special place.

Other means to enhance forms of aroma therapy include the use of incense or candles, boiling potpourri, wearing perfume, using an aroma diffuser, or wearing a bracelet made of sandalwood or cedar.

It's true that some aromas can also remind us of negative things and even trigger unpleasant memories and trauma, but most people will refrain from aromas they know have a negative effect on them, and will instead be drawn to those that appeal to them.  In addition, always be sure to check the ingredients in any product you use for aroma therapy to make sure it is not toxic (or has the least toxicity as possible) and isn’t going to be more harmful to you than good.  Do your homework and find a preferred means for aroma disbursement that you can enjoy and that allows you to safely enhance your efforts to relax and reduce your stress level.

Photo credit: andrew@andrewyoungphoto.net 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Hobbies: How Getting Lost in Your Favorite Hobby Lowers Stress and Anxiety

Hobbies are enjoyable activities we do in our leisure time for enjoyment.  The type of hobby can vary widely from one person to another, but what matters most is that the activity is done for relaxation and is not our main “job”.  Some hobbies do bring in income, but usually the income is not something needed to pay living expenses and is only an added bonus to the joy of the hobby itself, which would most likely be done whether it made money or not.

The interesting thing about hobbies is that they are activities we actually want to go do because they are fun, and what makes them fun is really the key to why they are so relaxing.

Hobbies typically are done in our spare time, when we don’t have to be anywhere or on any type of time schedule.  Many hobbies are relaxing because they remove the pressure to be somewhere on time, finish something on time, or organize our time in any manner.  In fact, our hobbies are things we can plug into and unplug from at our leisure and like a good friend; they are always there for us when we return. 

Hobbies also decrease the pressure for production that jobs have.  We can unravel the scarf just knitted, crash our train set, fiddle with the telescope knobs, spend hours sorting our used book collection, or tie and un-tie the knots to our stunt-kite line, and no one will suffer from our idleness unless the hobby is disproportionally taking more of our time than it should.

Finding a hobby could be the key to finding balance in your life for the daily grind that is required to get by in life.  Making time for a hobby is also a great way to give the mind a break from the worries of basic every day survivals and responsibilities. 

Thanks to A. Davey for the photo Master Wood Carver at Work from Elstner Hilton's album of photos he took in Japan, Sept 1914.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Using Relaxing Music to Relieve Your Stress

Music of Life
Some music makes us feel like dancing, while other music draws us in with inspired awe.  So too, relaxation music sets the mood for stress reduction and has a calming effect on us that helps to facilitate any relaxing activity such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong, or other slow motion exercises.

Most people find that relaxing music has a way of slowing them down and bringing a sense of peace to the mind, body, and spirit.  Perhaps you have a special calming song that has become your favorite, which you already know centers you and seems to somehow balance out every fiber of your Being with its grace and gentleness. 

If you are trying to find ways to lower your stress level and have been having a difficult time finding just what it is that helps, consider playing relaxation music to get you started as it can alter the mood for just about anything you set out to do.  Try playing it in the car during your rush-hour commute or if the work day has been particularly stressful, and on the way to work to better prepare you for the stressful work day to come.  If you are in a work environment that permits it, consider having some gentle relaxation music playing in the background as you work to feed the body and mind throughout the day.

Don’t worry about selecting the perfect music for your relaxation activities.  Think of it as an experiment and try out various artists and CD’s.  Many stores have sample panels where you can listen to various kinds of relaxing music before you buy them.  In time you will be able to determine if the flute is the calming instrument for you, or if a soft piano sound is what brings peace to your mind and body.

Thanks to Eddi van W for her great photo Music of Life