Like to make the most of the holiday break, and leave behind all the stress and fatigue of the year?
Here in New Zealand, the festive season is a special one. Whatever your ‘holiday style’ is, this is the time of year when we get to enjoy Aotearoa at its most beautiful. It’s summer, days are (mostly) sunny and long. The beach is calling, the barbecue is on. You may have family gatherings planned, friendly catch-ups to attend, and perhaps a trip or two lined up.
In this whirlwind of events, it can be easy to lose sight of the importance of ‘slowing down’. To help you do just that, we’ve found some easy relaxation techniques you can do anywhere, at any time.
This is a very simple but effective type of meditation. Start by sitting comfortably and softening your gaze. Then, try to keep your focus on one single thing. It could be a sound, perhaps the sound of your own breath, or even an object, like a candle flame.
Set a timer for as long as you need (even five minutes can be beneficial), and concentrate on the object or sound. “The rule with this technique is not to get frustrated or annoyed when your mind inevitably wanders off and gets caught up in thought,” explains Australian ‘Zen-trepreneur’ Nikki Jankelowitz here.
“Research shows that 47 per cent of the time, our mind is thinking about something other than what we are doing. The trick is, whenever you realise you are engaged in thought, just gently guide your attention back to the breath or mantra without judgement.”
This mind-body relaxation technique can be done in just a few minutes, whenever you need to ground yourself.
Again, sit comfortably, eyes closed. Take a few deep breaths in through the nose, and out through the mouth. Once you’re ‘in the moment’, notice how you feel in each part of your body, working your way up from your toes to the top of your head (or the other way around).
Are your toes relaxed or curled up tight? Are your teeth clenched? Is your forehead frowning or smooth? Focus on each area for a few seconds, and breathe out any tension you find before moving to the next.
Your mind may start to wonder – it always does: Simply bring it back to your breath, slowly counting in and out.
How we breathe plays an important part in body awareness and relaxation. HealthNavigator.org.nz recommends practising deep breathing for 5-10 minutes at a time, and for about three to four times per day.
Lie on your back on a flat surface, with your knees bent and your head on a pillow. Place one hand on your chest and the other below the rib cage, so that you can feel your diaphragm rise when you inhale and fall when you exhale. Breathe in deeply through your nose, and tighten your stomach muscles as you breathe out.
This technique involves tensive one muscle at a time, noticing the sensation of muscle tension, and then releasing it.
To make the most of this method, you can follow this guide by Healthinfo.org.nz:
(1) Neck and shoulders – Raise your shoulders towards your ears, hold for a few seconds and then release.
(2) Hands and forearms – Hold your fingers into tight fists, then let your hands loosen the grip. Repeat the movement.
(3) Buttocks – Squeeze the cheeks of your buttocks together, then let them stop working.
(4) Abdominals and thighs – Tighten these muscles, really focusing on the sensation, and then release them.
(5) Jaw and tongue – Clench your teeth together, feeling the tightness in your cheeks, jawline and chin. To release the tension of your tongue, say the letter “Nnnnn” to yourself.
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Disclaimer: Please note that the content provided in this article is intended as an overview and as general information only. While care is taken to ensure accuracy and reliability, the information provided is subject to continuous change and may not reflect current development or address your situation. Before making any decisions based on the information provided in this article, please use your discretion and seek independent guidance.