Let’s talk about unwinding. Many of us have a hard time relaxing from the go-go-go mentality that’s ingrained in us. If you have ever read Eat, Pray, Love you may remember the term that Elizabeth Gilbert picked up in Italy – Il Far Niente, which is English translates to The Art of Doing Nothing. To me this is the true definition of unwinding and relaxing. Shutting your brain off, shutting your phone off and just doing nothing. Trust me, it’s harder than it sounds. I can say personally that the chatter in my head is a hard one to turn off. I self-confess that I am horrible at meditation. And lately my idea of a good book hasn’t been a feat of fiction, but instead a heavy and thick one on nutrition theories and how plants cure ailments. Yup, nerd alert.
To unwind, we all have our own routines. Sometimes it takes more than a routine, instead a necessary plane ticket to a faraway destination where you talk about how you wish you could unwind, and then on your last day in paradise you finally do.
So how can we focus the mind and body more on relaxation? Here are seven of my tips and tricks:
1) Relax your mind by doing your favorite work out. For me this is running or pilates (insert photo above of me being semi-awesome on the reformer), and for many it is yoga. Whatever it may be, working out can act as its own form of meditation to help calm your mind.
2) A warm bath any time (oh yes I have been known to take a bath during the day and it is righteous). Make it your time with your own mix of salts or bubbles to calm and relax you.
3) Use a meditation app like Headspace. For meditation novices like myself, this one is beginner friendly. Meditation is an amazing way to unwind.
4) Play your favorite album. You know, so Sade or Maxwell will always bring out the mellow vibes. But if you’re not a self-confessed slow jam addict like me, have some fun on Spotify or iTunes and make your own relaxing mix. Mellow music always does wonders to bring things down a notch.
5) Cook or bake something. Now I know this one is not for everyone. I mean, my hairdresser told me yesterday that he hates cooking but doing dishes helps him unwind. Imagine that!
6) A cup of warm herbal tea before bed to help your brain unwind. I like a combination of chamomile, lavender and valerian (check out ALOHA's sleep tea) which help induce relaxation and trigger a calming effect on your body and mind.
7) Breathe! The practice of mindful breathing can do wonders for stress, especially when trying to calm yourself in a stressful moment. If you are stressed in the moment, it might help to start by taking an exaggerated breath:
- a deep inhale through your nostrils (7 seconds)
- hold your breath (4 seconds)
- and a long exhale through your mouth (8 seconds).
Simply observe each breath without trying to adjust it; it may help to focus on the rise and fall of your chest or the sensation through your nostrils. As you do so, you may find that your mind wanders, distracted by thoughts or bodily sensations. That’s okay. Just notice that this is happening and gently bring your attention back to your breath.
Mindful breathing can start with a daily practice of just a few minutes at your desk each morning, increasing to 10-15 minutes of focused meditation. A regular practice of mindful breathing and/or daily meditation will do wonders to combat stress!
NOW GO AND RELAX! Your body and mind deserve it.