Culture is moving at an ever-increasing pace. The 24-hour news cycle, continuous notifications on cell phones, and population shifts combined with an overall atmosphere of distraction can make it a challenge to let down and relax — not to mention keep your mood positive. It's not an impossible task to feel more relaxed and upbeat; it just takes desire and intentionality. Here are a few suggestions to help increase your relaxation and boost your mood.
Have you ever noticed that when you're stressed out, your breathing becomes faster, shorter, and more shallow? That's your body's natural adaptive response to perceiving a threat — although these days it's rarely a real one — it's more often in response to perceptions. Breathing mindfully can help, and it's easy to learn. You can use mindful breathing in almost any setting, public or private; those around you won't even notice what you're doing! The positive effects are mindful breathing are cumulative. A feeling of relief and an uptick in mood will likely come right away, but you'll notice the most powerful effects over time.
Take Time Out
Getting cozy is one of the best ways to promote comfort and relaxation. Make sure that you've blocked out sufficient time in your schedule to spend alone or with loved ones who you like and trust. You might be tempted to get a bit of work done during that time, but hold off! This is an opportunity for your body, mind, and spirit to rest and replenish. When you return to work, you'll be refreshed and more effective. Have blankets, warm drinks, and comfort foods readily available. Depending on your preference you might enjoy an uplifting movie, reading a relaxing book, or sleeping. Fireplaces are often associated with relaxation and positive feelings — if you have access to one, take advantage of it! Gas logs are convenient and radiate a gentle feeling of warmth.
The smell of cooking is particularly relaxing — especially foods like cookies in the oven — or even garlic! In recent years, essential oils have become increasingly popular for relaxation and mood enhancement. They come in countless varieties and in formulations to suit any budget — to be used topically, or diffused indoors. Go with small quantities at first as you start to use them. Eventually, you'll find the optimal amount for your needs. It's a good idea to consult with a trusted medical practitioner before using essential oils. Studies are gradually coming out regarding their benefits.
Mindful movement is any kind of movement that engages your "rest and digest" nervous system response (parasympathetic) rather than your "fight or flight" (sympathetic) response. There's a wide variety — choose what suits you best! Functional movement (light housework or gardening), walking at a gentle pace, the restorative forms of yoga and pilates, tai chi, and dancing to mellow music are all mindful ways to increase your relaxation and uplift your mood. Mindful movement also helps you slow down enough to appreciate the things and people around you — away from electronic devices — so you feel more connected with your environment and others.
Get a Massage
The relaxation and mood benefits of massage are well-documented. Fortunately for your situation and budget, massage can take many forms. A simple shoulder massage with a partner or friend can be incredibly soothing and mood-lifting; so can self-massage, or using a good-quality massage device. While making an appointment with a massage therapist is a tried-and-true way to go, you might even find massage services at your workplace or in malls and airports. Swedish massage — a method in which the therapist uses long strokes, gentle kneading, and deep circular movements — is especially relaxing if you're experiencing stress. Massage can bring a deep sense of caring and connection, increasing feelings of ease and contentment.
If you're wanting to increase your feelings of calm and happiness, you can accomplish it naturally. Try these suggestions to get started!