Thoughts are present the entire day, both conscious and subconscious. When our thoughts are positive, we are usually not bothered by them. These thoughts are just there and can help us. When we experience mostly negative thoughts, it could lead to a negative feeling, which could result in tension. Because our body and mind are closely linked to each other, these negative thoughts not only lead to mental tension, but also physical tension. We tense our muscles subconsciously throughout the day. This could lead to shoulder and neck complaints, headache, or stomach and intestinal complaints. How the stress reveals itself through the body is different for everybody. What do you recognize?
You could find mental relaxation in mindfulness for example. The purpose of mindfulness is to let your thoughts be without judging them. There is a large variety of exercises, for beginners and advanced people. Mindfulness also exists as a science based psychological treatment, named Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). You can also find mental relaxation in reading a book, going for a walk or doing a puzzle.
When you are having trouble with finding mental relaxation, you can also try to relax your body. Because our body and mind are so closely linked to each other, a physical relaxation can also lead to a mental relaxation. This will reduce negative thoughts and feelings. A good way to find physical relaxation is by doing a relaxation exercise that focusses on tensing and relaxing our muscles. The best moment to do such an exercise is when you experience tension, agitation or stress, for example halfway your day. You can also choose to do the exercise right before going to bed to promote a good night’s sleep.
A well-known relaxation exercise is the Progressive Relaxation of Jacobson. This method is developed in the 20’s by an American doctor, Edmund Jacobson. Using this method you will learn to notice the tension in your muscles and subsequently let it go. The conscious relaxation of our muscles is not something that we are used to. Primarily we are used to tense our muscles, to grab something, to talk, to walk etcetera. We rarely experience a state of utter physical relaxation, except when we are sleeping. Relaxation is the absence of an activity or action. Because we almost always hold a certain tension in our muscles, all sort of physical complaints can arise like we mentioned earlier. That is why relaxing the muscles is very important. With the relaxation exercise of Jacobson you can learn this by subsequently tensing and relaxing various muscle groups throughout your body one by one. The purpose of this is learning to notice how tension in your muscles feels and how the absence of tension feels. In the end you will be able to evoke this relaxation during moments when you feel tension or stress. The original method that is developed in the 20’s took months to fully cope, but lucky for us there is a shorter version available that only lasts 10 to 15 minutes! On the short term this exercise can already promote a better sleep, reduce stress and decrease headaches. Try this relaxation exercise:
The time to relax is when you do not have time for it. – Sydney J. Harris