With the festive mood in the air, the arrival of school holidays, with all the pressures to get the celebration on the road has meant that this period can be an especially stressful one. This typically occurs when one feels under pressure to do something, or can happen when there’s an unbalanced lifestyle, sometimes even poor eating habits can be a trigger for stress. Overeating or consuming too much sugar and junk food can also lead to inflammation, worsen mood, often leading to symptoms of depression or irritability. So, this festive season put the focus back on wellness by allowing for relaxation and cultivating a positive mental outlook. After all, when we relax, not only do we feel calm, more significantly, it improves our mental processes by helping us feel more equiped for managing the demands of daily life.
The benefits of cultivating a positive mental outlook through relaxation are many. From lowering blood pressure, slowing heart rate, reducing stress hormone activity, improving quality of sleep and mood to name a few. When we are relaxed, we are able to breathe deeper, enhancing oxygenation levels to the various bodily part functions, all of which serves to enhance conscious moment clarity of thought and improved physiological outcomes. This concept was explored in the 1970’s, by Dr Herbert Benson, a cardiologist, who delved into the mind, body connection, and impact of relaxation techniques. Specifically breathing techniques and on the natural release of neurochemicals for physiological health. He coined the term “relaxation response” to describe his research outcomes, which resonated with the wisdom and practice of meditation. So deep breathing as well as the honing of this ‘relaxation response’ has been increasingly used to manage stress-related disorders.
There are many ways to relax, the most obvious is via ‘autogenic relaxation’ which occurs when it comes from within us, internally. Peaceful sitting or meditation will fall into this category. Further what better way than to include some sandalwood aroma, by way of incense, essential oil diffusion or aromatherapy candle. Not only can the relaxant properties of sandalwood restore tranquillity, inhaling sandalwood has been known to enhance the flow and depth of breath, allowing for a physiologically calm space, thereby rebalancing our emotions, mind, and physical body.
'The basis of this art of relaxation we talk of should be underpinned by ease as a critical success factor.'
Something as simple as taking time out to spend with loved ones or your best mates for instance could function to alleviate stress symptoms. An interesting study on stress management, found that when we’re around a best friend, the effects of negative experiences are buffered or reduced. This is because, the mere presence of a best friend, meant that there was less change in cortisol and global self-worth due to the negativity of the experience.
So, as you can see, it needs not a rocket science approach to relaxation for magnifying health and wellness benefits. Progressive muscle relaxation and visualisation are another two quick techniques you can employ, readily in any situation on the go. Sounds easy? The decision to work on relaxing the mind body and soul simply just takes practice, and this choice to do so, ideally should be a conscious one. Perhaps this time, when you’re celebrating with friends and loved ones, understand the abundance in wellness benefits that comes inherently when we are relaxed and having a good time. The quote by Socrates, “beware the barrenness of a busy life” is not far off the mark, for having meaning and living a happy, free, and healthy life is far more valuable than seeking any fleeting external gratification.
Adams, R. E., Santo, J. B., & Bukowski, W. M. (2011). The presence of a best friend buffers the effects of negative experiences. Developmental Psychology, 47(6), 1786–1791. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0025401