OK, so not the actual words to Frankie Goes to Hollywood, but hey, I’m telling you to do it, not ‘don’t do it’! (Warning, this is a looong post 🙂 )
So why do we have to relax? How will that help our health and wellbeing? Well, have you ever seen a cat? That is my goal, to be as cool and relaxed as a cat, and no wonder, they can relax ANYWHERE.
But seriously, there is so much science to explain how relaxation can help our wellbeing; it can make us more productive and help diminish depression, so if nothing else, it’s worth a try.
As I said in my last post, I’m following Dr Chatterjee’s 4 Pillar Plan, so today I am going to tell you about things I am doing to relax using his methods. Hopefully you will find something for you too.
Not being able to switch off is getting harder and harder with more calls and easier access to our time. Your boss can ask you something by email, and ping, you’re looking at your phone thinking, I’ll just answer that. Facebook and other social media apps are blinking away at you, beckoning you in with their blips and red dots, all things that mean we are on constant alert at all times, no wonder we find it hard to relax. It’s critical that we really make an effort in this area.
Dr Chatterjee has broken this ‘RELAX’ pillar into 5 ‘Interventions’ which are shown above. You don’t have to do them all at once (I’m a bit of a freak in that I want to work on everything at once, but take your time if that suits you more and work on one at a time if you wish).
Also, I am only giving you a really brief idea of how I am following the plan. I cannot recommend highly enough the benefits of reading or listening to this book yourself – there are many insights and explanations that I can’t cover in this space, so this really is the short version of events.
The benefits of being able to relax are many, some potential gains that he mentions are:
- Weight loss
- Improved resilience
- Reduced stress
- Improved ability to cope
- More balanced outlook
- Less road-rage (high on my list)
- Better ability to sleep
- More restorative sleep
- Better concentration.
So, here we go, what I am doing to help me relax:
1. Me-Time Every Day.
Every day for at least 15 minutes and more if possible, stop everything and be totally selfish. Make it a part of your schedule and block time out for it – don’t leave it until everything is done, make it part of your chores for the day. There are only three rules for this:
- It must be totally for you and you alone.
- It must not be an activity that involves your smart phone, PC or tablet (and I would add not your TV either).
- You are NOT allowed to feel guilty about it.
So far, I have read a book, had a 30 minute nap using the Calm app napping sleep stories, played music really loud and sung along and gone for a long walk with my dog. You can do whatever you want, but if you want some ideas, try these:
- Visit a local cafe, buy a coffee and read a trashy magazine.
- Sit in a room with the lights off and listen to your favourite music.
- Have a relaxing bath, no phones or interruptions, just peace and quiet.
- Go for a walk or run, maybe put earphones in to block out the noise around you.
- Read a book.
- Sing along to your favourite music.
2. Screen-Free Sabbath
The second intervention that you may find harder to do is the Screen-Free Sabbath. I am doing this one slowly as I haven’t quite got round to turning my phone off (people may need to call me!), but I don’t go on Facebook or any other social media and I definitely don’t touch my emails.
We spend so much time on our phones, checking our feeds, seeing our likes and followers, to the point where we pick up the phone as soon as we wake up – how on earth are we supposed to switch off when we are pretty much addicted to our phones and tablets – checking them on average around 221 times a day according to a survey carried out in 2014 – I can’t imagine what it is now!
Electronic devices are taking over our lives, how many times are you out with friends and all of a sudden they’re not talking to you, just going ‘yeah, yeah’ and looking down at their phones!
So this is definitely something I am working on. So far, I have: Turned off notifications (except texts, only my family text me when they need me, so I have kept them on), pretty much stopped going on Facebook and only browse for 30 minutes to groups I’m a member of and check my email on my PC, which is more of a pain to do as you have to turn it on rather than the instance of my phone.
One idea is to turn off the data on your phone so you are only contactable by text or calls for a whole day and help reduce temptation, but if that is still too much, Dr Chatterjee has provided a 7 day digital detox so you can wind down before Sunday so you are ready. The detox is:
- Monday – Turn off all push notifications on your phone, laptop and tablet
- Tuesday – you add to this by unsubscribing from redundant email lists.
- Wednesday – you set your email apps on your devices to refresh manually OR consider taking emails (or at least your work emails) off your phone completely.
- Thursday – consider having a device box set up for mealtimes – you and everyone around you have to put their devices in a box BEFORE you sit down for a meal.
- Friday – Can you switch of all your devices for 90 minutes before bed and maybe disable your work emails until Monday.
- Saturday – Have 2 x one hour periods throughout the day where you are device free. Also, enjoy some special moments without posting them on social media.
- Sunday – Live your entire day offline and without screens.
Although I’m not there yet with this, I do want to do more of this as I think my phone rules me now, it’s not a convenience as it once was, it’s an inconvenience.
3. Gratitude Journal
Now this is one I love. I do this anyway and it has made me pick up a pen again and take to writing them down all over again.
Beware – this is hard when you have had a bad day, but that is when you need it most and even if all you can manage is “I’m still breathing” just write it down.
I write down at least 3 things every evening, but Dr Chatterjee recommends that you write down ALL the things you are grateful for, no matter how big or small. This is addictive – taking 10 to 20 minutes to do this EVERY NIGHT is proven to help depression, aid sleep and give you more focus each day.
Giving thanks has been going on for years. Christians praying each night as a form of giving thanks to God is just one example. But this isn’t about religion, it’s about making you feel good. Instead of focusing on the bad day you’ve had at work, what about that colleague who stopped you in the kitchen and made you a cup of tea, or instead of focusing on the terrible journey home that you had, what about focusing on the guy who let you out of the turning, or the lady who got up from her seat on the bus to let you sit down?
You will find that there is something good in every day if you only look, from reading something that makes you laugh to chatting to an old friend on the phone who you haven’t spoken to in ages, just look a little harder and you will find them.
I suggest buying a really nice notebook and a good pen to do this – just picking these up each night will make you smile – trust me on this 🙂
4. Daily Stillness Practice
Now this is something I NEED! Practice must be my middle name as it is definitely something I can’t DO and I need all the practice I can get. Dr Chatterjee recommends at least 5 minutes stillness every day and boy, do I struggle with that.
Meditation – I’m not sure about you, but I have a monkey mind! All I do when I try not to is think about what I need to do – trying to shut it out is so hard for me, but I am persevering and slowly I am beginning (and I mean beginning) to find ways to get me back on track.
One of the things I use to do this is an app called Calm (I mentioned them earlier when I talked about daytime napping) – and yes, I understand that I’ve just said use your phone less, but this is a good app, I’m not playing with my phone, just turning on music as such.
They have guided meditations and this really helps me as it gives me something to focus on, as focusing on my breath and 2 seconds later, I’m off in my brain again. However some people hate these and just prefer silence or a background soothing noise.
Dr Chatterjee suggests trying anything where you are present in the moment and not thinking about the future. So for instance, if you really struggle like me, try listening to your favourite song in a nice, quiet room with your eyes shut, just concentrating fully on the song (maybe have it on repeat if you want to try longer), listening to the drum beats, the strings, the vocals, dissecting each bit of it.
Or maybe for you it’s about watching your breath. Dr Chatterjee has created a breathing technique called 3-4-5 – you breathe in deeply for the count of 3, hold for the count of 4 and breathe out slowly for the count of 5 – concentrating on counting allows you to concentrate on what you are doing, which in turn helps you tame your busy mind.
It’s whatever works for you that is right, it is NOT about being able to site crossed legged in a Sun-Moon-Cow-Cat (made-up) pose, with your hair in a bun and incense burning all around (however, if that works for you, go for it!)
5. Reclaiming your Dining Table.
Eat one meal a day, at the table, in company if possible, and with NO electronic devices anywhere to be seen. Sounds easy? The image above looks amazing, but how hard is it to make sure everyone is home, dinner isn’t just a ‘ding-ding’ meal and the call of the TV isn’t beckoning us to sit in front of the tele with our meals on our laps.
Mealtime around the table has become a thing of the past in most homes, but it is ingrained into us to converge together to eat, from stone age man sitting around the campfire talking tall tales of how they bagged a Ginormosaurus to Victorian splendor, where mealtime was a place to meet and great friends and family alike and share the days activities. We are losing our connections.
Nowadays there is only myself and my husband at home and sometimes he is still working until very late, so we don’t always eat together. But this is something I have been working on for a while, stopping takeaways and using The Batch Lady to prepare our meals (click the link to read my post on this – it will change the way you freeze meals!)
Eating together helps reduce loneliness, it helps you relax and therefore helps with digestion and you take on less calories. Yes, you can also lose weight doing this. If you are mindlessly putting food in your stomach as you watch TV, you will ignore the signals in your brain that are telling you that you are full.
Taking the time to sit down and eat your meal with nothing electronic on, talking to your spouse or your children and reconnecting will make a MASSIVE change in the way you feel. The effects can be astronomical.
Well, I hope that this has given you some food for thought. As I said in the beginning, this is a meer snippet of what the book is about and has none of the ‘sciencey bits’ that you may find juicy, but it is working for me. I am more relaxed, sleeping better and feel better too – I’ve a LOOONG way to go, but I’m taking the steps to get there.
Next week, I’ll cover the EAT pillar – until then, best wishes