Who said you can’t buy time?
If you’re the sort of person who always feels like you don’t have enough time in your day, then think about this: you can actually create more time in your day by taking 10 minutes out of it.
Just 10 minutes of relaxation each day effectively adds hours to your week in terms of energy, concentration, productivity, and contentment, and greatly reduces stress.
Try these short relaxation routines for 10 minutes a day for one month, and prepare to be amazed at the difference in your efficiency and state of mind.
The best position to practice deep breathing is lying on your back on the floor. However, the great thing about this technique is that it can be practiced anywhere, whether you’re sitting, standing, lying, or even walking.
Place your hands on your abdomen, just above your belly button, and breathe through your mouth into your stomach. Feel your stomach rise under your hands until it’s filled with breath, hold the breath for a moment, then release the breath slowly through your nose. Feel the breath move out from your stomach, through your rib-cage and chest, and finally, out of your nose or mouth. Repeat this slow breathing sequence for 10 minutes.
During the 10 minutes of deep breathing, you may feel the need to yawn and stretch as your body unwinds and relaxes. Do so when you need to, then return to your deep breathing.
The key to deep breathing is using your stomach, not your chest. If you breathe with your chest, your breathing will be tense, short and shallow. However when you breathe with your stomach, your breathing is relaxed, slow and deep. Ten minutes of deep breathing per day will not only help you to relax during your practice, but will also teach your body to breathe well throughout the whole day. Most people find that, over time, their breathing patterns become deeper and more relaxed consistently, without the need to think about it.
Deep breathing is also an excellent base technique to incorporate into stretching, visualisation and meditation practices.
If you’ve played sports at any stage of your life, you probably know some simple stretches. These can also be used as a relaxation technique. With the help of a fitness instructor (or you can simply do some research yourself), find several stretches that best target your problematic, tight or tender muscles. Yoga stretches are a great place to start if you’re stuck!
Try to include a stretch for each major area of the body including the neck, lower and upper back, arms, abdomen and legs. Use your 10 minute routine to break up your work day, or practice your stretches in the evening. It’s best not to stretch immediately after waking as your muscles aren’t warmed up, making you more prone to injury.
Stretching should always be gentle and cause only slight tension or tightness in the muscle you’re extending. If the stretch ever becomes painful, or the tension increases too much, ease off immediately. Always hinge from your hips when stretching your back, and take care not to over-extend your neck and shoulders, or put too much pressure on problematic joints such as knees and ankles.
Top tip: breathing deeply throughout each stretch increases the effectiveness of the stretch.
You can practice visualisation wherever you are, lying on the floor, sitting on a comfortable sofa, or even in your desk chair at work. All you need to do is close your eyes and picture a beautiful, peaceful place, a place in which you feel happiness. It might be a balmy beach, or a quiet forest, an alpine lake, the top floor of a high rise building, or simply a patch of sunshine in a favourite room. It doesn’t have to be somewhere you have been either, you can make it up.
Once you can picture yourself in this place, take 10 minutes to enjoy it. What do you hear and see? What can you smell? What do your mind and body feel like in this place? While you’re there, take the time to breathe deeply.
As you prepare to leave your happy place, be aware of the heavy, relaxed state of your body. Feel yourself sinking back into your surroundings as you slowly open your eyes and return to the present moment. Be mindful and keep the sense of peace you felt throughout your visualisation practice with you even as you leave your happy place.
The basic premise of meditation is that it helps you release your mind, and enjoy some relaxation and restoration.
Sit quietly in a comfortable position and choose a calming word or phrase to focus on – try your favourite quote or phrase from a poem, book, or scripture. Burning aromatic oil, incense or candles and dimming the lights around you can help you get in the zone.
Close your eyes, or focus your gaze on a spot about 120cm in front of you (this is called the meditation spot).
Breathe slowly and naturally, filling your stomach and not your chest. Slowly relax your muscles from your head to your feet, drawing your tail bone in and lifting the chest and the crown of your head. Start to repeat your word or phrase over and over in your mind, or quietly to yourself. Let your mind release into the word or phrase.
Remain passive and refrain from analysing what you are doing. When other thoughts come to your mind, simply notice them without judgement, then gently return to the word or phrase you’re focussing on.
Continue to meditate for 10-20 minutes, or until you’re ready to return to the present. If you only have a short amount of time, instead of setting an alarm which will abruptly end your meditation and disturb your sense of peacefulness, just open your eyes occasionally to check on the time. When you’re ready to come out of your meditative state, sit quietly for a minute or so and gradually open your eyes. Stand up slowly, stretching if you want to, and enter back into the day.
These techniques can help you be a calmer, more productive version of yourself and reduce your stress levels, so it’s definitely worth making time to practice these relaxation strategies each day.