How To Relax

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We’ve forgotten how to relax.

Somewhere throughout the years we unlearned this important trait.

Sitting in front of a TV is what most people do to “relax.” But that’s passive relaxation and due to the constant barrage of stimuli it’s not relaxation at all.

Those of us without a TV have other forms of passive relaxation that isn’t relaxing. Playing a computer game, mindlessly surfing the Web, checking twitter, checking e-mail, and so on.

Lately I’ve been practicing what I call active relaxation. It’s very simple. Ready?

How To Practice Active Relaxation

Active relaxation involves doing literally almost nothing.

1) Turn everything off. TV, phone, computer, iPod, everything.

Noise is OK. We can’t shut off the world. We can, however, shut off our world. The goal here is not to escape, but to just be.

2) Sit, breathe, and be still. Eyes can be open or closed.

This will depend on where you are. If I’m indoors when I practice active relaxation I close my eyes. If I’m outside I will sometimes keep my eyes open and focus on something fairly inactive, like the treetops.

3) Pay attention to what’s going on around you or to your thoughts.

Depending on where you are will most likely determine what you’re paying attention to. When I’m indoors my attention usually settles on something inward, but when I’m outside it’s a different experience.

I enjoy doing this exercise outside more than inside. When I do it inside (between writing sessions for example) it helps with clarity and focus. But when I practice active relaxation outside the results are a little more intense.

The best way I can explain it is it feels like rainbows and fireworks. :)

A special request from me today: At some point today (not tomorrow or the next day or next week or next month) take 5 or 10 minutes and practice active relaxation. Even if it’s immediately before going to bed.

Taking time for yourself is important and I know with our busy schedules it’s not always easy. But it’s a special request, which is like some kind of blood oath. Which means you might die if you don’t do it. (People die from blood oaths? What is a blood oath? I hope it’s nothing like blood pudding. Ugh. Do you know what’s in blood pudding? It’s worse than cooked congealed blood. Wait. It is cooked congealed blood.)

When you’re done come back here and let me know how you feel. :)

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{ 41 comments }

Sandy

Stretch, breath and walking.
I basically keep doing above routines until I can really sooth my anxiety down :)

Informative article, Karol :)

Karol

Thank you Sandy. It helps with anxiety and everything else. :)

Henk

I have been meditating now and then just to keep going.

Listening to your breath and fully being aware that you are is a great training.

Short article, but oh so important:)

Greetings,
Henk.

Karol

Hey Henk,

That’s great. This isn’t quite meditating, but it’s close. :)

Karol

Gabe

Sweet, this post was really timely for me. This is gonna become part of my new evening routine! Thanks!

Karol

Awesome Gabe! Thanks for taking action! :)

Adam Martin

Thank you for sharing these tips. I have been trying to watch less TV in the evening, which has helped with my relaxation. This seems to have really worked for me. I am going to try these other things as well.

Karol

“Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda

hehe, but seriously, that’s great that you’re cutting out some TV watching. It really does help with relaxation (and productivity as well).

Adam Martin

That is the main reason I cut it out was for productivity. The relaxing part ended up being a side effect, which was nice.

vern

Hey i just found your site the other day while i was what I call “link hopping”
any way you have some good stuff. Nice style that is kicked back and relaxing like the point you are making with this post. yes your correct about that so often we call things like gaming, TV, the Web all things that take our mind off of everyday shit but does not give the brain a chance to just absorb It self. Thanks and again cool read
V.H.

Karol

Hey Vern!

Thanks for link hopping this way. :)

Karol

Srinivas RAo

Karol,

It’s funny that you wrote this post because i had just been toying around with an idea for a post about the importance of a quiet mind. That’s really what time in the ocean does for me and it’s an incredible feeling of piece. But it is amazing how “on” we are at almost all times of day. I don’t keep visible clocks in my room for that reason as crazy as that sound because then I wake up every few hours to check what time it is. not exactly relaxing :)

Karol

I know what you mean Srini, but surfing (or being actively engaged in any sport) is different than what I’m talking about. When I’m riding my bike or walking I also feel peace, but it’s much different than sitting still and actively relaxing. :)

Thanks man!

Karol

Baran

I read this a few hours ago but didn’t pay attention. Somehow you got into my subconscious mind. I just wanted to get out an hour ago to get the last rays of sunshine. I walked a little, sat on the grass, then watched the sun go down and disappear. While walking back I remembered reading this. I love sun gazing, it’s like pure being. I feel refreshed whenever I do it.

Karol

That’s great Baran! Thank you for sharing. I placed subliminal messages in this article so you would never forget. ;)

Martin

Very informative article and very witty comments. Great post! Please keep the good ideas coming. Thanks for sharing!

Karol

Thank you Martin! :)

Bia Kunze

“noise is ok”
well, kind of… it’s worldcup time… and the vuvuzelas are driving nuts.
remember me? I live in Brazil. There is no escape :(

Karol

Obviously an exceptional circumstance. :)

Farnoosh

In other words, meditate, right Karol? Is this different/
I do meditate and I close my eyes when I do. I see in yours they can be closed or open. And TV is abominable. My Mac and Kindle and iPhone I do love :)! But discipline is the most important of all.
For me, yoga is relaxation and I don’t mean sitting and slow moving yoga. I mean a hard core 100-minute power yoga :)!

Karol

Hi Farnoosh,

No, not really. Meditation is about quieting the mind. This is just about letting it do what it wants to do for a few minutes. :)

Cheers,
Karol

Daisy

It’s precisely the fact that what you describe is NOT meditation that makes me love this post. Most folks (myself included, though I’m trying) find the practice of meditation incredibly daunting. This form of relaxing and permitting your mind to play is much more accessible, I think.

Karol

Thank you Daisy. Yes, I know what you mean about meditation. I’ve had troubles with it myself although I am getting better. This relaxation technique is much different, and as you stated, more accessible.

Rasheed Hooda

I often take time to go to the park, and park my car there and just sit in it and listen to the birds or watch the squirrels. Other times it will be just sit at a picnic table with my eyes closed. Very refreshing indeed.

I took a few minutes to just sit here with my eyes closed and observing my breath and my thoughts as they passed. But I prefer being out in the Nature to relax.

Karol

That’s wonderful Rasheed! Thank you for sharing. :)

Marcel Paradies

Indeed worth a read. Personally, this method is not quite for me, because I feel like daydreaming instead of relaxing. One of my favourite methods to find relaxation without really “medidating” is to talk a walk through the park or the city, especially when it’s sunny wheather.

Living in a beautiful city would be a clear plus here, though.

Karol

Hey Marcel,

As long as you find something that works for you, it’s all good. :)

Cheers,
Karol

Andrew

Walking around the garden does this for me. Generally, I start the day with meditation and end it picking vegetables or tying up vines.

Great advice, and something we all need to do more of.

Karol

Thank you for sharing Andrew. :)

Bobby Huang

This relaxation you talk about is the mostly the same thing I do for meditation.

For #3, I learned letting the thoughts process really helps with any situation. Sometimes a thought comes into my head I want to resist and say “don’t think about this”. I let it process and I gain new insights.

Even if its a painful thought, going through it really helps!

Karol

Thanks Bobby. I get a lot of interesting insights by doing this too. But sometimes I just see a squirrel jumping from tree to tree. :)

Meg

Spot on, Karol! It’s what I like to do when standing in a long line at the grocery store or putting gas in the car at a really slow pump. No point in getting wound up, just opt for active relaxation. Don’t know about the rainbows and fireworks, but it’s pretty nice ;D

Karol

Thank you Meg! :) Rainbows and fireworks only happen if you’re engaged in nothing else but relaxing. ;)

Laura Roeder

I think the most important piece is the call to action to try this out TODAY! It’s so hard to make “unplugging” a priority.

Karol

Thanks Laura. It’s weird that something so important is so difficult to start, huh? But then, all habits worth having take a bit of practice. :)

Stanley Lee

It sounds like what is told to do for meditation sessions…
Btw, is there a retweet button somewhere near the article?

Haidn Foster

Hey Karol,

I was working on a post for my site about contentedness vs. happiness and why contentedness is really a false idol for people looking to relax but still be happy (the post is over at http://www.reachaltitude.com/articles/taking-happiness-over-contentment/) -then I read this article and now I had some terms to work with! Active vs. passive relaxation is genius, fit in perfectly with my message, and came around at just the right time. Thanks for the unwitting assist!

Peace,
Haidn

Haidn Foster

Er, that link got a little wonky, but you get the idea… :-)

Karol

Awesome Haidn! :)

Jigu

You have a valid point. People think TV, computer etc is Relaxation, which is not because our minds are very much active, that is more of exertion than relaxation. Simple concentrated breathing for 10-15 min is what every body needs but can’t think in that terms-sounds primitive for a modern world.

Karol

Back to the primitive!! :)

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