Relaxation is perhaps the most important key to health and well-being. When we are completely relaxed, our own natural healing mechanism is more active.

The benefits of relaxation include reduced stress levels, strengthened immune system, it helps to over come anxiety and depression and it can also help to lower heart rates and blood pressure.

More and more people are now looking for relaxation to counteract the stress caused by the recession.

Relaxation techniques combine breathing more deeply with relaxing the muscles but don’t worry if you find it difficult to relax at first. It’s a skill that needs to be learned and practice makes perfect.

Tai chi and yoga are forms of exercise that can help to improve breathing and relaxation.

Good relaxation practice always starts with focusing on your breath.

When you focus on your breath as it enters and leaves your body, it helps to bring you into the present moment and stops your thoughts from going off in different directions.

If you are anxious you are living in the future.

If you are depressed you are living in the past.

If you are at peace you are living in the present

Try this short exercise:

Breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth slowly. When you breathe in, fill your lungs with air and imagine you are filling up a bottle so that your lungs fill from the bottom. Let your breath escape slowly, counting from one to five. Continue to do this until you feel calm.

Practise this relaxed breathing for three to five minutes, two to three times a day or whenever you feel stressed.

When we are stressed we tend to hold tension in our muscles. This next technique takes around 15 minutes. It consists of stretching different muscles in turn and then relaxing them to release tension from the body and this also calms the mind.

Find a warm, comfortable, quiet place with no distractions. This can be done either sitting or lying down. Close your eyes and begin to focus on your breathing as described above.

For each exercise, hold the stretch for a few seconds, then relax. Repeat it a couple of times. It’s useful to keep to the same order as you work through the muscle groups:

Scrunch your eyebrows together, as though frowning, then release.

Gently tilt your head forwards, pushing your chin down onto your chest, then slowly lift again.

Lift your shoulders up towards your ears, hold, then relax them down.

Breathe slowly and deeply into the diaphragm using the whole of the lungs. Then breathe slowly out, allowing your tummy to deflate as all the air is exhaled.

Tense your arms and clench your fists, hold, then relax.

Tense your buttocks, hold, then relax.

Tense the muscles in your legs and point your toes away from the body, then pull them towards body, and relax.

Notice where your body feels the most relaxed and allow this relaxation to fill your whole body.

Spend some time lying quietly after your relaxation with your eyes closed. When you feel ready, stretch and get up slowly.

Play soothing music, light a candle and create a relaxing environment in order to relax.

Spend more time in nature and notice the beauty around you. It’s easy to miss the natural serenity around us when we fill our lives with such busyness. Relaxation is free and although it is nice to spend money on a massage, a facial or some new fangled therapy, relaxation is always within us and connecting with this won’t cost us a penny.

Sometimes we are so busy looking after other people that we forget to look after ourselves.

Relaxation is so important for your health and well being and I hope you make time for yourself.

Feeling chilled yet?

Lots of love

Louise x