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Take It Easy: The Benefits of Relaxation

Monday, August 13, 2018 6:59 AM

In honor of National Relaxation Day, we’re getting serious about stress relief. When people talk about relaxation, it often seems like something that we aren’t always able to fit into our busy schedules. In reality, relaxation can be one of the healthiest things to incorporate into your everyday life.

Daily stress can take a toll on both physical and mental health. Studies show that various forms of relaxation can help reduce many chronic health concerns as well as restore energy and encourage a more positive sense of self. Some popular relaxation techniques include:

  • Breathing. Learning to control breathing (through exercises like deep breathing) will help the body take in more oxygen, which helps to relieve anxiety, slow heart rate and stabilize blood pressure.
  • Meditation. There are several different forms of meditation that involve chanting mantras, performing specific postures and using breathing exercises that encourage positive body awareness and a sense of peace. 
  • Yoga. This popular practice also combines postures with breathing exercises. Not only does yoga help to relax the mind, but it also improves your flexibility, muscle tone and balances the systems within your body.
  • Tai Chi and Qigong. These two practices both use their own distinct movement sets that incorporate slow, circular motions with deep breathing, meditation and self-massage. They're great for light exercise, improving circulation and gaining a strong sense of energy.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation.  By tensing and releasing muscle groups gradually, you can become more aware of how your body feels when stressed or relaxed, and develop strategies to more actively handle stress-related tension.
  • Visualization. The variations of this technique involve connecting visual images and physical sensations. By imagining a relaxing setting and focusing on its details, it becomes easier to eliminate stressful thoughts and focus on calming the physical body. 
  • Hypnosis. Administered by a licensed therapist, hypnosis helps to tune out distracting brain activity and focus on specific suggestions related to positive thinking.

Dr. Mina Lee Ryu, MD, FACP, Internist in Internal Medicine at NorthShore working in internal medicine, lists some of the many benefits of making relaxation a part of your daily routine:

  • Decreased heart rate and respiration rate
  • Lowered blood pressure and increased blood flow
  • Decrease in anxiety, depression and insomnia
  • Relaxed muscles
  • Reduced pain (long-term illnesses, chronic conditions)
  • A boost in energy and better sleep patterns
  • A sense of calmness and confidence
  • Improved coping abilities

How do you incorporate relaxation into your daily routine?