The ABCs of Top Relaxation Activities and Tips
Relaxation seems like it should be easy. You could just climb into bed at the end of a long day, close your eyes and feel immediately transported into a state of calmness. Right?
Well… Not always.
In the fast-paced world we currently live in, we are exposed to stimulation, stress and pressure on a regular basis. Between technology, work demands, family life, money stress and everything else, it can almost feel a bit unnatural to actually slow down and switch off. It’s no wonder relaxation is a skill many of us struggle with sometimes!
This article is filled to the brim with relaxation activities, tips and strategies which I’ve used and loved myself. You might like to grab a cup of tea and make yourself comfortable! It might even be helpful to have a journal and a pen handy to write down anything which resonates with you so you can remember it later.
You can also sign up for my free 7-Day Relaxation Challenge below to receive a beautiful PDF workbook, email support from me for the duration of the challenge and access to a deep breathing video class on completion of the challenge!
Let’s dive in! Here are the ABCs of relaxation…
Some research has shown that aromatherapy can help relieve stress and boost feelings of relaxation. Choose a relaxing essential oil, such as chamomile or lavender, then use it according to its instructions. You could mix the essential oil with a carrier oil and use it as a massage oil, you could add a few drops to a warm bath, or you might just like to put it in a diffuser and enjoy the aroma.
Breathing techniques can be both simple to use and effective for relaxation.
-Take ten deep breaths
-Inhale while counting to 4, hold the breath for the count of 7, then exhale for 8 counts.
-Place your hands on your stomach and feel the breath moving in and out of your body
C. Create something
Creativity can help you experience a state of “flow”, where you become focused on what you’re doing and feel a sense of achievement. Here are some ideas for creating something:
-make a terrarium
-do a mindful colouring
-create a vision board
Looking for more creativity tips? Check out my article, Enchanting Ideas and Inspiration for a Creative, Mindful Life.
D. Daily meditation
Start a habit of meditation each day (morning, noon, night - whatever suits you best!). There are so many different meditations you can use, so feel free to experiment and find what resonates with you. Here are some helpful resources if you’re not sure where to start:
Regular exercise can reduce the levels of your body’s stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenalin. Studies have even shown that exercise can provide calmness and relaxation, decrease depression and dissipate stress.
Looking for some fun and interesting ways to exercise? Check out my video: 3 Mindful Adventures You Could Try This Weekend!
F. Find someone to talk to
Talking with a friend or loved one can be a cathartic experience and can help you feel supported and cared for. It’s a great way to relax whilst strengthening your relationships!
Start a calming gratitude practice to help you notice the good things in your life. Each night, you could pick up your journal and a pen, climb into bed and spend some time thinking and writing about all the things you can be grateful for. If you’re feeling stuck, here are some helpful prompts to get you started!
-What are 5 things you feel grateful for about your day?
-Write about 3 people you appreciate in your life (and why)
-What is a lesson you learned recently that you can be grateful for?
-Make a list of qualities and strengths you can appreciate about yourself
Hugs raise oxytocin and serotonin levels in your body, helping to relieve feelings of loneliness, anger and anxiety, while enhancing trust and compassion. Next time you’d like a little boost of relaxation, give someone you love a hug or cuddle a pet.
I. Identify stress triggers
Figure out what some of your main stress triggers are and do your best to reduce their impact. For example, if you feel overwhelmed by the work emails you receive, try creating some templates to reduce the time it takes to reply, delete the email app from your phone so you won’t be tempted to check during your time at home, or set up a system to organise your emails better.
Start a regular journaling practice to help you download your thoughts onto paper and help clear your mind!
Here are some helpful articles I wrote about journaling:
Deliberately being kind to others can have a positive effect on our moods and help us to relax. When we feel like we are making a meaningful difference in the world, we can experience a boost in self-esteem and positive feelings. Think about one kind deed you could do today, then go and actually do it!
L. Listen to music
Relaxing music can have a soothing effect and helps us to unwind. My favourite meditation music is created by Tahlee from Sonesence, which incorporates binaural beats to help alter your brainwaves and stimulate relaxation. I love listening to this meditation music at the end of a long day while I snuggle up in bed and drift in and out of consciousness.
My favourite Sonesence albums are:
*Please note that after listening to these meditations albums for years, I am now a proud partner with Sonesence and I may receive a commission if you purchase via my links (at no extra cost to you!).
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment in a curious and non-judgemental way. A simple mindfulness technique which can help you relax is observing your senses. Take some time to notice five things you can see in the world around you, four sensations you can feel in your body, three sounds you can hear, two different aromas and one flavour you can taste. As you do this, try not to label anything as “good” or “bad” – just notice it with curiosity and open-mindedness.
Spending time in nature is a simple and effective way to relax. There is often less stimulation and you can take the time to appreciate the little things, like sunshine on your skin, the colour of the sky and the sounds of the breeze.
Sometimes, clutter can increase our feelings of overwhelm and stress, making it hard to relax at home. A simple way to combat this is to spend time organising your belongings and keeping your home tidy and relatively free from clutter.
If you’re not sure how to start, check out my article called 10 Minimalism Challenges to Help You Win at Decluttering.
P. Progressive muscle relaxation
Doing a progressive muscle relaxation helps you release physical tension from your body and consciously create more relaxation. Find out how to do a progressive muscle relaxation with this cheat sheet.
Q. Quiet place
Feeling overwhelmed and struggling to relax? Try to find a quiet place where you can unwind without too many distractions. Once you’ve found your quiet place, you could use some relaxation techniques, such as the progressive muscle relaxation, the senses mindfulness practice, or a breathing exercise.
R. Relaxation Meditation Album
In my Relaxation Meditation Album, you’ll discover all the tools you need to create a beautiful relaxation experience. You can listen to a ten-minute breathing technique, a 15-minute progressive muscle relaxation, or a 25-minute visualisation. All these meditations are backed with soothing music created exclusively for this album (and you’ll also find a separate music track to help you unwind without guidance from me).
PLUS, you’ll have access to a beautiful PDF journal filled with prompts and tips designed to help you establish a relaxation routine.
Sometimes, we escalate our feelings of stress, frustration and overwhelm by being too hard on ourselves. It can be helpful to talk to ourselves kindly and to give ourselves compassionate space to feel our emotions without judgement.
Be sure to check out episode 153 of The Mindful Kind podcast called Self-Compassion for some help with this.
T. Turn off technology
Have you ever been enjoying a lovely relaxation experience only to suddenly hear your phone start ringing? Not only does the unexpected noise interrupt your feelings of relaxation, but you find it hard to switch off again because you want to know who called you…
Technology can also be stimulating and stressful to use at times, making it hard to even start relaxing in the first place.
Try to turn off technology as often as you can and take dedicated breaks from it during the day to help yourself experience more relaxation.
U. Use a relaxation tool
Start to create a list of relaxation tools you can use when you’re ready to unwind for a while. Some of my favourite relaxation tools include:
-A warm bath
-Combardis Elixirs Aromatic Mists* (use the code rachaelkable for 10% off!)
*Please note I’m a proud partner with Sonesence, Combardis Elixirs and the Aware app and I may receive a commission if you purchase via my link at no extra cost to you).
Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and try to visualise yourself in a calming place. You might visualise yourself at the beach, listening to the sounds of the waves on the beach and the warm sand underneath your feet. You might visualise yourself sitting by a lake and surrounded by mountains (this is the visualisation included in my Relaxation Meditation Album!). You might visualise yourself wandering through a beautiful garden with colourful flowers and tall trees.
W. Walk mindfully
It can be relaxing to just go for a mindful walk now and then! Leave your phone at home and simply enjoy the world around you as you walk. You might feel your breath moving in and out of your body and the sensation of the solid ground underneath your feet.
X. Xerox a relaxation plan
If you find yourself struggling to commit to a relaxation routine, try printing off a plan and sticking it up somewhere it will remind you to relax!
Monday – spend 20 minutes meditating
Tuesday – go for a mindful walk
Wednesday – do something creative for 30 minutes
Thursday – declutter the bedroom
Friday – write in a journal for 10 minutes
Saturday – do a mindfulness practice while I drink a cup of coffee
Sunday – spend an hour in nature
Y. Yin yoga
Yin yoga is a relaxing type of yoga where you hold each yoga pose for 3-5 minutes (usually lying down and supported by props, like a bolster). If you attend a yoga class, the lights will usually be turned down with calming music playing in the background.
Z. Zen time
Make your zen time a priority each day! Even if you just spend ten minutes relaxing, it will still be better than nothing at all. If it helps, you might even relax around the same time each day so you can set up boundaries to stop people interrupting you, turn off your phone and create a solid relaxation habit.