(a work in progress)
Proper positive relaxation is not easy to achieve.
And is it hard to define! It is easier to say what it is not - it isn't doing something exciting, it isn't daydreaming, it isn't worrying, it isn't falling asleep in front of the TV, it doesn't involve alcohol or coffee, it does not mean 'doing stuff' (things that you keep meaning to do when you get the chance). It does involve trying to achieve a calm state of mind and relaxed body.
The benefits can be enormous - you will feel refreshed and keen; you will have more energy; you will be more creative.
So it is worth taking a break from your studies and it is worth learning how to properly relax during those breaks.
Let me be honest I learnt relaxation (and meditation) techniques in a religious context. But I can now see how to achieve relaxed states of mind in a secular context, Please be assured that it is not my intention to lure you into a religion through relaxation.
So here are some suggestions on how to relax and how not too.
Get away (physically) from you studying or task (go to a different room, sit in your favourite chair, get outside if the weather is fine, go for a short walk....) so that you cannot carry on with the task if you are tempted.
Set aside a planned period of time for your relaxation - so that you start when planned and stop when it is time to carry on studying.
Don't do some different task; don't start doing something stimulating (such as reading a novel, listening to a play on the radio).
If you want to do something then choose something that requires concentration but not intellectualising - such as knitting, some craft activity (like model making), gardening.
You may want to include refreshments in you study break - make yourself a cup of tea or have a juice and a snack. Avoid drinking coffee or drinks rich in caffeine (they will stimulate the brain and won't help you relax); alcohol (this will cloud the brain and is a depressant in large quantities); eating too much sweet food (which will give you a stimulating sugar boost); eating a big meal (this will divert your energy to digestion and make you drowsy).
You may like to listen to some music. Avoid music that stimulates your thoughts and emotions, Music is very powerful at bringing back memories or creating emotions - it can make you sad, angry, melancholy, determined .....
You may want to include some excise in you relaxation - go for a walk, jog, cycle ride or do some gym-type exercises. A bit of exercise is good for your health, uses up energy, will help you sleep when you get to bed and is good for the brain too! But not all exercise is relaxing - e.g. going shopping.
Whilst you do not want to do anything too stimulating during your relaxation you should also be aware that 'quality relaxation' does involve some effort and it is not just a case of doing nothing. If you find yourself just day dreaming then find something to concentrate on. If you are worrying or cannot get something out of your mind then actively do something completely different.
If you are really tired and exhausted then have a sleep!
True quality relaxation is being relaxed and alert; letting go of your cares, worries, planning, activities and expectations for a short while.
During these times you may find that some great ideas pop into your head, so have a piece of notepaper handy to write them down, but don't get caught up in thinking them through.
At the end of your relaxation period - try to carry the relaxation over into your next task. You may find that there are some tasks that you do in your everyday life that can be relaxing if you do them in the right frame of mind. Cooking, washing up, traveling, queuing at the supermarket and many other simple tasks. All you have to do is concentrate on the task - don't let your mind wander and it can become relaxing. You might even hate the task - if you are washing the dishes whilst thinking 'I wish I was doing something else', whilst planning the evening's television viewing in you mind or just grumbling that it must be someone else's turn - then washing the dishes is a unenjoyable chore. But if you concentrate on getting each dish clean, one at a time, then it can be quite refreshing and relaxing!
If you would like to try relaxing meditation- click here
updated Feb 2004
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