Relaxation is defined as the act of relaxing or the state of being relaxed. It is also defined as the refreshment of the body or mind/recreation. My favorite definition of relaxation comes from Wikipedia. It defines relaxation as the “release of tension, a return to equilibrium.”

Relaxation is our body’s way of rejuvenating. It allows time for our mind and body to repair. It has also been shown that relaxing improves our mood and improves brain function and memory. When we are relaxed we tend to make better decisions. We are less impulsive and able to be more rational and have better clarity.

There are several health benefits to relaxation as well. Relaxation lowers the risk for depression and anxiety, hypertension, heart attacks, and other heart-related problems. It can also boost our immunity and lower the risk for catching colds. If we are stress eaters, relaxation can keep away those unwanted pounds.

When working with clients or even talking with friends, the most common excuse for not relaxing is “I don’t have the time.” This is probably very true for a lot of people. However, if we don’t have time to relax, we have to make time to relax. A wise person once told me if I didn’t learn how to rest, my body would take a permanent rest for me. That was a nice wake-up call.

Relaxation can be incorporated into our daily schedules. It’s not always easy, but it can be done.

For starters, you may wish to start your day a little earlier. I’m a chronic “snooze-hitter” myself, but I find that if I wake up a few minutes earlier, I don’t have to rush through my morning routine. Instead of running out of the house with my hot cup of tea, I actually have time to sit and enjoy it.

You may also try having designated times just to relax, even if only for a few minutes. I try to schedule these during my workday. When I take my break, I make sure I take it away from all work and engage in something relaxing. We schedule other important aspects of our lives – why not relaxation?

Challenge yourself to have a least a few minutes every day to free your mind. I call this “Free Your Mind for Five.” You can do it longer if you wish, but I try to commit to at least five minutes. I’ve found it easiest to incorporate this into my daily commute home before picking up my daughter.

For at least five minutes I ride in silence. I don’t answer the phone or turn the radio on, and use that time to decompress. I try to use this time for mindfulness techniques such as focusing on my breathing. I also take the time to observe my surroundings, but only in traffic or at stoplights (it is important to be a safe driver).

When all else fails, I try to escape. I think we can all appreciate a nice vacation, but more often than not we associate vacations with taking a trip to a great destination. What if we can’t take a “real” vacation? Consider what I call mental and emotional vacations; simply getting away from negative thinking, negative emotions, stress, or overwhelming situations. Getting away can be as simple as changing your surroundings. This can be done by taking a walk outside. If you don’t have that luxury, escape to the bathroom – no one really ever questions that. If all else fails, visualize being somewhere else.

The benefits of relaxation are numerous. It’s healthy to indulge in some self-care from time to time. By learning to incorporate periods of relaxation throughout your day, you will find a healthier, happier you.