New minimalists often make the mistake of thinking that minimalism is all about sparsity and getting rid of stuff. But once all of the excess is out of the way, it’s less about stuff and more about intentional living.
By that, I mean that you have more time on your hands and you decide what to do with that time.
One of the life-changing things I practised was incorporating a healthy dose of relaxation into my schedule.
In today’s fast-paced society, many of us have lost the ability to relax. And I don’t mean sitting in front of the TV binging on Netflix or surfing the internet; I mean true, hardcore relaxation. No technology, no stress, just gentle, relaxing activities.
At first, it was hard because I was so used to always being on the go cleaning, tidying, cooking, washing up, going to work and parenting. I was always in a state of ‘what next?’.
Even when I thought I was relaxing by playing my Playstation or watching TV, I wondered why I still felt wired.
You see, by relying on technology, all I was doing was keeping my mind in a heightened state of arousal and chasing an endless stream of dopamine hits – the complete opposite of relaxing!
But once you understand how, true relaxation is easier than you think.
Below, are some of my most used relaxation techniques, which will lift the weight from your soul and leave you feeling like a gently flowing stream instead of a crashing tidal wave.
Lighting a scented candle To create a calming atmosphere, there’s nothing quite like lighting a scented candle. It doesn’t have to be scented, though, and you can even buy natural beeswax candles if you’re sensitive to the usual ones you can buy.
I like to dim all the lights, close the blinds, and indulge in the soft light cast by the flame. Never leave a candle unattended, though, or near a flammable source!
Play soft music I find chillhop and low-fi music can be especially calming and puts me into a zen-like state very fast. That’s because listening to music, especially of a relaxing variety, can lower your blood pressure and heart rate.
Combined with the scented candle, it’s a sure fire way to let your stress go.
Soft lighting I briefly mentioned lighting when talking about the candle, but to put your mind into a state of relaxation, it’s best to use soft, low lighting.
This is because leaving your lights on full will have a blue-light effect similar to the screens on our devices. It can suppress your melatonin levels (the hormone responsible for helping us to sleep) and leave you restless.
Soft, comfortable clothes This one speaks for itself because feeling light and comfortable will help you to get comfier much faster.
A hot bath with oils or bubble bath If you have a bath, I recommend some nice stress-relieving muscle soak or oils. And instead of treating it like a mission to get clean, just lay back and indulge in the warmth and tranquility.
Just be careful not to get so relaxed you fall asleep!
A beverage of your choice My own beverage of choice is usually a herbal tea such as chamomile, which is known for its calming properties. Occasionally I’ll have a glass of wine.
However, while it can be tempting to top up with some sort of alcoholic beverage at the end of a long day, beware that it doesn’t become a habit. Relying on alcohol can turn into dependance so that you can’t feel relaxed without it, and will introduce all sorts of health risks.
If you do have an alcoholic drink, stick to one and don’t make it a regular occurence.
Writing Writing is well known for having a therapeutic effect and is something I do regularly.
You can write about anything you like: a story, a diary entry, something that’s on your mind, a topic that you’re passionate about, or a letter to someone even if you don’t intend to send it.
You don’t even have to keep what you wrote if you don’t want to.
A few words of advice,though. Don’t write a to do list or anything else which is likely to stress you out and remind you of life’s chores.
It’s also better to write on paper than on a device, not only to minimise your exposure to blue light, but because studies have shown that you retain knowledge better when you write or read physically, and you’re likely to be more creative. See https://uniball.co.uk/handwriting-better-typing/
Reading If you’re a bookworm like me, finding the time to put your feet up with a good book is precious.
Once again, it’s better to read a paperback rather than a digital device to minimise blue light exposure (although Kindles or e-readers that use e-ink to mimic paper are a good alternative).
Books are also great at whisking you off to another place and reality – perfect for when the real world gets too chaotic.
Meditation I can’t praise enough, the wonders of meditation to help you de-stress. Meditation can be done any way you like, in any position you prefer.
It’s a deep state of calm that is achieved by letting all of your thoughts go and being as present as possible. Meditation isn’t a natural state so does take practise! When you master it, though, you’ll wonder how you survived without it.
Personally, I use a form of visualisation. I picture a beautiful place from my memories, and then I modify it by adding a gate which my worries and stress can’t get through.
I picture the worries and stress as little cartoonish characters beating (and failing) to get through, with me as the gatekeeper. After a while, all that I’m left with is my chosen internal setting.
Your way may be totally different. You have to find what works for you.
Deep breathing Deep breathing combined with meditation can be incredibly powerful. Even on its own, it can be a powerful tool to relax you.
Once again, if I’m completely stressed, I use visualisation. I imagine I breathe out all the bad feelings (red), and breathe in all the positivity ( green), until all the negative is gone and replaced by the positive.
Colouring It doesn’t matter if you’re five or fifty. Colouring is a relaxing activity and has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety in adults. There are all kinds of beautiful adult colouring books out there, so there’s no excuse not to give it a try.
I love the ones by Millie Marotta and Johanna Basford, which are delightful to look at and a joy to colour on.
Mandalas are also great for a session of mindful colouring. https://bebrainfit.com/coloring-stress/
Doing NOTHING That’s right. Nothing. Just sitting back and being in the moment. How many times do you do that? I bet the answer is never.
Let’s face it, these days people are always doing something, even when ‘relaxing’ whether that’s watching Netflix or idly browsing the net.
Because of today’s constant connection to technology and the non-stop bustle of our online lives, it seems that doing nothing has become a completely foreign concept.
In fact, it seems to have become an enviable skill. Yet it’s a must in order to have optimal mental health and truly be able to relax.
Constantly being on the go, and busying yourself with online entertainment rewires your brain to rely on endless dopamine hits. That’s great for the companies that are making a profit off your attention, but not for you and your mental health.
You need to retrain your brain to see quiet, peaceful moments as they are, rather than as moments of boredom and non-productivity.
The next time you’re sitting idle, or waiting at a bus stop, stop and take in the sights, smells and sounds around you.
Notice your child showing you the pictures they drew, smile at the human sitting across from you, listen to the birds in your garden. It’s amazing what you will notice once you master the skill of doing nothing.
Close doors to outside distractions When you’re relaxing at home,it’s best to close doors to outside noises and distractions if you can (provided you don’t have to worry about a baby or anything else important).
It helps you to create a sort of ‘bubble’ of tranquility.
No phones, tablets or other technology I can’t stress this enough. If you want to relax you need to switch off, or at least silence your devices. As I said in my above point about doing nothing, our addiction to technology and the internet simply wires you up for chasing mindless highs.
Social media also has a way of stressing you out and making you feel inferior to others. How can you feel relaxed when you’re constantly comparing your life to others and checking your worth via one-second-clicks and likes?
Please note: It’s perfectly acceptable to use a device simply to stream music – unless that music is coming off your phone which is within arms reach of your twitchy browsing hand.
As you can see, relaxation is easy if you’re willing to switch off and let go.
You may notice that a good few of the techniques do require some practise, but that’s because today’s tech-addicted society has conditioned most of us to forgo relaxation in favour of chasing the buzz of constant entertainment.
Reclaim your attention. Reclaim your right to relax. Reclaim your life.