Wow - seems like I just did one of these, but here we are again with a new question from BlogHer's Life Well-Lived Series. This time the question is:
What are your favorite relaxation techniques? And what benefits do you see from practicing them?
In a word?
Face-time with friends.
No matter what is going on in my life, when I look at what makes me relax back in to my own skin and feel good about myself, the single most important and effective technique for as long as I can remember is spending time with friends.
Taking a bath? Getting a massage? Walking in the woods? Sure those things are all great. So is lighting a candle and remembering to breathe deeply. Yoga classes almost always leave me with a deep sense of relaxation, both physically and spiritually. But most of those things are done in solitude (or at least, in the case of yoga, individual practice within a group) and when I'm tense, I can't stand to be alone with myself. I need to get outside of my own head and out in to the real world where everyone has fears and anxieties and a muffin-top. I need community. I need to laugh, to be heard, to explore a new place or share an experience with people I care about.
Simple things like sharing a cup of coffee with a girlfriend in a busy cafe help me to feel a part of something greater.
More elaborate evenings out with Bubba and another couple or two, catching up on our families and sharing our challenges and successes gives me perspective.
Walking the dog on a sunny day with others allows me to feel connected and cared for.
If I am out driving or walking and see something extraordinary - a great blue heron standing in the middle of the path, or a glorious sunrise - my first instinct is to find someone to tell. That quickening of my pulse, the sharp intake of breath as I recognize the pure beauty in a moment - those things make me want to turn to someone I care for and say,
"Wow! Did you see that? So cool!"
I was not built for solitude. Perhaps in another life I could climb up into a Tibetan cave on the side of a mountain and sit, reflecting on who I am and seeking enlightenment. In this life, I need people. Inside my own head I can wind myself up into a frenzy, going down paths that bring me farther and farther away from the life I actually have like some psychotic Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book. I make things much more complicated than they have to be as I opt for one branch after another based on assumptions I have no business making. Life seems so much simpler when I can fall back in to the easy community of friends who enjoy the same things I do, who want to get together over tea and talk about all things important and trivial, who can nearly trip over a twisted bit of moss that the juncos turned in to a nest and breathe in the wonder of it with me. I always feel lighter and more grounded after being with friends, and I'll take that over a hot bath any day.
As always, there is an 'expert' answer on BlogHer's site here.
You can also go here to enter the current sweepstakes. (This time the prize is an iPod Touch.)