How to help your body relax

The world has become a tense place.  We often read, hear, and see things that frustrate and upset us.  Unless we make a habit of helping our body relax, that tension builds and can make us sick.  Let’s look at simple ways to help our body relax.

Progressive muscle relaxation:  Do you know the difference between the way your muscles feel when you are tense and when you are relaxed?  Often we are holding tension in our body and we don’t even realize it.   Go here for a simple, seven minute exercise to help you 1) recognize how tension versus relaxation feels, and 2) to help you relax (especially if you are trying to go to sleep).   While listening to the audio is helpful, once you have done it a few times you will probably be able to do it on your own, either lying down or sitting in a chair.  This exercise is probably one of the most effective ones on this list.

Warm water:  A lot of people use a relaxing bath to unwind.  But if you don’t have the time (or a bath tub to stretch out in), a shower can be just as good.  Use a soap that smells good to you, and get the water warm or hot enough to help your muscles relax.    Where do you hold your tension?  For many people it’s in their neck or back — let the hot water splash over those areas and relax the muscles.    Close your eyes for a few moments and imagine the water washing away whatever situation has caused the tension.

A warm beverage:  I’ve known people whose first response to stress is, “Let me fix you a mug of teacup of tea.”   🙂    There is something about that warm cup between your hands and the warm liquid going down your throat that triggers a relaxation response; even a cup of hot water will do the trick.  Be aware that caffeine can actually add to tension and make us more jittery.   Investigate beverages with no caffeine or that are decaffeinated (decaffeinated tea and coffee still has caffeine, just less than normal).   Or save the caffeine for morning, and then after 2 pm switch to something decaffeinated or without caffeine.

Soothing music:  This is not the sort of music you listen to while driving, or to exercise, do housework, or dance around the house.  This music helps you relax, though everyone will have different preferences.  This study found that the better sounds were harmonious, generally described as peaceful or serene.  You probably don’t want to go for something with a heavy back-beat.  🙂   If you don’t already have music that helps you relax, go to something like Pandora Internet Radio and search around for calm music that appeals to you.  Or check out the offerings at your favorite CD store.

Get out in Nature:  This could be something like a walk in the woods, sitting in your car at the beach, or going out in your backyard.   Go somewhere where there aren’t a lot ofS Beach photo.JPG people noises . . . where most of what you hear are the sounds made by Nature (birds, wind in the trees, waves, etc.).   If you live in the city or a suburb, you may have to get creative with this one.  Go to a park.  I have a friend who used to go for walks in the nearby cemetery.   If you feel so inclined, take your  shoes off.  There’s something about contact with the Earth that drains away tension.

Breathe:  Lie down and do some deep, slow breathing.  Rest your hand on your belly and slowly breathe deep, so that you can see your hand moving up with your belly.  Pause for a count of one, then exhale slowly, allowing the air to completely leave your lungs.   Do this for five to ten minutes.   Deep breathing will release tension and lower your blood pressure.  (More here.)

Creative visualization:  Think back to a time when you were alone, felt safe, and were absolutely relaxed.  Maybe it’s lying on the sand at the beach, soaking up the sun and listening to the waves.   Or use your imagination to create a place you like in your mind.  Now imagine being there . . . imagine how it sounds, how it smells, what it looks like.  Can you feel the grass, or the smooth sheets?  Can you taste it?   Spend 10 minutes there the first time, and then come back to it whenever you want to relax.

These are just a few of the things you can do to relax.  Here is link to another site that lists 40 ways to relax.    In other posts I’m going to write about meditation, and a couple about grounding.

You owe it to yourself to take a bit of time each day — even if it’s just five minutes — to allow your body to relax.   And if you do it when you go to bed, you are apt to sleep better.

Namaste   namaste

 

 

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I’m not the only person who dislikes Valentine’s Day . . . am I?

Disliking Valentine’s Day is almost worse than being unpatriotic.  I mean, who doesn’t like celebrating Love?  Ah, but who gains the most out of celebrating “Love”?

One of my favorite discussions of Valentine’s Day is the 2010 movie, “Valentine’s Day.”  It stars over 20 fine actors, and approaches the topic from a variety of directions.   There are those who are love-smitten, and those who are lonely.  Older people, kids, people who can afford to live in Beverly Hills, the person who has a $100,000 student loan and no health insurance, different races, different sexual orientations, different expectations, different dreams.   There is even a discussion about the history of Valentine’s Day, although you might find a more honest (and R rated) version of it here.

flowers and chocolatesMost of the stories have a positive viewpoint about Valentine’s Day, perhaps one that includes flowers and chocolate.  But Kelvin (Jamie Foxx) protests doing a piece about the day, saying, “It gives me acid reflux, that’s what it means to me.  I mean, we spend a lot of money, nobody cares, and it’s not even a real holiday!  We don’t take the day off . . . Listen, I’m a Player.  But I shut down my ‘playerness’ from New Years to St. Paddy’s Day just so I can afford this day.”  Later, while interviewing a guy who delivers messages, the Love Messenger says he makes “most of his dough today,” and Kelvin mentions the day is about commercialism.   That’s one of the big things about the day that bothers me — how it has been so hyped by businesses out to make a buck.  I have nothing against greeting card companies, florists, chocolate makers, or any of the other businesses that make beautiful things we don’t have the skill or time to make ourselves.  But I believe love and friendship ought to be acknowledged all year long.

Then there’s another reason some people don’t like Valentine’s Day.  Julia (Jennifer Garner) calls it a “cosmic bitch slap from the universe for everyone who doesn’t get asked to the Winter Formal.”  Kara (Jessica Biel) throws an I Hate Valentine’s Day dinner every year for friends who find themselves alone that day.  It looks at the fact that notCard from Thomas 2,14,18 everyone is going to have a romantic love, either by choice or by happenstance.   And that’s okay — I’ve known people for whom the bonds of friendship were much stronger (and healthier) than the love others have shared.

Finally, there are those of us who find it difficult to express romance — we feel it, we just never quite got the knack of expressing it as well as others.  Grace (Emma Roberts) says, “I wanted it to be magical, and I’m realizing that it’s hard to plan something to be magical.”  We can always fall back on the standards (cards, chocolates, and flowers), but there are some people who find just the right little gift that says so much (and it doesn’t even have a heart on it).  Many of us LOVE, and yet we are not as practiced at expressing it, which creates pressure.  As Edgar (Hector Elizondo) says in the movie, “Today’s a lot of pressure for anyone.”

So yes, I celebrate Love.  I’m just not happy about all the people making so much money on an obviously commercial holiday.  I’m for the kind of celebration that lasts all year long, so your friends, family, and perhaps significant other know how much you love Cup for Thomas 2,14,18them and care about them.   Let’s make it a whole year long expression — not just Valentine’s Day.

 

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When I am old I shall . . .

There is a famous poem (“Warning”) by Jenny Joseph that begins, “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple . . . ”   I’ve always enjoyed that poem, because the idea of living life the way I want to appeals to me.   We usually have to make compromises, and that’s not always a bad thing.  But I spent much of my early life trying to be who other people expected me to be, so the idea of just being myself has appeal.

About six years ago I wrote my version of Jenny Joseph’s poem:

When I am old I will wear corduroys and sweaters and comfortable shoes
And jewelry made of stones
I will carry pretty stones in my pockets
I will wash with patchouli soap, and wear essential oils
I will eat oatmeal, and peanut butter, and apples, and bananas,
And drink green tea, and drinks with rum in them.
I will knit, and play WoW, and watch movies, sometimes alone, sometimes with Thomas.
Only people who can tolerate messiness and cat hair will be welcome in my home.

I re-read that today, and realized I must actually be old,stones because that is what my life is like.  🙂   However, I’d have to add “and read books” to that next-to-the-last-line, because I finally have time to read again.   I’d forgotten how much I love to read.

This makes me very happy.

 

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Renaissance Woman?

Leonardo da Vinci self portrait

Self portrait by Leonardo da Vinci

When I was a young teen (this was the mid-1960s) I was fascinated with Leonardo da Vinci — he was so creative, talented, intelligent, and knew so much about all that could be known in his time period (1452-1519).  He combined knowledge from multiple disciplines, and created astounding things, thought astounding thoughts.  He is often called The Renaissance Man, and I decided I wanted to be a Renaissance Woman.

This was back when television was changing the way we got our information.  Books, newspapers, and magazines were still important, but the nightly news brought the war in Vietnam directly into our living rooms.  Visual and audio learning became even more pervasive, and much was mentally absorbed directly, with not quite as much mulling over as when we read about it.  Advertising, which first began using psychology to sell things in the early 1900s, loved television, and took full advantage of the chance to affect how people thought about products.  So did politicians — remember what a difference it made in the Kennedy-Nixon debates.  Television brought us more information about more things, from all over the world.

In the mid-1970s I still had the naive hope to be a Renaissance Woman.  Since childhood I’d been an avid reader, and at some point I purposefully read books from a variety of areas in the library — ceramics, ancient history, mathematics, engine designs, gardening, weaving, animal husbandry, forestry, biology, politics, philosophy, sports, geology, and on and on.   Most of it was fascinating, but some of it was a bit of a slog.   I kept on.

At first computers were an amazing way to do computations faster.  Then to compile and share information on an organizational level.  And suddenly to share information on a personal and rapidly expanding international level.   Information comes at us from all over the world, even beyond Earth, faster and faster.  The volume of information alone is too much to really comprehend.

Now I sit at my computer, reading articles, blogs, and people’s thoughts on Facebook and Twitter, frequently checking references because you can no longer trust something isn’t made up.  I read books and watch movies.  There are ideas I try to follow, because they still fascinate me, and I journal to help myself make sense of what I read.  Fortunately much of this information came in handy when I worked as a therapist and advocate — it was easier to make connections with people.  Even being retired, there is not enough time to read, watch, discuss, and learn all the things I want to know.  Sometimes it frustrates me, because I know I can never be a Renaissance Person the way Leonardo da Vinci was.   There is too much to know now.Learning

But I still try, because I love to learn.

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Balance and Self-Focus

Having a balanced life is generally considered a good thing (except by people whose lives are way out of balance).  You want a clean house, but not smelling like bleach.  Work and play.  Everyone shares in the conversation.  Determination and laughter.  The idea of balance has a lot of wiggle-room, but there are some things that aren’t a part of balance, such as using a little bit of meth being okay.

As a baby and small child, humans are very self-focused.  That’s a survival technique shared by most animals.  At first all you know is “Me,” which eventually becomes “Me” Narcissusand “Not me,” and then all the Not-Mes eventually have labels or names.  Parents begin teaching their toddler children about sharing, indoor voices, and hopefully about not being violent.  In a balanced household toddlers begin learning about waiting, as in lunch will be ready in a few minutes but they will get to eat.  If the child goes to pre-school, or when they go to kindergarten, they learn more about balancing what they want with what others want.  At this point it’s still a very self-focused sharing, because if they get along better with their parents, teachers, and other kids, they won’t get in trouble and perhaps people will be nicer to them.   At about 7 or 8 years old they care a lot about what is fair, but mostly they care a lot about what is fair to them.   If their parents have modeled being fair to other people because that is what you do, they may pick up on that.   But a true moral sense reasoned from the abstracts of what is right or wrong doesn’t usually show up until they are about 12 years old, and hopefully continues to develop as long as we live.

The primary task of a teenager is to figure out who they are as a person — what they like, dislike, what matters to them, that sort of thing.  This requires a certain amount of rebellion.  Teens who have been brow-beaten into obedience by parents, teachers, or religious dogma may just accept that “X” is what they are supposed to do, and this will get positive reinforcement from those parents and teachers.  But there is a high probability they will rebel at some point later in their life (even if it is just passive-aggressive behavior), because people are individuals and rarely does one size fit all.

So what does all this have to do with balance and self-focus?  Adults (especially those who work with kids), be aware that kids tend to be self-focused, and this is normal.   If they make faces at themselves when they look in the mirror, this is normal.   Who is it hurting?  If they do it out in public, you might mention that the rest of the world doesn’t need to see that scary/silly/whatever face, so they should save that for when they are home or with friends.    If it’s the end-of-the-world for them because X doesn’t like them,Questions remember they are still relatively new to the whole social scene, and everything that happens around them still seems like it relates to them.   From the time they are little, develop the habit of talking with children; ask questions and listen to their answers.  Take time to answer their questions.  First ask them what they think about a situation, acknowledge what they’ve said, and then ask them if they want to know what you think about the situation.

Allowing a child or teen this time for self-focus means they can figure out who they are and what they want out of life.   It’s not being conceited, or “full of themselves,” it is a necessary step in their growth as a balanced human.  Better to figure this out as they are setting out into the world, when they can take the time to listen to other people and show them respect even if they do not agree with them, than never to discover it at all.   Or perhaps discover it when they are 60 or 70 years old, and the results of their unbalanced life are catching up with them.    A life is more apt to be in balance when we allow ourselves a certain amount of self-focus as well as focusing on the needs of others.    It’s not one or the other — it is both.

 

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Winter Solstice: a poetic invocation for the Sun in Capricorn

Reblogging a lovely post from Anne Whitaker. Happy Winter Solstice, Everyone!

Astrology: Questions and Answers

Today the Sun enters the sign of Capricorn, the zodiacal backdrop to our journey through the dark heart of  winter each year. 

We humans in the Northern Hemisphere, beset by darkness and cold, have from long antiquity needed light and celebration to lift our spirits in the bleak midwinter, no matter how much the grimness of world affairs or the pains of everyday life hold us down: 2016 has been a particularly harrowing year. 

We have, also, long needed ritual to guide our lives through the passage of all kinds of seasons: seasons of the year, seasons of our lives, seasons of joy, seasons of mourning…these rituals give significance, dignity, to the archetypal processes of life and death, then rebirth to new life in one form or another. 

All families across the world have their own variations on seasonal ritual. An annual event in our house is to flick malt whisky symbolically onto our Xmas…

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How Hillary Clinton Won for America by Losing the Election

Danielle Egnew says here what I have been saying since the election (but with a better vocabulary). 😉 Much good will come out of this. But it will take all of us working together.

From Psychic / Medium Danielle Egnew

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The electoral college has spoken.

I really, really wanted to be proven wrong — that they would not fall for voting in Mr. Trump.

Yet between the death threats many electors received and the fear of the system, fear won. And the writing was simply on the wall. Because we have greater growth ahead —

— And in comes the time frame of the feminine, the great healing, where unity of the people redefines the next phase of America.

The division of the 20th century old world is dead. Evolution demands unity. It is the only course of action that will be supported, universally.

The power at “the top” has not “saved the bottom” for generations. We see this clearly now.

It is We The People who govern this United States, whose god is not a deity, a religion, or an ideal — but money.

We The People decide where our money…

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