Relaxation And Mindfulness Are More Accessible Than Ever

Mikayla Kudron, A&E Editor

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Relaxation techniques such as mindfulness and meditation are becoming more mainstream as time goes on. More and more apps are popping up that feature guided meditation, daily mindfulness suggestions, and more. A lot of jobs offer free memberships to relaxation programs to their employees, and many teachers are incorporating similar mindfulness practices into their lessons. West Springfield High School has become more involved in mindfulness and relaxation as well. For example, Dr. Christopher Willard, author of several books on mindfulness including Growing Up Mindful and Mindfulness for Teen Anxiety, was welcomed to WSHS for a seminar on May 13. WSHS also offered a free yoga program after school on Mondays and Thursdays after school in the library. 

Most relaxation techniques center around the concept of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a state in which the you are aware of everything around you, including your surroundings, thoughts, emotions, and sensations. Practicing mindfulness decreases stress and anxiety because it increases awareness and understanding. Yoga, meditation, and journaling are just a few of the activities that fall under the umbrella of mindfulness.

Relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga are characterized by their ability to lower blood pressure, and by doing so, relieve feelings of stress and anxiety. Yoga is the most well-known relaxation technique, and this is because of its effectiveness. Yoga uses regulated breathing, slow movements, poses, and meditation to lower the heart rate, forcing the body to relax. Yoga studios are not hard to come by, but it can also be practiced at home through written guides and YouTube videos. Yoga poses and skills also increase mindfulness because the body becomes more aware of the surrounding space and how the body feels while exercising.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to reduce anxiety and depression, as well as help people cope with daily stressors not induced by a mental illness. This may sound like a perfect fix, but a lot of people don’t meditate because of the misconceptions surrounding it. Meditation is often considered an ‘intense’ activity, and this scares a lot of people away. However, meditation is meant to be tailored to the individual. You can meditate for three minutes or three hours, with open or closed eyes, while sitting or walking, and so on. If you don’t know where to start, apps such as Headspace and Calm offer guided meditations that are great for beginners. Anyone can practice meditation and experience the benefits.

Some people need a creative outlet, and some of those outlets tie back to relaxation and mindfulness. For example, keeping a journal can offer insight into the mind, and provide you with the information you need to improve your life. Journaling thoughts, feelings, and habits can help you realize what makes you happy, and what is holding you back, enabling you to make changes accordingly. Another form of creative relaxation is called the ‘stream of consciousness’. This technique involves writing as well. In order to practice stream of consciousness, you must write everything you think without pausing. If your words don’t make sense, don’t follow a clear pattern, or contradict each other, it doesn’t matter. The idea is that you, by writing down your thoughts, will have a better understanding of them. This is also beneficial for reducing stress because writing your thoughts down on paper can clear your mind and help you focus on the task at hand.

Adopting certain habits can lead to a more relaxed lifestyle as well. Planning your day, for example, can ensure that you leave yourself time to relax. Whether it be by unwinding with a movie, or practicing yoga or meditation, it is important to de-stress at the end of the day. Listening to relaxing music can also help decrease stress and anxiety. Although you can simply google ‘relaxing music’ and listen to the first song that pops up, relaxing music is anything that you find relaxing. It’s important to identify what makes you happy and calm, and use those things to de-stress.