Key Ingredients for Relaxation

There’s no one “magic” relaxation technique–different people prefer different methods. There are, however, several key ingredients that are important to consider as part of relaxation training:

# 1 Passive Attitude: Very often people try to force themselves to relax, or they are determined to master the technique faster or more completely than anybody else. These attitudes actually work against the process, because relaxation comes from focusing on the mechanics of the technique rather than by force of will. A passive attitude means you let things “flow,” and that you don’t evaluate your performance: follow through with the mechanics and let relaxation come on its own. Over time and with consistent practice, you will notice that the relaxation response comes more easily and more quickly. Having a passive attitude is the most important factor in relaxation success.

# 2 Decreased Muscle Tone: It’s important to be physically comfortable during relaxation training. Settle into a comfortable position where your body is supported with a minimum of muscular support (seated and upright or reclining in an easy chair are common positions). Like a pilot, go through this “checklist” each time you are practicing relaxation.

POSTURE CHECKLIST

Legs uncrossed,

Feet flat on floor

Small of back against back of chair

Body is upright but relaxed

Head upright & forward,

Shoulders sagging

Arms resting in lap, hands unclasped

Face relaxed, eyes lightly closed

Teeth slightly parted (about the width of a pencil eraser)

# 3 Mental Device: Many people believe that their mind must be a total blank in order for true relaxation to occur, but you probably know how difficult that can be. The more you try not to think of something, the more it comes to mind. A better technique is to consistently focus on a simple scene or idea, because it’s easier to replace our thoughts than to erase them. Expect to be distracted but, as you catch your mind wandering, return it to your mental device.

# 4 Quiet Environment: This is often the hardest thing to achieve, and you will eventually learn relaxation techniques to use in the midst of your workplace or in public. Still, your regular relaxation routine will be most effective when you find a relatively quiet place (turn off the TV, music, or anything else that is making sound).