Special to the Mirror
The key to longevity and happiness in your life is managing your stress. Although busy schedules, tough economic times and holidays on the horizon can make it difficult to find time for relaxation, stress is often known as “the silent killer” and is the root of many illnesses, from high blood pressure and insomnia to cancer and depression.
Increasing your longevity and reducing your stress can be as easy as engaging in one simple tension-releasing habit, such as practicing a 10-minute relaxation every day for one month. It will feel like hitting a reset button, releasing tension in your body, increasing productivity, lifting mood, and most importantly, decreasing the chronic stress that over time paves the way for insomnia, heart disease, depression, cancer, and other life-shortening health conditions. Practice it consistently and by the end of the month, it will become a new healthy habit that will serve you for years to come!
The Stress-Release Relaxation
Lie down on your back while slowing your respiration to deep, abdominal breathing. Inhale deeply and say the word “calm” in your mind with every exhalation. Envision the muscles around the crown of your head relaxing. Follow this sequence with each body part as you move down through your entire body: face, throat, chest, shoulders, arms, stomach, lower belly, hips, thighs, knees, lower legs, ankles, and all the way down to your toes. Visualize all the tension leaving your body through your toes in the form of black smoke. Try to practice this for at least 10 minutes every night before bed – you may begin to notice that you have deeper sleep, a calmer mind, a higher capacity to cope with stress, and an increased energy level.
If you don’t think you can remember these directions, consider getting a copy of my instructional Stress Release CD, which will walk you through the steps.
Why not make this relaxation exercise the starting point for your daily meditation practice, a hallmark of many cultures that have a thriving population of centenarians?
Stay on track
A month can feel like a long time, so make sure to find ways to keep yourself on track. Ask yourself these questions every day to help you stay motivated by keeping a written record of daily answers.
• Are you doing 10 minutes of relaxation every day? How has the experience been? Did you look forward to it or did you resist it?
• How do you feel today compared to yesterday? How is your overall sleep quality and stress level? If you are more alert and feel less stressed out, it indicates that the relaxation is working its magic.
• What obstacles are keeping you from doing 10 minutes every day? What can you do to resolve these issues?
Make it happen! A strategy for every excuse
• I missed a day. If you miss a day or two, it does not mean you are a failure! Forgive yourself and look at the reasons behind it. What could you do differently next time? Then, recommit and continue where you left off the next day. Don’t ever give up!
• I’m too busy. Consider that your normal before-bed regime of brushing your teeth, washing your face, and so on takes about 10 minutes. Somehow you have learned to factor this time into your daily schedule. Factor in just five more minutes to lie down in relaxation. It will save you time in the long run by helping you to fall asleep more quickly and improving your productive energy for the next day. You can start with just five minutes – add one minute every day and work your way up to 10 or 15 minutes.
• I can’t stay awake. If you are continually falling asleep during relaxation, try practicing a little earlier in the day or getting a little more sleep the previous night. Sometimes it is helpful to listen to the relaxation from a live voice; in this case a recording can be very helpful. You can also try sitting comfortably cross-legged or in a chair, rather than lying down.
• I have too many distractions. Try to find the quietest place in your home and let your living mates know not to disturb you during these 10 minutes. Consider using earplugs or listening to the meditation over headphones, quietly, but enough to shut out most other noise. Another option is to wake up early in the morning and do your relaxation when the world is still quiet. Whenever you notice your mind wandering, try to gently bring it back to the meditation.
• I can’t relax. If you feel too tense to even lie still comfortably for 10 minutes, try doing some gentle stretches before laying down in relaxation. Also, cut back on caffeine, a central nervous system stimulant, and opt instead for herbal passionflower tea an hour before bedtime.
May you Live Long, Live Strong, and Live Happy!
Dr. Mao is a bestselling author, doctor of Oriental Medicine and board certified anti-aging expert. He has recently appeared on Dr. Oz, and contributes to Yahoo Health and The Huffington Post. To subscribe to his tip-filled newsletter please visit www.infinichi.com. To learn more about your Core Element or to take the Element Quiz, visit Infinich.com.