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Slow Down and Do Nothing: 100 Ways to Relax

By HERWriter
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Slow Down, Do Nothing: 100 Ways to Relax Gennadiy Poznyakov/Fotolia

In the 1970s in Phoenix, Arizona, I lay on the floor of the music room with my classmates. Our teacher, Forrest Bachtel, instructed us, “Breathe deeply” the scent of elementary school carpet in our noses.

Mr. Bachtel told us to tense and relax our bodies, one part at a time, and to breathe. “Squeeze your toes,” he’d say. “Now relax them.” Part by part he moved us towards relaxation, helping us forget our fourth grade woes: bullying, P.E., missing homework.

Mastermind that he was, Mr. Bachtel employed two relaxation practices as classroom management: controlled breathing and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR).

Controlled breathing, known by yoga practitioners as pranayama, has been shown to improve function of the autonomic nervous system, the part of the body that controls involuntary body functions such as breathing, heart rate and digestion.

A study of 60 men showed that those who practiced slow, controlled breathing increased the “rest and digest” activity in their parasympathetic nervous systems, and decreased the “fight or flight” response in their sympathetic nervous systems.(2)

Previously known as Jacobson's relaxation technique, PMR was created in 1929 by Dr. Edmund Jacobson in response to the pressures of the modern world. PMR is the practice of tensing and relaxing separate muscle groups while observing one's own tension.(1) Click here for an example.

Deep breathing and relaxation are vital to health. Jacobson called the human body “a wonderful living instrument,” and believed people should learn how to use that instrument properly. Read on for 100 ways relax.

1) Breathe deeply.

2) Light a candle.

3) Take a bath.

4) Pet your dog.

5) Wear pajamas.

6) Hug a hot water bottle.

7) Take a long walk.

8) Garden.

9) Watch a “Midsomer Murders” Netflix marathon.

10) Breathe.

11) Nap.

12) Make love.

13) Splurge on a massage.

14) Go for a run.

15) Read a book.

16) Stretch.

17) Lay in the grass.

18) Watch the stars.

19) Go for a drive in the country.

20) Breathe.

21) Play a board game.

22) Write a gratitude list.

23) Sip a glass of wine.

24) Go to the zoo.

25) Write a letter.

26) Call an old friend.

27) Wander through a bookstore.

28) Watch “Stephen Colbert” reruns on YouTube.

29) Drink warm milk.

30) Breathe.

31) Visit the forest.

32) Spend an afternoon at the botanical garden.

33) Pray.

34) Learn the art of mindfulness.

35) Hoard and eat dark chocolate.

36) Get a pedicure.

37) Jump in the jacuzzi.

38) Swim.

39) Visit the sauna.

40) Breathe.

41) Sketch.

42) Paint.

43) Drink hot tea.

44) Meditate.

45) Make and eat chia pudding.

46) Light a fire.

47) List your happiest life moments.

48) Have a beer.

49) Stand in front of an open window.

50) Breathe.

51) Bake cookies.

52) Practice progressive muscle relaxation.

53) Leave your desk.

54) Stand in front of an open window.

55) Play relaxing music.

56) Watch birds.

57) Listen to the rain.

58) Watch “Elf.”

59) Sweep the porch slowly.

60) Breathe.

61) Attend a tai chi class.

62) Skip stones on a lake.

63) Plant flowers.

64) Photograph nature.

65) Take breaks from your cell phone.

66) Thank someone for an old kindness.

67) Eat dinner outside.

68) Groom your dog.

69) Dance in the kitchen.

70) Breathe.

71) Put your feet in a river.

72) Pet your cat.

73) Cook a meal without rushing.

74) Make sun tea. Watch it brew.

75) Soak your feet.

76) Accept things as they are.

77) Have a good cry.

78) Watch your children or grandchildren play.

79) Sculpt.

80) Breathe.

81) People-watch.

82) Watch a horse eat hay.

83) Stop by an old church.

84) Go on a picnic.

85) Read poetry.

86) Listen to a fountain.

87) Prune a rose bush.

88) Visualize a relaxing place.

89) Eat pasta.

90) Breathe.

91) Listen non-judgmentally to your children.

92) Make soup.

93) Cuddle with the heating pad.

94) Find a baby animal and watch it.

95) Water and dust your plants.

96) Massage the hands of someone you love.

97) Draw in the sand with a twig.

98) Turn off the Internet.

99) Close your laptop.

100) and breathe.

Reviewed April 7, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

1) The man who invented relaxation. BBC.com. Retrieved April 5, 2016.

2) Effect of short-term practice of breathing exercises on autonomic functions in normal human volunteers. NIH.gov. Retrieved April 5, 2016.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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