Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Meditation & Spirituality: The Value of Relaxation

Relaxtion helps you to reduce your stress levels in many ways - physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Actually, it's impossible to draw solid boundaries between these levels. Each influences the other, as mind, body and spirit are inextricably linked.

Relaxation helps you to reduce your stress levels, in many ways:

  • Physical: Relaxation activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which counteracts the effects of the stress response by reducing the level of arousal in the body: muscles loosen, breathing and heartbeat slow down, blood vessels may dilate, and the digestive system acts more efficiently. Regular relaxation gives the body an opportunity to heal itself and strengthens the immune system, allowing the effects of chronic stress to dissipate.

  • Emotional: Relaxation allows panic, anger and anxiety to drain away, to be replaced by a sense of stability and well-being. Everyone is familiar with the draining effects of these negative emotions; as relaxation reduces the intensity of these emotions, our inner resources and sense of self become stronger.

  • Mental: One of the characteristics of stress is that everything clamouring for our attention assumes equal importance, making it hard to know what to tackle first, and even harder to concentrate on any one thing. Relaxation allows us some distance and perspective on our lives, creating the space in which clear priorities can emerge. As thoughts slow down, and the mind becomes dreamy and detached, we begin to access the resources of the right brain -- the creative, intuitive, non-linear part of our minds. This part can often come up with solutions to problems that defeat our logical thought processes.

  • Spiritual: Relaxation provides the detachment from everyday concerns that allows us to realize what is really important in our lives; to observe thoughts, emotions and physical sensations without judging; and to have the time and space just to be, without doing. Without the distractions that normally crowd our minds, we can discover and accept who we really are.

Actually, it's impossible to draw solid boundaries between these levels. Each influences the other, as mind, body and spirit are inextricably linked. Recent research on peptides (the body's ''messenger molecules") confirms that peptide receptors are found all over the body, not just in the brain; and that the nervous system, the immune system, the endocrine (hormonal) system and the digestive system are in constant multi-way conversation.

Quick relaxation techniques are useful in dealing with acute stresses. Regular, deep relaxation has a deeper and more permanent effect. As your levels of stress reduce, you become more relaxed in everything you do, able to place each event of our day in perspective rather than overreacting. It becomes much harder for people or situations to upset you and much easier for you to take control over your thoughts, emotions and actions, and to take charge of your life.

Regular relaxation with the help of your relaxation tape will assist you in coping with your own stresses. Practice relaxing without the tape as well, perhaps by repeating some of the suggestions on the tape to yourself, so that you can relax quickly and easily whenever you need to: before an important meeting or interview, between periods of intense work, or when you need to go to sleep.

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