Like most of us in this day and age, I have a healthy dose of anxiety. It’s this crazy, information bombardment, time sucking western world we live in. In this post, to save you time and energy, I’m sharing the results of various mindfulness/ relaxation techniques that I’ve road tested over the past few years.
1. Mindfulness colouring-in books – this is where the inspiration for this blog post came from. At first, I was cynical about the whole adult-colouring-in books thing. Then, it became one of those things. You keep on seeing it, everywhere, then suddenly you find yourself thinking ‘Yes, I need to buy this’. So I jumped in with both feet and bought about 4 colouring in books: 2 large, 2 small so that I had portable size ones that I could take in my bag. I did have a go but I had some issues. Firstly, they are incredibly detailed patterns. All this did was increase my levels of anxiety. What? This is going to take forever! I want something quick and relaxing! This pattern is hurting my eyes, it’s so overwhelming! I don’t have enough shades of green to colour in this multi-faceted leaf pattern! Secondly, as I’ve already hinted at, the pressure of picking the right colour scheme for such an intricate pattern is enough to send me into an OCD spin. I was glad to sell these books at a garage sale. Some poor lady thought it was her lucky day when she bought the 4 books plus a big bag of pencils for $2. I wonder if she’s curled up in a corner some where?
2. Mindfulness MOOC*– I was at an event and discovered a booth promoting a Mindfulness MOOC. I decided to give it a go, which was optimistic of me because I’ve only completed 2 MOOCs that I’ve ever enrolled in (and that is millions), one was only because I paid for the completion certificate. There’s a lot to be said about injecting personality into educational media. Just because the video is a conversational method between two people, doesn’t mean it will be interesting or hold someone’s attention. I felt quite frustrated by the incredibly slow pace of the video and ended up reading the transcripts instead.
*MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. These are free courses unless you want to pay for a certificate of completion.
3. Yoga – I should love yoga. I’ve been told many times over the years that I should do yoga and I have, sporadically enough that I never improve beyond ‘begginimediate’. I can’t step through in one clean movement, I wobble and fall in any tree or warrior position. Years ago I went to a few classes in the old Glebe Town Hall with some friends. I was asked not to come back because I laughed too much. For some stupid reason, I’d fall into fits of giggles. Not just quiet giggles, I’m talking the ones that you try to cover up with a cough but you end up snorting. Being in a downward dog and looking over and seeing my friends heads upside down was for some reason the funniest thing I’d ever seen. I even went to the Yoga Barn in Ubud, Bali when I went there for my 40th. I was adamant it was going to change my life and revolutionise my yoga practice but then someone expelled some air and I dissolved into giggles. I also have problems with commitment.
4. Small group meditation at work – a few years ago a colleague of mine really got into mindful meditation, he arranged for 3 of us to meet for 10 minutes everyday to sit in a quiet room and meditate. Good in theory but when you put three very talkative people in a room and try to get them to suddenly zip it, the odds are not in your favour. Has potential but select members carefully.
5. Laughing circles – I can’t remember where I tried this. It might have been at a 3 day festival on Cockatoo Island back in the 2000’s. I hated it, with a passion. It was too forced! I love a laugh, I’m one of those people that gets into a state where they can’t speak and people are confused if you are laughing or crying but standing around with a bunch of strangers in a circle, forcing ourselves to ha ha! HA HA! HAHAHAHA! Was not the right form of relaxation for me, it in fact had the opposite effect. So I walked away from the circle and it was an odd feeling walking away from a group that is laughing, especially if you have slightly paranoid tendencies.
6. Running – people say that running is a great form of relaxation. For me, it’s just pain. I’ve never been able to get the breathing technique right, so I end up feeling like my chest is ripping apart. Add to that I’m fall-prone, so trying not to land in a pot hole or on a stick while concentrating on my form doesn’t allow much head space for being ‘in the zone’.
7. Walking – Walking is great! My nephew who is a personal trainer says that it’s the best exercise you can do. No further explanation required.
8. Swimming – much like running, it’s the whole breathing issue. I feel like I’m suffocating, which brings on a huge anxious wave of claustrophobia. However, I do love floating on my back at the beach, obviously with no waves or gentle ones at the most.
9. Be in the moment – I know that this is technically mindfulness. What I mean by being in the moment is to pay attention to the unnoticed things going on around you. Can you hear birds? If so, what direction do you think it’s coming from? Can you hear wind, or feel it on your skin? Look at the shadows, do the shadows and sun playfully create patterns? Are the leaves glowing in the light? Personally, this is one of my favourite mindful methods. It makes me feel grounded, relaxed (even if I’m listening to traffic). It also has the added bonus of being able to do it anywhere, anytime and discreetly. In fact, I’m doing it now and you didn’t even know.
10. Petting a dog – Best relaxation/mindfulness technique EVER! Yes, I am biased. I have a dog and I love him more than anything. I could spend all day petting him and he pretty much demands it too. Try to stop and he’ll nudge you and give you the eyes. Who could say no? All biases aside, I did see how petting a dog can calm you down. A family member was having a panic attack and in a very heightened state where you couldn’t get through to her. Trying to get her to slow her breathing down wasn’t working, so I told her to pet Samuel, my dog. Amazing, it worked! She slowly started to wind down, her breathing began to slow, she started taking notice of things around the room.
What relaxation/mindfulness techniques have you road tested? Share your reviews and ratings!! Disagree with mine? Tell me so, with gusto!