A relaxed mind is flexible and resilient. It allows you to face your daily challenges with calm and ease. It’s been found that relaxing activities help you to maintain a healthy heart, boost your immunity, improve your memory, protect you from depression and keep you in a positive mood.
Sometimes all we need to calm down are a few basic rituals. I wrote this article to teach you many scientifically proven ways that’ll put your brain in rest-mode and allow you to find more harmony in life.
Below you’ll find 32 ideas that’ll keep you cool at work and at home.
How To Relax Your Mind At Work
Finding time to rest your mind at work is crucial for your well-being. It doesn’t matter how busy is your schedule – you still need to find a few minutes to relax. Practice these rituals until they become easy and automatic:
1. Take a 5-8 minute break every 45 minutes
Are you one of these people who sit at their desk for 3 hours at a stretch? If yes, then you have to change it immediately. Your mind cannot focus for that long, your body becomes dehydrated and your legs and back become stiff.
Set up an online stopwatch for 45 minutes and when it rings, get up and walk around for a few minutes. Let your mind wander and allow your brain some downtime. This is crucial.
2. Do a quick office yoga session
Once in NYC, my friends gave me a small Office Yoga book that contained all the quick stretching and relaxation techniques to do at work. But even if you don’t have the book, you can still do a 6-minute yoga routine at your desk or a few exercises that’ll put your mind and body at ease.
3. Do the 5-minute mindfulness bell meditation
We’ve all heard about the benefits of meditation. But in the work environment, it’s hard to sit down for 20 or 30 minutes with your eyes closed. Fortunately, you can do a 5-minute mindfulness meditation that’ll clear your mind.
Just put on the headphones and concentrate on the sound of the bell for a couple of minutes. It will help you to detach from your tasks and then come back strong.
4. Breathe through the diaphragm
One of the reasons why people are so stressed is that they breathe these shallow, upper-body breaths. This way of breathing releases more cortisol (the stress hormone) into your system and makes you feel tense.
On the other hand, the simple skill of diaphragmatic breathing (which you can learn in 4 minutes) can help you to maintain a relaxed state of mind most of the time. Decide to be mindful of your breath. Notice when it becomes shallow and counter that with your deep belly breaths.
5. Do the 5-minute deep breathing exercise
This short breathing exercise works great and it’s so easy to do. Just watch the screen and keep your eyes on the ball which is going round and round. When it goes up, breathe in fully and make your belly swell. When the ball goes down, slowly release the pressure and breathe out.
After doing it for 5 minutes you’ll feel light and serene. Please go slowly as you don’t want to feel dizzy or suffer from hyperventilation.
6. Make the most of your lunch hour
Productivity gurus try to convince you to work through lunch-time and advance your career. How about ignoring their advice and putting your feet up for a while?
Start by taking your eyes off the screen. Then walk outside (into green space if possible) and get some extra oxygen into your brain. Try a few minutes of meditation and stretching after that. And if you’re like me, you would top it with reading a few pages of a favorite novel.
7. Listen to the brainwave entertainment music
Did you know that you can change the pattern of your brainwaves just by listening to music? Your brain operates in one of four patterns – Delta, Alpha, Theta and Gamma.
If you want to achieve a state of relaxed awareness, you can put on the headphones, pop one of the Alpha tracks and let the magic happen. If, however, you’d like to chill completely, you can listen to a Delta track that’ll let your mind know it’s time to go to sleep.
8. Listen to your favorite relaxing music
Music is one of your best friends at work. And everyone has their favorite tracks. Researchers found that listening to your high-speed (120 bpm or more) favorites can put your brain in Theta or Gamma modes that make you a productivity ninja. But what are the best tracks that make you feel relaxed?
If you need inspiration, you can listen to Weightless, “The Most Relaxing Song of All Time” according to scientists.
9. Take a 15 – 20-minute nap
Major companies around the world are catching up with science and provide employees with “tents” or “caves” available for napping. If you don’t have one of these beauties next to your desk, you can still take a quick nap during your lunch break.
According to NASA, nappers “demonstrated vigilance performance improvements from 16% in median reaction time to 34% in lapses compared to the no-rest group.”
10. Allow some good sunshine on your face
By spending the majority of time indoors, we deprive ourselves of the healing and relaxing power of the sun. That’s why you should go out at least during your lunch break.
Sun rays have been found to reduce blood pressure, increase oxygen content in your blood, and help to cure depression. Keep it in mind and go get some sun.
11. Drink green or white tea
Drinking green or white tea won’t give you a huge energy boost, but it’ll put you in a relaxed, yet productive state. You can drink up to 4 cups of tea per day and still feel awesome.
Green tea contains mild amounts of Theanine which promotes calming Alpha waves in the brain.
12. Say goodbye to coffee at work
Drinking coffee puts you in a state of anxiety and frantic productivity, and it’s addictive. Paired with sugar, it’s the no. 2 health hazard in the office environment (no. 1 is slumping for 3 hours at a stretch).
If you respect your health and want to feel calm, you should avoid drinking coffee. I know you have your justifications about why you can’t do it. But try it for just 14 days. When the withdrawal symptoms subside, you will know what balanced energy means.
13. Avoid stress-inducing foods (especially sugar)
If you want to feel more relaxed, you should avoid:
- Ice cream
- Sugar of any kind
- Fried foods
- Energy drinks
- Chinese food (or other types of overly spicy food)
- Wheat Bran
- Diet Soda
On the other hand, foods that put your mind and body at ease are dark chocolate, strawberries, salmon, sardines (or Omega 3 supplement), tea, and nuts.
14. Eat pure dark chocolate
After 2 weeks of eating dark chocolate every day, subjects in a study were found to have lower levels of stress hormones cortisol and catecholamines in their systems. Moreover, dark chocolate contains loads of antioxidants, lowers blood pressure, protects your heart, and improves blood flow in the brain.
Dark chocolate that contains at least 70% of cacao is great. Even better, is a 100% cacao powder you can add to cereal or drink with hot water, and cinnamon.
15. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
It’s highly probable you’re not drinking enough water and you probably have a good excuse for it. But what if I told you that sipping water throughout the day can make you feel calmer, relaxed and more energetic?
Researcher Amanda Carlson says: “studies have shown that being just half a liter dehydrated can increase your cortisol (stress hormone) levels.” Now, go ahead and drink at least 3 liters of water per day.
16. Mind your posture
Researchers from the University of Auckland found that:
“Adopting an upright seated posture in the face of stress can maintain self-esteem, reduce negative mood, and increase positive mood compared to a slumped posture.”
If you want to feel more relaxed, however, you should aim for a more horizontal position and avoid muscle tension (i.e. put your feet up).
How To Relax Your Mind At Home
After a long day at work which involved talking to dozens of people, answering hundreds of messages and crushing your projects, you can finally take it easy to calm down.
Your home can become a true temple of tranquility if you practice these rituals on a regular basis:
17. Drink Chamomile, Passionflower, Lavender, or Valerian
While tea is a great mild stimulant at work, when you come back home, you want something that will chill you out completely. The main candidates here are the following herbs:
- Passionflower will calm you down and help you to fall asleep.
- Chamomile will soothe internal and external irritations and aid your digestion.
- Lavender is great for people who suffer from stress, anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness.
- Valerian has long been used as a sedative and anti-anxiety herb.
18. Do a 20 minute guided meditation session
Meditation increases your levels of optimism, relaxation, and awareness.
But how do you fit it into your busy schedule? Personally, I wake up a bit earlier and meditate for 20 minutes before starting my day (I also do a short meditation during my lunch break). If you’re not sure how to start, follow the instructions of Joseph Goldstein in this 25-minute session.
19. Take a long, hot shower
A long, hot shower is clearly one of the most relaxing activities of all time. It relieves tension in your muscles and increases the production of Heat Stress Hormones, which protect your body against the stress of different kinds.
A hot shower also allows for a reflection on the experiences of the day. Just use a bit of relaxing body wash and you’ll sleep like a baby.
20. Have a full body massage
When studying high performers, I’ve found out that the vast majority of them have some kind of regenerative routine. Some of them use cryotherapy, others rest in a flotation tank or have an acupuncture session, but nearly all of them use a massage.
Why? Because it provides over twenty different benefits, including stress relief and relaxation. In my city, you can get a good hour of massage for as little as $20. How about where you live?
21. Escape into nature
As a species, we used to roam vast plains and green lands. But modern society is as far from nature as it can be. With all the wealth and privileges of civilization, we’re still not happy. In my opinion, one of the reasons for that is the separation from nature.
Try to escape the city at least once per month (put it on the calendar!) and you’ll see how it’ll widen your perspective and calm your mind. Hike a trail, chill out in the park, visit a botanical garden, or do any other activities that allow you to commune with nature.
22. Unplug for one day per week (or at least during the evening)
Switching off all your devices is one of the best things to do if you want to balance your mind. Scientists found that this simple discipline heals your feelings of jealousy, envy, and loneliness combats the fear of missing out (FOMO) and lets you look at the world more clearly. Try it for one day.
23. Take a 45-minute walk outside
The simple act of walking will help to relax your brain and boost your creativity. Researchers from Stanford found that people who walked were 60% more creative than people who sat.
Moreover, walking for as little as 15 minutes in a green space can help to reduce your stress levels. Slow down the pace, find a local park, be aware of your surroundings and find the calm within.
24. Have a relaxing time at the spa
Spa is one of these places you always want to go, but almost never do. During my trip to Morocco, I went to a Hammam (or Arabic Baths) and it was one of the most relaxing experiences of my life. I had a long bath, an oil massage, body scrub and general rest time in a moist atmosphere.
I’m sure that even if you live in a busy western city, you can still find an “urban spa” full of amazing treatments.
25. Have a long cardio workout
Cardio workouts are not only for building endurance and lung capacity. After around 35 minute mark, your brain starts releasing the feel-good hormones and activates feel-happy neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin.
Exercise in nature for better effects (running on a treadmill and watching the news at the gym is definitely not the best way to soothe your nerves).
26. Practice the Pranayama breathing techniques
Yogic breathing exercises just started to make their way into western culture. But many studies already show their benefits such as relieving stress, lowering blood pressure and promoting inner peace.
27. Know how to unwind and go to sleep in peace
Is your mind still racing when you lay down to sleep? Try out these ideas to calm down your mind before hitting the sack:
- Avoid screens 1,5 hours before going to bed (reading a paper book is much better).
- Drink chamomile in the evening.
- Take a hot shower.
- Do a short “Yoga for Bedtime” routines.
- Do a guided “sleep meditation” routine.
- Plan the next day so you don’t have to worry about it while falling asleep.
- Don’t drink coffee or alcohol before going to sleep.
- Make sure that your bedroom is nice and dark.
28. Get your 7-8 hours of sleep per night
You’ve heard it a million times, but are you doing it? Personally I try to go to sleep at the same time each day. That helps my body to create a rhythm. At 10:30 PM I already feel sleepy and I’m ready to doze off.
And when I wake up at 6:30 AM I feel rested and relaxed. If you want to learn more about falling asleep like a pro, check this article from WikiHow.
29. Do a long yoga session (especially for your back)
Take 30 minutes and do this “Yoga For Relaxation” routine. By gently stretching your body and breathing deeply, you’ll start to feel the tranquility you deserve. There’s nothing better than warming up, stretching and then collapsing into the “corpse” pose when with your eyes closed you feel like floating in space.
30. Take a relaxing bath
This one hardly needs an explanation. Sliding into warm, scented water and caressing your skin with a sponge is something you want to do after a long and busy day.
You can use a few drops of a lavender essential oil known for its sleep-inducing qualities. Then light some candles, put on relaxing music and you’re ready to go.
31. Try aromatherapy
Many types of essential oils are used for relaxation and stress relief. Among them, you may find lemon oil, lavender, bergamot, geranium, and peppermint. I started learning about the soothing effects of aromatherapy after I got some green tea oil from my girlfriend.
There are so many uses of essential oils. Check out this guide to get you started.
32. Make love
You know it was coming. Sex has been shown to reduce anxiety. It also releases a flood of happy neurotransmitters in your brain. Moreover, people with active sex lives were found to cope better with stressful situations. And that’s only the beginning of the long list of benefits. Sex can make you happier, boost your immunity, soothe your pain and so on.
All in all, is there anything more relaxing than falling asleep while hugging your partner?
How did you like this article? Do you know any other ways to relax your mind? Please share your ideas in the comments section below!