Because today’s world is so busy, we need to counter that with time to relax and unwind. But if you are also a recovering addict, then the need to relax grows all that much stronger. When the mind is relaxed, it is less reactive. When the body is relaxed, it can shake off stress more easily. When the heart is relaxed, it is less likely to take events and conversations personally. Relaxation is so beneficial for anyone who faces emotional, psychological, and/or occupational stress.
We have a tendency in our culture to leave relaxation for the weekends or for those moments when we have nothing else to do. However, for it to have deep and lasting effects, relaxation should be practiced every day. Below are four types of exercises for relaxing the body, mind, and heart:
Lengthen your breath as you walk. You might do this exercise at the beach, at home, or in a park, wherever you have the room to take a long walk. Begin by breathing normally as you walk. See if you can coordinate your breathing with your steps. Once you’ve done that, count the number of steps you are taking for each inhalation and each exhalation. When you’re ready, lengthen your exhalation by one footstep. Observe to see whether your inhalation also lengthens. Continue to stay at this lengthened breath for 10 more breaths. Then, try to lengthen the breath again by one more step. Observe again to see whether your inhalation changes. And continue this lengthened breath for 10 more breaths. Once you’re done, return to your regular breathing. If you’d like, you can try to lengthen the breath again in stages, returning to your normal breathing whenever you need to.
Follow your breath as you listen to music. Begin by turning on some music that you enjoy. Try to choose something that is soft and slow so that it feels relaxing to the body and the mind. Pay close attention to your breath. You don’t need to change the breath at all. Simply stay with it while you listen. The point of this exercise is to stay in control of your breath while you listen to a piece of music. If you notice your breath changing with the changes in the music, see if you can return your breath to its normal pace. This exercise is good for learning how to stay connected to your breath despite the sounds, circumstances, and events going on around you.
Follow your breath as you have a conversation. This exercise is taking the previous one to a slightly more difficult level. Just as you did with the music, see if you can stay connected to your breath even while you are talking and again while you are listening. Again, the point of the exercise is to practice staying connected to yourself while life happens around you. This exercise and the one above are great for learning how to stay in a relaxed state despite what’s going on around you.
These are three breathing exercises that you can use to stay relaxed even in the heat of stressful moments. Learning to relax is an essential skill in recovery from addiction.