What actually makes you relaxed

Relaxation

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Written by Till von Bracht • Medical editor

Our content is based on well-founded scientific sources that reflect the currently recognized state of medical knowledge. We work closely with medical experts.

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Nowadays, many people are so involved in their everyday duties that they hardly find any time to relax: Deadline pressure, hectic pace or worries about the future determine their everyday lives and get their bodies into full swing. It is all the more important to switch off in between.

However, if you rush through life like a hamster on a running wheel and forget to calm down, you lose the ability to relax over time - constant nervousness, fears, insomnia and cardiovascular diseases can result. But there are many ways to break the vicious circle and provide more relaxation and serenity in life.

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The term relaxation describes a physical and mental state of calm, serenity and well-being: the muscles are loose and relaxed, the neck feels soft and thoughts rest in the head. You breathe deeper and your heart beats in a slow rhythm. Many people also speak of a state of "inner peace" or "contentment" that they experience as soon as relaxation is felt.

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Relaxation is just as much a part of life as tension and activity - there is a constant interplay between these poles. This process is also reflected in elementary processes in the body, for example breathing: we breathe in, the auxiliary breathing muscles and the diaphragm tighten - and then relax again when we breathe out.

Effect on body and mind

When we relax, this manifests itself on two levels: Certain body processes change (so-called physiological level), and our psyche also benefits from the pleasant feeling of calm and well-being.

Relaxation and body

What actually happens in our body when we relax? For a better understanding, it helps to look at the so-called vegetative nervous system (also called the autonomous nervous system). The autonomic nervous system functions like a kind of control center for the central nervous system; it controls body functions such as heartbeat, breathing and blood pressure and basically consists of two parts: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic.

The sympathetic system enables people to become active under stress and strain and to achieve maximum physical and mental performance: The hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline are released, the heart beats faster, blood pressure and respiratory rate increase, muscle tension increases, sugar and fat reserves become mobilized.

The opposite pole to the sympathetic is the parasympathetic. It ensures that we regenerate and relax by "dampening" certain body processes and organ functions, including:

  • The tension in the muscles decreases (so-called neuromuscular changes) and the muscles in the arms, legs and trunk relax.
  • Breathing changes: if you are relaxed, you breathe more slowly, more evenly and deeply. Breathing goes more into the abdomen and flows more easily.
  • The heart beats more slowly, the pulse rate drops, and blood pressure drops. In addition, there is a so-called vasodilation: the blood vessels widen so that more blood can flow through them. This is particularly evident in the fingers and feet and is perceived as tingling. In addition, a feeling of warmth can develop in the hands, arms and legs - a sure sign that the body is relaxing.
  • In the state of relaxation, altered brain waves can be detected, especially with the so-called alpha waves. Alpha waves act like a kind of relaxation barometer and occur more intensely in relaxed states.

Relaxation is also beneficial for our psyche - especially if you take care to calm down on a regular basis. Because if you relax frequently, you generally feel calmer and more balanced. Everyday problems are no longer so stressful and conflicts can be approached much more calmly. In particular, negative feelings such as anger and anger occur much less often in relaxed people. In addition, regular relaxation exercises can reduce nervousness and fears to a certain extent.

For this reason, many patients also learn relaxation methods in psychotherapy, such as autogenic training or progressive muscle relaxation: In anxiety or panic states, such techniques can help to specifically weaken the fear-inducing stimuli, to "ground" oneself again and to train realistic perception - and to concentrate better.

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Because the mental (cognitive) abilities also improve, for example through regular relaxation training. Concentration and attention are easier to maintain in a relaxed state and external stimuli such as noise or lighting are less distracting. In addition, small relaxation units during the day can contribute to mental freshness. You feel more rested and alert afterwards - both physically and mentally.

Relaxation techniques

There are many relaxation techniques that you can use to calm down - and this in almost every situation. What these relaxation methods have in common is that the practitioner can learn to calm down in a targeted manner and to relax body and mind. The following methods in particular are known from western cultures:

But so-called body techniques, which mainly come from the East Asian region, are also counted among the relaxation techniques. These include, for example:

You can also relax with fantasy journeys, which are also known as dream journeys. Usually these are relaxation stories that take the practitioner on a dream trip, for example to the sea or to a forest - the pleasant pictures are supposed to evoke feelings of calm and well-being.

Relax in everyday life

Relaxation techniques such as autogenic training or yoga are very helpful in consciously relaxing and finding more calm. But you don't necessarily have to learn a relaxation method in order to slow down your life, in order to walk more calmly and calmly through the day. We give you tips on how you can relax more in your everyday life:

Reduce external "stressors"

We live in a world in which we are exposed to a lot of stimuli: We often sit in front of the computer, surf the Internet, watch TV and endure street and traffic noise. In the long run and in too high a dose, such stimuli can stress the body because our brain can no longer process the many external influences. Hence our recommendation: Reduce such stimuli. For example, don't watch TV too often and limit the time you spend in front of the computer or on the Internet. This will generally make it easier for you to relax.

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Exercise and exercise

Whether walking, going for a walk, jogging, tennis or climbing: Sport and exercise can relax and ventilate your head. In addition, z. B. Regular endurance training to increase the mood - this has been shown in various studies. And those who are in a good mood usually also feel more relaxed.

Get out into nature

Whether a hike through the forest or a walk through the park: Many people experience being in nature as calming for the soul and it is easier for them to relax. Moving around in the fresh air can help to gain distance from everyday life and to put problems into perspective.

Take breaks to relax

This interrupts the hectic pace of everyday life for a short time. Concentrate on something nice during the break. E.g. your last vacation or a concert that gave you pleasure. Or, inhale and exhale a few times and focus your attention on your breath. A short nap of around 20 minutes - ideally at lunchtime - has a relaxing effect and brings new strength.

Get a good night's sleep at night

Everyday stress and problems can also affect nightly sleep. Don't let that happen and get conflict out of your bedroom. Because those who sleep well generally feel fitter and are more resistant to stress.

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Maintain social contacts

Good friendships and harmonious relationships work like oases of relaxation - that is what health research has established. So, even if the day was stressful and exhausting, don't always cancel appointments with your friends.

Treat yourself to a sauna

Taking a sauna helps to relax the muscles, lowers blood pressure and is beneficial for our psyche.

Listen to relaxation music

You can also relax with music: especially harmonious pieces of music with a pleasant rhythm have a calming effect on the organism. Classical music is particularly recommended - especially slow baroque pieces by Bach or Vivaldi, for example. In many cases, their rhythm corresponds to a person's resting heart rate of 60 to 80 beats per minute. There are also a number of works by modern musicians who compose special music for relaxation and meditation. Make sure you take your time listening to music. Just concentrating on beautiful sounds distracts your thoughts and helps you to relax.

Online information from the Professional Association of Yoga Teachers in Germany: www.yoga.de (accessed: March 18, 2021)

Complementary and alternative therapies: Online information from www.gesundheitsinformation.de (accessed: March 18, 2021)

Petermann, U .: Relaxation techniques for children and adolescents. Beltz Verlag, Weinheim 2007

Minow, H.-J., Senf, G .: Exercise and Training. Urban & Fischer Verlag, Munich 2002

Wendlandt, W .: Relaxation in everyday life. Beltz Verlag, Weinheim 2002

Rost, R .: Sports and exercise therapy for internal illnesses. Deutscher Ärzte-Verlag, Cologne 2005

Federspiel, K., Herbst, V .: The other medicine. Stiftung Warentest, Berlin 2005

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Last content check:18.03.2021
Last change: 18.03.2021