10 Ways to Relax & Get Mindful!

* Warning: This post contains more than its fair share of exclamation points.  You have been warned.*

1. Be a Kid Again!  Spend an afternoon having fun, laughing, and playing.  Swing on a swing; blow bubbles; draw on the sidewalk with chalk; play hopscotch or HORSE; jump on a trampoline; ride bikes or go roller skating/blading.

2. Take a bath!  Baths aren’t only a torture for children—a bath can help any teenager or adult relax and recharge.  Although candles and scents like lavender can enhance a stress-relief bath, no frills are necessary for a great, relaxing bath.  Just make a little time to yourself and let your tension melt away with the hot water and stillness.

3. Go barefoot!  Not everywhere, but take some time to experience your home, yard, and neighborhood barefoot.  Notice the feeling of the rug between your toes, cherish the cement on your heels, and let the grass soothe your soles.

4. Make a Face!  Just like stretching your body helps relieve stress built up in our legs, arms and torso, stretching your face and neck muscles can help to destress you as well.  Tighten and release your facial muscles--including squeezing your eyelids, scrunching your nose, and puckering your lips--to ease tension in your head.  This can assist with headaches and build strength in the facial muscles. 

Also, performing the yoga asana “lion pose” or Simhasana can provide similar stress relief and strength building benefits. See "G40" mural by Never2501 in Richmond, Virginia to right.
5. Spend an afternoon drawing or taking pictures!  You’d be amazed at how relaxing it is to get creative.  Spend some time allowing yourself creative freedoms and make some memories in the process.  Maybe explore a new park, an older part of town, or venture into nature. 

6. Get read to!  Who doesn’t enjoy a little story time?  Listen to an audio book and kick up your feet.  You can buy them at a local book store, rent them at Cracker Barrel, or borrow them from the library.  Allow me to recommend Jim Dale reading Harry PotterYou won't regret it; he’s amazing!

7. Trade out TV time!  After a long day, sometimes all we want is something mindless to distract us.  Watching TV and surfing the internet, however, often do not help us to feel better.  Sometimes, in fact, they make us feel worse.  One nearly guaranteed way to feel better is to get active.  If you would normally spend 1 hour watching TV or searching the web, take a walk for 30 minutes (you can even set yourself a timer).  After that, if you still want to watch/ surf, use your last 30 minutes of that hour to do so.  You might find that you like making the switch more permanent.

My friend took this photo for us when she saw us out with the girlies--
we wear safety vests to be more visible in the evening while walking the dogs and Olive and Chloe have reflectors on their backpacks

8. Watch the sunset or sunrise!  Taking time to observe the beauty of the world around you can help to put your troubles into perspective and relax you.  You don’t have to be on a beach to see these natural phenomenon—sunsets and sunrises occur daily in your own back yard, literally, so make some time to take notice and soak them up.

9. Pet a furry friend!  When I was a sophomore in college, my dorm put on a special program bringing dogs in to bring stress relief to students before final exams.  It was wonderful, especially because none of us had seen our pets in months.  Some of the dogs were full of talents and tricks, others simply cuddled and enjoyed getting pet.  This year, I saw my school was hosting a similar program, called "Comfort Canines" to benefit students.  Some studies even show that the hormones secreted in humans from interacting with animals can help fight depression.  Cats and rabbits work, too!  Click here to read one 2014 article.


 10. Take a mental health day!  If you are continually stressed, regularly losing sleep, and constantly feeling behind, you may need a day to yourself to decompress.  There is no reason to wait for a snow day or a sinus infection to strike!  Take the day to yourself.  Sleep in, lounge around, read a book, catch up on a crossword—do anything on this list or whatever you think will help you to recharge.

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