It’s essential to take the time to relax – to take a break from other things: work, home, other people. It is vital to maintain ourselves and our health, both physically and mentally. We really need to give priority to the time to relax regularly in order to recharge the batteries. Things can take on a fresh perspective when we make this time for ourselves; we can become more resilient and calmer all round.
This is a busy time of year, and this is the first in a series of articles about different types of relaxation exercises to help you through stressful periods. Different methods of relaxation suit different people, and it’s good to try out various methods to see which ones give you the most benefit – and then, ideally, to build them into a routine part of your daily life.
The first exercise is practised by some of the Eastern religions. It is called the ‘inner smile’. This involves using your imagination positively at a time when you are free of other distractions and can be quiet for a while. This exercise needs focus in your mind’s eye. Many people find it’s easier to focus and use their imagination with their eyes closed, although some just keep their gaze on a single point in the room.
So then, just focus on how good a smile from someone you love can make you feel, and really concentrate on that feeling. It could be that you want to focus on a time when someone or something made you smile with happiness – perhaps the scent of a beautiful flower, or seeing a really cute animal, or the innocent, wide-eyed excitement of a child, or a wonderful landscape or garden. It could be anyone or anything – a memory from an actual time, or someone or something you simply imagine.
Just savour all the positive qualities of that smile – they might include warmth, gentleness, compassion, contentment and satisfaction, amongst other things. Then, when you are ready, just imagine (in your mind’s eye) letting that sense of the smile travel around your body at whatever pace is right for you and with you as its guide – from your hair, forehead, eyes, ears, nose, mouth and spine to the vital organs of the body, such as the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys – so each part in turn is touched by all those positive qualities and feelings. You can allow your muscles, skin and joints to soften, smooth and relax. You may feel warmer or cooler, heavier or lighter – people experience these things differently. It’s not just the smile that makes this so powerful, of course; it’s also the act of focusing on all the positive feelings which flow from the sense of that smile and really enjoying those feelings as they nourish any part of you that can benefit from them. Finally, as that inner smile comes to rest in your lower abdomen or wherever feels right for you, you can simply let it radiate throughout your entire self.