How to Relax?

I’ve been writing for a few years now about inner peace, happiness and so on and I always love to read your reflections on what I’ve written. For this post, I’d love to hear from you in the comments the answer to two questions. How do you relax? What can give you instant peace? It’s such a personal thing after all!

I remember picking up a book called ‘How to Relax’ in a bookshop once and after reading a few pages of techniques that I’d read a thousand times and didn’t completely suit me, I started to feel slightly stressed! That’s when I realised that how to relax is such an incredibly personal thing, and that we each have to answer that question for ourselves.

In a similar vein, I read an article by a buddhist Zen Master once about the buddhist text ‘The Discourse on Happiness’, where the Buddha answers a question put to him about how to be happy with a series of practical suggestions. The Zen Master in question said we should each write our own Discourse on Happiness with what works for us, and went on to say that one thing that gave him great happiness was to have time to sit on the lavatory without having to be in a hurry to finish up and rush to the next thing to do!

How do I relax? Walking in the countryside. Reading a great book. Lighting a fire in the fireplace. Playing the guitar for fun as opposed to playing the guitar ‘to get good as fast as possible’! Cooking. All of these things, if, and only if, I do them without being in any hurry at all – like the Zen Master on the loo!

What can give me instant peace? This weekend I was up in the mountains with family and friends. On Sunday evening I was packing up the car, in a rush, so we could get back down to Madrid before it got too late. I realised I was in a rush, but couldn’t seem to stop until suddenly I heard the very gentle, slight, tinkling in the breeze of a small set of wind chimes hanging over the balcony of a little wooden house behind me.

The delicacy of the sound stopped me at once and brought back all of the wonder of my surroundings. Naked oaks, the chilling wind, the mountains rising in the distance at the head of the valley, the darkening sky – everything seemed to stop and come into focus all at once. I felt wonderful, and immensely grateful to the wind chimes for stopping me. The instant peace came from just that – from stopping, and completely connecting with the present moment – it seems that that’s all it takes!

So I’d be very grateful for any feedback in the comments. How do you relax? What can give you instant peace?

Thank you.

18 thoughts on “How to Relax?”

  1. Putting my face on my cats body and feeling the purring and talking back to him.
    Looking at a body of water
    Deep breath looking inward letting it go
    Winter mornings with a book and a fire

    1. Thank you Elizabeth for your comment. Our family had a cat that I adored, and I loved the smell of her fur in the sun – completely relaxing.

    2. I love especially the one with the cats. This is the one thing that will certainly make me stop whatever I’m doing, no matter what rush I’m in: a purring cat! That must be one of the most relaxing sounds in the world, combined with the warm feeling of the fur of a totally relaxed, resting cat.

  2. Hi Ben. Thanks for your posts! I love relaxing with art and music. I’ve played a bit of guitar and harp and recently started putting more time into playing the ukulele because I wanted to sing and play and some of my friends do too. I found a wonderful tutor online, Cynthia Lin. She is a gifted teacher. The songs she’s chosen for beginners are fun to learn and full of wisdom. Painting is another favourite. I get together with friends weekly and we paint. These things make me happy and relaxed! 🙂

      1. Thanks Ben! The website’s a new venture for my art group so needs more work. I remembered a recent feeling of profound peace and happiness I had when I was cleaning out the chicken shed. Probably sounds funny :). The smell of the straw and being with chickens somehow must have stimulated that part of my brain were happy childhood memories are stored. I grew up on a dairy farm in New Mexico and some things that connect me to that place give me happiness, like growing succulents and cacti and giving cuttings to people. I don’t think about trying to relax, luckily I don’t need to. I just try to fit the things I love to do into my life as much as I can. Music, art, nature, pets and connecting with people. I used to feel more stress but came up with this technique of letting stressful things go by picturing them flowing away over my head, just letting go and not hanging on. Definitely made me a more relaxed person!

        1. I think you are very lucky Donna, and I understand you. I help out with a vegetable garden with my son’s school and cleaning out the chickens also filled me with happiness recently! That and just being outside working with the earth. Pure joy. Good luck with the paintings and website, and thanks for this lovely latest, wise comment.

  3. Hello Ben, greetings from Germany! Thank you for sharing so many personal and interesting thoughts. Yes, many of us are rushing around most of the day and do not take the necessity of relaxing seriously. I did not find a way yet to simply throw the RELAX switch ON whenever I needed, but, let’s say I’m an inspired beginner 😉
    When a very relaxing moment happens I realise I’d like to have more of that and, maybe just like you, often start thinking about it. For me, completely mentally relaxing is not necessarily depending on a comfortable or quiet atmosphere, although that is a good way of course. The fireplace, playing the guitar just for fun. Your words, and just the same works for me! Only the cooking, well, I didn’t try so much but I guess even if it relaxed me quite a way, the result might not relax the others too much. Lo siento mucho, no puedoooooo! 8-(
    Taking your time and relax, as far as possible regularly, is a wonderful thing. I would call it the “routine-relaxing”. But I experienced the most relaxing and enjoyable moments when they occurred unexpectedly. Yes, you are right, when it “stops you”. The above mentioned routinely relaxing feeling does not affect you very long, but the unexpected beautiful relaxing version makes you happily remembering it for a long time. It seems as if a relaxing moment and recalling it do almost the same to me.
    Anyway, I love to recall relaxing experiences, for example with my hobby, photography. It kind of “double-relaxes” me. First when I take a picture of a nice scene, later again when looking at it. A trick that works for me very well is to take a picture just the moment when the scene, whatever kind of, “stops me”, or makes me happy. In 2015 I spent a few days in Madrid (first time ever) and a very relaxing moment for me was having a walk in Retiro Park. Fantastic day in early October. Watching the people. A professional Spanish guitarist. A young couple taking ‘selphy’ pictures. People, rowing, no – relaxed – drifting on the pond, a painter doing a portrait of a wonderful girl. Children having ice cream. The more relaxed they appeared to me, the more relaxed I got!

    1. Hi Dirk, thanks for you wonderful comment. It’s true that there is a difference between unexpected and routine relaxing, the unexpected is always wonderful! Your description of taking photos in the Retiro inspired me to take some pictures today while wandering in Madrid, so thank you for that!

  4. Hi Ben–

    Thank you for your wonderful posts. I love them.

    I relax by exercising, but not in a gym. I love running trails, biking along the beach, hiking with my sons in the wet lands near our home, and kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding in the harbor.

    The ocean (or sea) gives me instant peace. Years ago I had the opportunity to work as a nanny in Barcelona. I would go to walk, run or just look out at the sea almost everyday. I knew that living near the water would bring me happiness so I made it a priority. I live in California now and can walk to the ocean. There is something magical about the beach–the waves, the salty air, the sound of the sea gulls. There is instant peace for me going to the beach and looking out over the vast ocean.

    1. I completely agree Susan, the sea is so wonderful! I always wanted to live by the sea but haven’t managed it yet – perhaps one day! But it has a special effect on me too – I hope to go soon!

  5. Hi Ben

    Thanks for your recent post. It’s lovely to hear how we all think and feel. Much of the time were very alike. I mean who doesn’t want peace! Surely we want to relax don’t we?

    For me it can just be in ‘that’ moment. I went on a 16km walk with my family at the weekend. We climbed quite high over the awesome Peak District in Yorkshire. The weather was mixed and we even had snow. My brother said who needs a mobile phone. He went on to say that if he wasn’t doing this walk he would probably be checking his phone regularly for messages or emails. I agreed and instead just soaked in the glorious scenery. I felt like the mountains were hugging me and the stillness was so peaceful. I felt like I was in another world and it really made me happy.

    Answering your question Ben I think sometimes relaxing can bring peace. Turn off your phone the TVs and soak in the stillness. Be alone sometimes. My brother number 2 told me that a walk is better than any therapy. I happen to believe him.

    Have a great day everyone or should I say a great this moment.

    Amanda
    Xx

    1. Thanks Amanda, I agree with your brother, a good walk in nature is the best therapy in the world (sometimes I get the feeling I need to walk for days on end, weeks, months!) And I agree, time alone is a real treasure.

  6. Hello Ben!

    This is Isabel from Amigos Ingleses 🙂

    I love all your latest posts! You should write a book!

    I´m quite a lazy person, but exercise always works when I feel stressed, running by the beach or doing yoga, it never fails.

    Is true that stroking a cat is one of the most relaxing things in the world, we´re thinking about getting one too 🙂

    I like art a lot and for me creating is also very relaxing, drawing, painting, making a collage, etc.

    Oh, if you have the chance you should try surfing! I only did it once last year, but I never felt so relaxed in my life, after all these waves hitting your body, it´s like if I had spent 10 hours at the spa. All the problems stay on the ground why you´re there trying to catch a wave and don´t look like an idiot when you try to stand on the board, jeje.

    If none of these work, a gin&tonic does the job too, hehe

    You should take more photos and play your guitar more often! And share it with us 🙂

    A big hug from Barcelona for you and Marina from me and Phillip.

    xxx

    1. Thanks for your lovely comment Isabel, a big hug for you two as well from us! I have tried surfing many years ago in Australia, it was very difficult! I may try again this summer in Northern Spain, I don’t mind falling off a lot if it’s warm enough outside!

  7. Hi Ben. Staying on my couch in winter with a warm throw, candles, low lights and a really inspiring book – this is how I like to relax. I’m currently reading Robert MacFarlane’s “The Old Ways” and the poetry of his prose inspires all kinds of ideas for painting and writing. I love walking – cities that I don’t know, but most of all in nature. On my daily walk to my local station very early in the morning (on the way to work), I always greet the birds, the robins in particular. Sometimes, someone close behind me hears me talking to our avian friends, but I don’t care! I love the way they fill my heart with sweetness. Being in nature is one of the best things in the world.

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