Tag Archives: relaxation

Relaxed Creativity

activities, pastimes, hobbies, adult colouring

Everyone has something they do at the end of the day to relax. Some people go for a run, some watch the television, some people drink a glass of wine, some people take a nap. What do all these things have in common? They all make some attempt to turn off your brain after a long day of work. Apparently though, if your overall goal is to be happy, the best thing to do is to engage your right-side brain more. Wake it up, rather than shut it down, and you’ll find an increase in energy, and shake off any lethargy from your day.

Have you ever noticed that creativity flows more naturally when you are relaxed, open minded, and embracing your inner child? Studies show that when you engage in a creative project, your mood lifts, and your emotions and thought patterns are significantly more positive. Even if you don’t create anything overly aesthetically pleasing or useful – in fact, the less you focus on the results, the more pleasing the results will be. It’s simply the act of doing, of creating, of imagining something in your mind and then producing it with your hands. Literally, getting the thoughts out of your head and into something tangible, something you can physically manage.

Creating art or other creative pursuits allows your mind to relax, providing a break from all the usual thought patterns. The average person has over 60,000 thoughts in a day and, disturbingly, 95% of those thoughts are exactly the same, day in, day out.

When your brain is running on autopilot like this, going down the same paths each day, obviously it’s going to get lazy! That’s why it is so important to break up the routine with activities that stimulate different hemispheres of the brain, that get you out of your comfort zone, give you the satisfaction of creating something, and that provide you with a small sense of wonder at your own capabilities and the resources at your fingertips, if only you can find the inclination.

ergonomic gardening tools

Gardening for relaxation – Radius hand tools

Research shows that engaging in creative activities (nothing too crazy – we’re talking jam making, crocheting, stamp collecting, bird watching, etc) can leave the doer feeling a wonderful sense of satisfaction, calm, happiness and new energy. Cooking, baking, playing music,drawing, painting, sketching, photography, working with your hands, gardening, creative writing – basically, a lot of activities we loved to do as children, then most of us disregarded as “unnecessary” uses of our time when faced with the daily pressures of work, family, relationships, fitness, health.

 

But what if doing one of these activities actually had the potential to improve all of the above? To make your relationships more meaningful, maybe you spend an hour in the garden together, or cook a meal together. Maybe rather than spending your evenings watching television in a trance, you sit down on the floor and play a game or draw pictures with your children like you did when you were five. Maybe whilst you are sitting with your family watching TV, you can also be knitting or crocheting. Maybe you doodle in your adult colouring book while you’re on the train to work. Listen to a podcast and write down your thoughts or responses.

Creativity brings relaxation, and relaxation stimulates creativity. The right side of your brain governs creativity, holistic thinking (ie. the bigger picture), intuition, and imagination, and engaging it will lead to feeling happier and more positive on a day in, day out basis. As we age, it’s important to keep all of the pathways of our mind clear, to use our physical bodies in new ways, and interact with the world around us. Pick a creative pursuit that sticks in your mind from this article, turn off the TV, and get cracking!

Beginning a Meditation Practice

Mindfulness

Meditation is another practice recently added to our never-ending list of things that we could do to improve our lives and our wellbeing, and is quite possibly the easiest, most simple of them all, but in many ways it is also the most challenging.

You would think that we would be able to find the time and the inclination to sit for as little as a couple of minutes a day and just do nothing. In fact, you would think it would be a welcome relief from the chores of everyday life.

Unfortunately over the course of our lives we have been conditioned to constantly be moving, occupying, thinking, planning, analysing, assessing, stressing and all the other “doing” words that imply the opposite of meditation, which is simply “being”.

So how do we get back to that space of “being”? That place of just settling into stillness and observation without reaction, without feeling the need to run away from our thoughts and into the welcoming arms of distraction?

Below are a selection of tips and tricks to ease yourself slowly into a regular meditation practice. Nothing too intimidating, starting small and easing yourself into a daily habit that can make you feel more peaceful and focussed, more comfortable with discomfort, more aware and more appreciative of the little things in every day life. Meditation helps you to understand yourself from the inside out; why you react to certain things in a certain way, how you make decisions, why you are the way you are. It also gives you a greater awareness of, and control over, your thoughts, and the ability to choose whether to listen to them or not.

It’s worth a try.

Start small.  Start with 2-5 minutes of just sitting in a relatively quiet, calm place with few distractions.

  • Focus on your breath. Breathe in and out through your nose, which activates your parasympathetic nervous system, activating your rest and digest hormones, which tells your body that it is safe, and it’s okay to relax. Focus on the rise and fall of your stomach, or the tickle of the air as it enters and leaves your nose.

  • Get comfortable. The first barrier for most meditation practitioners is finding comfort in the physical body. You want to set your body up then forget about it, and get to the real work in your mind, but it takes a lot of trial and error to get to that point. Find what works for you. And remember that we have spent our lives sitting in chairs, not sitting on the floor, and it will take time to build a new habit for your body. Be kind to yourself whilst finding this stable seated position. Try not to lie down, because our body tends to associate lying with sleeping. You want to relax, but not too much.. You can try sitting cross legged, propping your sit-bones onto a firm cushion to give your hips more space to breathe. You ideally want your hips higher than your knees, otherwise you’ll know about it after about 5 minutes of sitting. If cross-legged isn’t comfortable or accessible for you (which for many it isn’t), try kneeling. You can again place a cushion (or three) under your bottom, between your legs, or a folded blanket under the knees or under the ankles. If this is no good, move to a chair and simply sit calmly. Try to have your feet in contact with the ground. The most important thing in your seated position is that your spine remains upright, so that the energy in your body can move efficiently up to your head.

  • Try yoga to get into the meditative headspace.  A gentle restorative practice can slow you down at the end of the day and get you more in touch with your internal atmosphere. A vigorous vinyasa flow can make you forget the stresses of the day, release some feel-good endorphins and approach a short meditation at the end of the practice with inner calm and clarity. Yoga will also help to warm up your body in preparation for meditation, and traditionally the two go hand in hand, for very good reason.

  • Do it anywhere. Planes, trains, cars, the daily commute, in the ad break, as you walk to work. Meditation doesn’t have to always be a stationary practice. Try to bring a mindful attentiveness to little actions in your day, and instead of filling up each idle moment in your day with technology or distraction, try just noticing what is, and taking a moment to check in with yourself.

  • Body scan. Starting from the soles of your feet, work your way up your body, each little part, drawing awareness to the sensations of comfort, discomfort, warmth, coolness, tingling, contact with the earth or another part of your body, noticing how everything within you is intrinsically connected.

  • Guided meditations. There are a number of apps and guided meditation programs that help with establishing a regular practice. The Chopra Centre regularly offer free 3 week programs, and the Headspace App is an easy to use, practical approach to meditation.

  • Be kind. Go easy on yourself. Don’t expect fireworks and floating in the clouds. Go into each practice with no expectation, start small, and build it up slowly. Observe without judgement the patterns in your mind, gently inquire into yourself, then let it all float away, coming back to your breath, every time. At the end of your practice, smile and be grateful for this little space in your day to check in with yourself.

Thai Massage for the Elderly

img_geriatric_massage

 

Having recently completed a very energetic Thai Yoga Massage Certification, I find myself with the conviction that giving Thai Massage must be a young person’s game. It’s energetic, agile and requires a certain amount of flexibility. Receiving massage, however, is a pleasure that doesn’t expire no matter how advanced your years are. I personally can’t wait until I’m old enough to be solely on the receiving end of the massage train.

Depending on your physical abilities, limitations and your reasons for getting a massage, a good masseuse can tailor a sequence to your needs, so that you leave feeling refreshed, lightly pummelled and fully relaxed every time.

There are many different styles of massage that can be good for the elderly, and it’s good to do a little research before you spend the money, so you know what style is going to be most beneficial. Today we talk about Thai Massage, what to expect, and how this particular style can be particularly good for health and vitality.

Massage for elderly

What should I expect from a Thai Massage?

Thai Massage is generally a more vigorous style of massage, often likened to “passive yoga”, in that a lot of the movements replicate yoga asana (postures). The massage is done fully clothed, and can last anywhere from one hour to two and a half hours, depending on whether you want the full works, or a shorter session. The receiver simply needs to relax entirely, and the masseuse does all the work (even when the receiver is much larger than the masseuse!). It’s best to choose a masseuse with therapeutic qualifications – a certificate in Thai Massage doesn’t guarantee their knowledge of the therapeutic application of massage techniques, and you want to make sure you’re in safe hands, particularly if you have any physical conditions.

A good masseuse should ask you if you have any physical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, any injuries or chronic pain. They should then be able to adapt the massage sequence to keep the massage safe, comfortable and hopefully help with some of the issues you are dealing with.

A full body thai massage means just that – every area of your body is massaged. The masseuse will work through a sequence following the pattern of stretching out the muscle, kneading or palming the energy lines, pressing (lightly or firmly) on certain points along the energy lines to temporarily stem the blood flow, then allow it to rush back in with more strength and vitality.

The massage will usually start from the feet and work up to the head, as Thailand is a primarily Buddhist country, and in Buddhist tradition, the feet are the lowest part of the body and therefore the most unclean. It is considered rude in Buddhist tradition to point your feet towards the Buddha.

The masseuse works the energy lines on the legs, massages both legs individually then both together in two leg stretches (inversions, or going upside down, should be avoided in the case of heart disease or high blood pressure), then moves on to the stomach, chest and arms. Next is the side position, stretching the side energy lines of the legs and the arms, and for anyone with sciatica, they might spend extra time working on the gluteus and IT band, all the way from the bottom to the outer calf.

The stomach can be an incredibly sensitive and personal area to have massaged, and requires a certain amount of trust between masseuse and receiver. If the receiver has any issues with slow digestion a clockwise stomach massage with gentle circular motions can help to stimulate bowel movements and digestive fire. If digestion is relatively normal, the massage can be performed counter-clockwise with pressure applied onto certain points of the stomach. Any kind of stomach massage helps the internal and digestive organs to work more efficiently, and can help to relieve stomach pain, gas, indigestion and bloating.

From here, the masseuse will move the receiver onto their stomach in a prone position and work the back of the body, before moving into a sitting position to work the shoulders, neck and head. Then, the masseuse will lie the receiver down, go to wash their hands (to cleanse from touching the feet and body) before massaging the face, to complete the massage.

Why is it considered beneficial for the elderly?

As we age, we experience a decrease in mobility, joint flexibility and suppleness, and range of motion that we perhaps had in younger years, which can create joint pain, aches, stiffness and the weakening of muscles. Through therapeutic Thai massage specifically for older patients, we can alleviate discomfort and facilitate pain relief, relaxation and an overall feeling of well-being. The healing power of a compassionate touch is incredibly valuable, and has the ability to help us feel more connected with others and with our own bodies. This can be something more difficult to find in ageing years, as we find ourselves increasingly out of touch with our physical bodies and feel that they are separate from our minds, where we are convinced we are still 25 years old. Massage induces a feeling of well-being and a boost of endorphins, minimising the likeliness of depression and creating a more optimistic outlook on life.

Do I have to lie down to receive a Thai Massage?

Generally, Thai Massage is performed on a thin, supportive mattress on the ground, or alternatively on a massage table. However, a good masseuse should be able to adapt to the receiver’s physical requirements. Massage can be given in the comfort of your home, long-term care facility, or hospital. Depending on the condition, the person receiving the massage can be in bed, seated upright in a chair or wheelchair, or lay on a floor mat.

For clients who are bed-bound, the practitioner will administer massage right on the bed. More focus will be spent on the hands, arms, legs and feet. This will also enhance relaxation, body in-home or on-location services so the patient doesn’t need to leave their home.

An overview of the benefits:

  • helps restore balance, emotional clarity, and promote relaxation and healing
  • helps to relieve joint and muscle pain and stiffness; and improves mobility
  • improves skin condition through better circulation and relieves itchiness
  • calms the mind and body, and promotes a more restful sleep
  • relieves old age depression, stress, anxiety and the feeling of physical isolation
  • helps maintain some muscle tone and flexibility, preventing muscle atrophy
  • releases endorphins which act as a natural painkiller in the bloodstream
  • offers human contact and a compassionate and healing touch
  • helps to relieve other ailments such as arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, osteoporosis, and respiratory problems such as asthma and emphysema

To ensure that therapeutic massage can be received, it is important that the client consults a medical professional to gain approval. In some cases, Thai Massage is not recommended for the elderly in certain conditions.

Overall, Thai Massage can be incredibly beneficial for increasing vitality in the elderly, and can be a powerful treatment alongside medication and lifestyle changes for managing physical conditions, chronic pain, and creating an optimistic outlook of the years to come.

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Author: Rosie Moreton