Why relaxation is not lazy - its healthy

Natalie Snooke - Wednesday, March 28, 2018


Many of us grew up in the 60s and 70s in families that (unconsciously) instilled in us the belief that resting or doing nothing was lazy.

I am from a typical farming family where Dad was out working from dawn until late at night and Mum was constantly on-the-go doing jobs and running the household.

Whilst the pace of life was slower back then, resting and relaxing, except on Sundays, wasn't something that was encouraged or role-modelled on a daily basis.

Fast-forward to today, and thanks largely to a technology-driven world of instant access and gratification, a culture of busy-ness has taken over business and family lives.

The pressures to be seen as successful, to have more, have the perfect body, fit everything in and keep-up with the latest trends in food, gadgets, holiday destinations or entertainment, are rife. Whilst there's nothing wrong with wanting to experience all the amazing diversity that life offers, the need to keep-up and keep-doing is exhaustive and having massive impacts on our health and happiness.

Sadly, one of the most common phrases I hear people say when it comes to being able to slow down or relax is "I just can't keep still" or "I can't switch off". This is not just in adults, its also in children and teenagers. And hands-up if you pride yourself on 'being busy.'

We've lost the ability to simply 'be'. Unfortunately, despite most of us knowing (on some level) that a frantic pursuit to get everything done isn't good for us, we are still not convinced to take the time-out that we need to.

More than just chilling-out, true relaxation is where our parasympathetic nervous system activates, our breathing rate slows down and we feel a deep sense of contentment and ease. Being in this state allows our body's natural ability to rest, to digest, to regulate and to heal.

Relaxation is crucial for personal well-being, for healthy relationships and for productive, successful workplaces. If you are among the majority of people who are stressed and who don't make relaxation a priority, it may be time to reevaluate your perspective - and your schedule.

And if you have children, it is essential that you role-model routines and behaviours that teach them how to relax in healthy ways.

Research shows that many minor and life-threatening illnesses are stress-related, and therefore preventable. Stress, and the lack of regular relaxation, has harmful effects on your body's immune system - everything from catching colds and getting coldsores, irritable bowel syndrome, sleep disorders, infertility and chronic anxiety to heart attacks and cancer.

We are each responsible for taking time-out every day so that we can effectively relax.

It starts with the decision to make your self-care a priority and a commitment. If you replenish yourself first, you will feel better about yourself, be loving and have more to give to others. Let-go of any guilty thoughts or selfish feelings that might arise because you are choosing to do something for yourself.

Does your life vision include being happy, peaceful, helping others or making a difference? Then try setting some personal goals that recognise the importance of regular time-out and relaxation.

Consider giving yourself 5-10 minutes every day where you do 'nothing'. And in this time, connect with your breath and just notice how you feel physically, emotionally and spiritually.

If you don't know how to relax, then explore ways that you can learn. Take a beginners yoga, meditation or relaxation course close to where you live or organise one in your workplace.

Other ideas can include spending time in your garden or a local park, even during your lunch break. Giving yourself designated screen-free and phone-free time time every day just to ponder and wonder. And taking-up a creative hobby that appeals to you and encourages 'being in the moment' verses achievement like drawing, craft, photography or singing - just for the enjoyment of it.

Ultimately, more than just good health, this ancient Chinese proverb sums up the opportunity we each have to rediscover ourselves and reach our full potential, through regular relaxation:

"Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are."

To your health, happiness and potential,

Natalie Snooke is an experienced Life Coach, Mindful Leadership Coach, Yoga and Meditation Teacher and the founder of Momentum. She specialises in guiding men and women to develop focus, presence, creativity and compassion in their personal and professional lives. She has a background in human resource management and takes a pragmatic yet light-hearted approach to her work.



What is mindfulness?

Natalie Snooke - Friday, April 29, 2016

Mindfulness. I well remember the time in my early 20's when I first made the discovery. When I realised I could 'observe' my own mind without getting involved in its story. 

I was at a communications skills workshop with well-known facilitator Rachel Green, who had us in pairs talking and listening. One person had to talk while the other person had to listen and at the same time, watch their own internal dialogue and reactions. As I was listening to my partner, I realised that I could also see what was going-on with my thoughts and reactions without getting caught up in them or in the other person's story. It was one of those light-bulb moments. 

Up until that point in my life, it hadn't really dawned on me that I could actually 'watch' my own mind. 

It was like I had discovered a new way of being with myself - not that I had any idea of the significance of this discovery at the time, I just thought it was pretty cool! And later as an adult, this realisation would deepen, become the cornerstone of my life and lead to tremendous growth and joy, as well as my fair-share of frustrations along the way.

I had discovered the art of mindfulness - the capacity of human beings to be mindful or self-aware. 

We all have an inner-observer. A part of us that is simply aware or conscious of what is going on around us and, that can also be aware of whatever is going on within us. It is widely accepted amongst scientists that the capacity to be self-aware is what distinguishes humans from other animals, yet its significance and importance is often misunderstood and under-valued, especially when it comes to our happiness and sense of fulfillment in life.

In fact, mindfulness is the essential ingredient of creativity, wisdom, authentic happiness and living to our highest potential. 

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness has several aspects to it. As we make our way through life it means to:

  • be aware of our thoughts, feelings, senses and physical experiences, moment to moment;
  • pay attention to our immediate surroundings;
  • be at ease and allow whatever is happening and;
  • be kind and intentional in our thoughts, words and actions.
The concept of mindfulness originates from the ancient Buddhist tradition and the Pali word sati meaning to remember. It is understood that without having some foundations of mindfulness, something to anchor our attention to, we simply 'forget' to be present. And this leads us to suffer and be unhappy.

Although mindfulness is a simple approach, and most people can understand it, it isn't easy and takes effort to put into practice. 

Unfortunately our conditioning and our habits, the things that we do mindlessly, get in the way. We've trained ourselves in unhealthy ways - with the help of things like Facebook, Thermomixes and a materialistic, complex and technologically-driven world - to have a fairly scattered quality of attention. Somehow, we've convinced ourselves that we feel good when we multi-task and get as many things done as quickly as we can, whilst often paying little attention to the details and to what we are thinking or how we are feeling in the moment. 

Because we tend to be two-steps ahead and focussing on the future (or 'shoulding' about the past) rather than in 'the now' we therefore 'miss out' on a lot of what's actually going on inside us. This means that we can't access our creativity, we aren't able to be in our hearts and fully connect with others, we miss the warning signs that our body isn't coping or all too often, we feel like we don't know who we are anymore. I witness many people who suffer from one or more of these symptoms - also known as a mid-life crisis.

Is this making sense?

Consider how mindful you are in a typical day. If you:
  • spend most of your time remembering or regretting about what you 'should' have had, said or felt and/or;
  • spend most of your time thinking, planning, hoping or worrying about what you're going to have, do, say or feel like 'next' and/or;
  • drive somewhere but once you arrive you cannot remember anything about the journey you've just taken and/or;
  • find yourself forgetting someone's name after you've just been introduced to them only moments before, then this would indicate that you are normal! But that you're not paying full attention in the present moment - you're not being as mindful as you could.
Mindfulness is not about perfection.

Sure, being mindful one hundered percent of the time is a challenging task and we are not seeking some impossible perfection! Part of the paradox of mindfulness is that it's about accepting and allowing ourselves and life to be just as it is, warts and all.

With mindfulness, there's a middle-path to explore, a way for us to create balance between accepting things as they are and putting in meaningful effort to create greater ease and harmony. Most of us would find we'd feel more naturally happy and satisfied with ourselves, others, our work and our life if we were more self-aware, more allowing and more mindful. 

The benefits of mindfulness.

Plenty of research compiled at the American Mindfulness Research Association shows that mindfulness reduces stress at work, improves heart health, enables us to better manage our food intake and improves the quality of our relationships. Being mindful or not can be the difference between: being stressed or being comfortable; feeling anxious or feeling at ease and; suffering in life or embracing life as it is.

When we become more mindful, we gain clarity about what's really important to us and we're able to peel away some of the unnecessary complexities of life. 

One of the best ways to cultivate mindfulness is through a regular meditation or yoga practice. These kinds of body-centred practice trains us to remain present and anchored to our body and our breath, as well as to be allowing and kind to ourselves, moment by moment. And anyone can learn these skills.

To learn more about mindfulness and how to practise it in daily life, we recommend starting with our Beginner's Meditation Courseand Beginner's Yoga Courses, run throughout the year at our centre in Melville.

Over time, mindfulness allows us to suffer less and to love more. It leads us inwards, back to our heart, to the greatest ease and joy that's available to any human being. Are you open to it?

Wishing you well in the moment!

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