Relaxation techniques help us cope with stress and the hectic pace of life that we often have to take on due to our work and the circumstances we have had to go through. Learning to relax better prepares us to face the challenges of each day, and for that it is enough to choose one of the available methods and to start practicing it.
In this article, we explain what relaxation techniques are and what they are used for. what are the main types of techniques that exist and their advantages.
What are relaxation techniques and what are they used for?
Relaxation techniques are an essential resource and widely used in psychological treatments that involve the need to addressing and coping with stress or anxiety, Already situations in which the person undergoes psychophysiological overactivation which prevents him from developing normally his daily activities.
These techniques they facilitate the reduction of the levels of body tension and mental load that we often suffer in different areas of our life (work, family, etc.). Therefore, they are useful tools, not only for patients with psychological problems or emotional disorders, but also for all people who need to improve their quality of life and well-being.
Learning to relax allows us to perform activities that we would otherwise avoid due to the high levels of activation that we are currently experiencing in our modern societies. Haste, overflow, stress … are factors that fuel discomfort and worsen our physical and cognitive performance.
Through the use of relaxation techniques, we promote the proper functioning of our stress management system, Provide optimal hormonal balance and reduce excessive levels of cortisol which in the long run can be harmful to our body.
Types of relaxation techniques
There are different types of relaxation techniques, so we can choose the one that works best for us or satisfies us. Here are a few:
1. Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation
The progressive muscle relaxation technique, developed in the 1930s by American physician Edmund JacobsonThis is probably one of the most well-known types of relaxation techniques.
this practice it is based on the physiological principle of tension-distension, Which postulates that when we stretch a muscle (a few seconds) and then stop tense (distension), it will be more relaxed than before doing the exercise.
In progressive muscle relaxation, the person can lie down (or seek a comfortable position) in a calm and pleasant place. Then the following phases should be followed:
First phase of tension and relaxation
In this first phase different muscles are tense and relaxed, holding on tightly for 10 or 15 seconds, And focusing on how they relax and unwind. This can be done by following an order of muscle groups (head, torso, arms and legs).
For example, if you start with the head, you can start with the face, frown and then relax; closing my eyes tightly then opening it; and press the lips and relax them. And so on with the rest of the muscle groups.
In this second phase mentally review all muscle groups that have been tense and relaxed, To check if they are really relaxed after the exercises and if you need to do them again.
This last phase concerns relaxation and the person should become aware of the state of calm after performing the exercises. To facilitate this, pleasant scenes or different positive sensations can be visualized through the imagination (imagine-lie on the beach or enjoy a good dish of food).
2. Autogenic Schultz training
This relaxation technique is based, according to Schultz, on a method which consists in producing a transformation of the individual by performing certain physiological and rational exercises, which they make it possible to obtain results similar to those obtained through states of authentic suggestion.
Autogenic training consists of focusing on physical sensations by performing 6 exercises that must be learned as you go.
With simple instructions (auto-suggestion), the person gets their limbs, and the rest of the body, to relax through sensations of heat, weight, etc. This way, it is the own conviction of the inner self that facilitates obtaining a feeling of relaxation general.
The exercises are as follows:
- Heavy exercises (for example, feeling your arms getting heavier and heavier)
- Heat exercises (eg feeling heat currents through the body)
- Pulsation exercise (heartbeat)
- Breathing exercise (focus on breathing the air flow)
- Abdominal regulation (pay attention to how it expands when you breathe in)
- Head or forehead exercises
3. Paul’s conditioned relaxation
The Paul Conditioned Relaxation Technique is a procedure in which auto-suggestion is also used as a method of relaxation. It consists of associating relaxing and pleasant sensations with a word or a concept that the person says to himself during the exercise.
To do this, the subject must find a calm and comfortable place to relax, and must concentrate on his own breathing, at the same time as the concept is repeated internally and in a self-suggestive manner (For example, the word “calm”) which will be associated with the feeling of relaxation.
A variation of this type of technique is the imagining of relaxing scenes, in which the person is guided and invited to imagine certain situations that generate positive feelings and pleasant sensations.
This tool is widely used in therapy, And the enhanced version can be achieved using virtual and augmented reality, two tools that generate more realistic situations.
4. Passive relaxation of Schwartz and Haynes
The passive relaxation technique, unlike progressive muscle relaxation, does not use muscle tension-distension methods. With this method of relaxation, the person he receives verbal instructions urging him to gradually relax each muscle group.
For example, the clinician might suggest the following: “you sit quietly on the couch with your eyes closed, notice how your arms relax, they become less and less strained … now look at your right forearm, notice let him relax more and more … “.
These types of instructions work best if the environment in which the technique is performed is a quiet and pleasant place, and the clinician dictating the cognitive instructions uses a slow, slow tone of voice.
5. Bernstein and Borcovek differential relaxation
The differential relaxation technique is considered a variation of Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation. The difference is that with this method you learn to only tighten the muscles related to a particular activity, Keep those who are not needed relaxed for it. For example, in everyday and specific situations (like sleeping or studying for a test).
It generally combines three types of dichotomous variables, which give rise to 8 situations of increasing complexity:
- Position (sitting / standing)
- Activity (active / inactive)
- Location (quiet / not quiet)
6. Relaxation Benson
Benson’s technique is a method that combines relaxation and transcendental meditation. First, the person must be placed in a comfortable and pleasant place; then a word is chosen and repeated continuously (like a mantra), with a steady rhythm and a soft tone of voice. This exercise can last from 5 to 20 minutes, without feeling bored or feeling tired.
Practicing relaxation exercises on a daily basis has many benefits for the person doing them:
On the one hand, an improved quality of life: relaxation reduces stress and the feeling of nervousness, gain in quality and well-being.
too much leads to a reduction in cardiovascular problems: Being relaxed lowers blood pressure, lowers heart rate, and therefore lowers the risk of cardiovascular problems in the long term.
In addition, the use of these techniques contributes to muscle relaxation. It is a fact that stress and anxiety generate muscle tension, which decreases or disappears with the practice of relaxation.
On the other hand, improved physical and cognitive performance. Relaxation helps us to be more calm, attentive and confident, which impacts both physically and cognitively, improving our performance in all areas of life.
finally improved sleep and mood: Being relaxed helps us sleep better at night and be in a better mood.
- Sutchiffe, J. 1991. The Complete Book of Relaxation Techniques. Holder, London.
- Payne, RA (2005). Relaxation techniques. Editorial Paidotribo.