How do you unwind? 10 daily routine tips to help you relax after a long day
Finding time to relax isn’t always easy. Early mornings, commutes, busy days at work, family life and all of our other commitments can take their toll.
Life can be hectic at times. To make sure that the stresses and strains that we deal with on a daily basis don’t get on top of us, it’s important we take five and loosen up wherever possible.
Unwinding isn’t just vital in order to keep on top of our mental health. There are lots of other benefits to embracing calm and respite. Not least of all that they can aid our sleep.
If you struggle with your sleep, perhaps adopting some of the following ideas may well help you switch off after a tough day and ease into a nice healthy slumber…
1. Establish a routine
Like most other animals, human beings thrive on routine. Constant chaos and unpredictable patterns send mixed messages to the brain. Whereas regular and repetitive behaviours tell the brain that what we’re doing is of importance.
Routine behaviour soon becomes a habit and results in less stress and more stability. Repeated bedtime routines have been shown to aid sleep too.1
2. Breathing exercises
Most of us take breathing for granted. Those lungfuls of air have some pretty incredible uses other than just for getting oxygen into us, though. Chief among them being their ability to help us all relax.
Taking a few minutes to concentrate on deeper breathing – in through the mouth and out through the mouth – can garner real results. It’s all about blocking out everything else and becoming singularly minded.
Try it in and you should not only feel the benefits physically, but mentally too.2
3. Visualise a calm place
If you’re particularly stressed, one easy way to relax is by imagining that you’re in your ‘happy place’. It can be a favourite beach, park, mountain, art gallery, wherever you like.
First of all, find somewhere quiet where you’re unlikely to be disturbed. Now get comfortable, close your eyes and visualise yourself there. Try to really bring to life the sights and sounds of the place. Even the smells and tastes.
You can go one further and try to recreate the tactile feelings too. Perhaps you can feel the tall grass through your fingers or feel the lake water on your toes.
You’d be surprised how vividly you can recreate the place and how much your brain and body will respond to your imagination. Before you know it, your heart rate will have dropped and you’ll be tranquil.
4. Embrace nature
Natural surroundings are calming. Whether it’s a week-long trek into the woods or just a half an hour stroll around a local park or nature reserve, it all helps.
In fact, nature is so relaxing that even just looking at pictures of animals, plants and scenery in books and online has been proven by scientists to reduce stress levels.3 There’s no substitute for the real thing, though. So try and get out there and experience it for yourself as regularly as possible.
5. Take a walk
We all know that exercise is good for us in all manner of ways. Among them appears to be that keeping fit can help us sleep better.
Intense exercise has been shown, conversely, to interrupt some people’s sleep patterns. The best kind of aerobic activity for a healthier night’s sleep? Less strenuous exercise such as walking.4
A 2019 study5 showed that even a relatively small increase in the number of steps that a person walks a day can have quite a significant impact on the overall quality of their sleep.
You don’t need to cover miles and miles, even just a short pace around the block will do. If you have a local park with some birds and greenery – all the better.
6. Try yoga
It’s tempting to think of relaxation in terms of sitting or lying still and doing nothing. While that is the preferred method for plenty of us, it’s also possible to relax while doing gentle movements too. Like yoga.
Yoga is a kind of low intensity exercise that focuses on stretching and strengthening the body and is renowned throughout the world as an excellent – and proven6 – way to reduce stress and unwind after a busy day.
7. Get creative
Writing, drawing, painting, sewing, wherever your creative interests lie, you shouldn’t just leave them for weekends or special occasions. Even a small amount of creative hobbying or art therapy can help relax you.7
Whether it’s arty or crafty, baking or playing an instrument, don’t focus on ‘quality’ or the finished product. This is about the process. Allow your creative pursuits to soothe and relax you into a rewarding and deep, much deserved night’s sleep.
Busy days create busy minds. It’s often difficult to fall asleep when our brains are whirring around at top speed, powered by our thoughts. To calm our minds down, clear them and prime us to relax into sleep, many people throughout the world rely on meditation.
A form of mindfulness that requires a person to focus in on one particular idea, activity, thought or object, meditation has been shown to improve sleep quality by helping to calm the nervous system of problem sleepers, allowing them to become far more relaxed than usual.8
9. Get a massage
Now unless you have a particularly sensitive back or neck or lumbar issues which may make it painful, a massage is generally a relaxing experience. Rubdowns don’t just make you feel looser and more chilled, though. They can actually aid sleep.
Massage therapy can improve sleep in two main ways. Firstly, it’s proven to alleviate stress.9 And stress negatively impacts sleep.10 Secondly, it’s shown to decrease the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in the body.11 Cortisol keeps you alert and – above all – awake.12
10. Take a deep bath
90 minutes before you plan to go to sleep, run yourself a nice deep warm bubble bath. Not only is it peaceful and calm with candles and soft music, there’s some science behind it too. A warm bath in the evening helps us geet sleepy.
It’s all to do with the hot water alerting the brain to drop our core temperature. This change in temperature taps into the body’s circadian rhythm and effectively signals to the body that it’s late at night – hence the cold – and time to go to sleep. 13
- Bedtime Routines for Adults – Sleep Foundation
- The 9 Best Breathing Techniques for Sleep – Healthline
- Autonomic Nervous System Responses to Viewing Green and Built Settings: Differentiating Between Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Activity – International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Magdalena van den Berg, et al
- How Walking Might Affect Our Sleep – The New York Times
- Walk to a better night of sleep: testing the relationship between physical activity and sleep – Sleep Health, Alycia N.Sullivan Bisson MA, Stephanie A.Robinson PhD, Margie E.Lachman PhD
- The Effect of Yoga on Stress, Anxiety, and Depression in Women – International Journal of Preventive Medicine, Masoumeh Shohani, et al
- Creative Arts Interventions for Stress Management and Prevention – A Systematic Review – Behavioural Sciences, Lily Martin, Renate Oepen, Katharina Bauer, Alina Nottensteiner, Katja Mergheim, Harald Gruber and Sabine C. Koch
- How Meditation Can Treat Insomnia – Sleep Foundation
- Massage: Get in touch with its many benefits – Mayo Clinic
- The impact of stress on sleep: Pathogenic sleep reactivity as a vulnerability to insomnia and circadian disorders – The Journal of Sleep Research, David A Kalmbach, Jason R Anderson, Christopher L. Drake
- Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy – International Journal of Neuroscience, Tiffany Field, Maria Hernandez-Reif, Miguel Diego, Saul Schanberg and Cynthia Kuhn.
- How Does Cortisol Affect Your Sleep? – Healthline