There's a good reason we soak in hot rather than cool water when we want to relax: After the body adjusts to the shock of the heat, the blood vessels dilate and blood pressure goes down—sometimes way down, which is why hot tubbers are advised not to soak for more than 15 minutes.
It's not the glossy lacquer of a pedicure that puts us in a pleasant frame of mind; rather it's the caressing of the digits. The health benefits of massage therapy that have been shown in countless studies include reducing blood pressure, and easing anxiety. In a 1996 study at the University of Miami's Touch Research Institute, 26 subjects received a massage in a chair twice a week while another 24 people were told just to relax in their chairs for 15 minutes. After five weeks, the massaged subjects scored significantly lower on tests for depression and job stress.
You don't have to retreat to a tropical paradise to revitalize your life. Instead, invite an image of a relaxing and safe place. The key is not just to think about this place, but to "put" yourself there. This may be a place that you've visited or have never even seen. When you're "in" that place, notice details—the temperature, the sounds, the smells—and take note of how you feel. Let the Breathing Space Gallery help you visualize.
Chef Cary Neff, of Arizona's Miraval spa, wants you to think differently about how you shop for food (carefully), prepare food (mindfully), and eat food (mmmm). Here, he serves up some healthy recipe ideas for a high-energy life.
Try meditation for relaxation and stress reduction. Meditator Sharon Salzberg says you should start by sitting comfortably, with your back erect. It is fine to sit in a chair or on an arrangement of cushions on the floor. If necessary, you can lie down. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, feeling the breath as it enters your nostrils and fills your chest and abdomen; then release it. Allow the breath to become natural, without forcing it or controlling it. Let your attention rest on one breath at a time.
If your mind wanders, don't be concerned. Notice whatever has captured your attention, then let go of the thought or feeling, and return to the awareness of the breath. In this way, meditation teaches gentleness and an ability to forgive our mistakes in life and to go on.
A journal is a private place to express your inner thoughts and feelings. Through the process of writing, you can come closer to understanding who you are and who you want to be in life. Your insights, your breakthroughs, your innermost secrets—record them all in an online journal or a private notebook. Discover yourself.