Relaxing in the bath

The artist Joe Fletcher Orr recently told Culture 24 that the bath is where he finds most of his ideas. Instead of a traditional studio, he’s planning on getting a membership at a luxury spa so he can spend time in a relaxation pool.

He’s not alone in the regard with which he holds the humble bath. Famously, Douglas Adams found it a perfect relaxing antidote to deadlines which allowed his ideas to mature unconsciously during bouts of procrastination.

Less famously, I, and others, find the bath an ideal place to perform mindfulness meditation.

Hot water, locked door, maybe some lavender essential oil, maybe some relaxing music in the background. Sounds an ideal recipe for beneficial altered states of mind.

Instant relaxation

Recently, there’s been press  coverage of a wearable gizmo called Thync, that provides its wearer with electric shocks to the head. It’s reported to cause instant relaxation.

I’ve no experience of using the device, but see no reason why it shouldn’t be effective. Shifting states of mind is something that we can all do, very quickly either unconsciously (you don’t need to be told to start pumping adrenalin when you’re threatened, for example) or consciously, such as when relaxing or meditating.

Nearly all of my clients have seen how they can quickly relax in a minute or so, just by adjusting their breathing so that they’re breathing out for longer than they’re breathing in. For those who don’t like the idea of counting breaths, I’ve used different breathing rhythms as the basis for a few music tracks – just listen and let your breathing match the rise and fall of the music.

Breath Of Calm
Relaxation Response
Breathe Easy

Rewiring the brain with meditation

An Australian psychologist David Roland , has written a book about his recovery from stroke – How I Rescued My Brain. In the book he describes how he effectively rewired his brain to be arguably better than it was before the medical trauma.

He used brain-training programs to regain basic auditory skills.  And he practised mindfulness meditation: “The evidence is pretty clear,” he told the Express, “even in an eight-week programme, that it changes your brain structure long-term.”

He also ensured that he exercised, enjoyed good sleep routines, ate well and listened to music. “Listening to music is a little bit of magic for the brain, as countless studies have proved,” the Express reported. “Scientists believe it’s because music activates lots of brain regions at once – attention, memory, verbal, emotion and meaning. One study in Finland among stroke patients who listened to music every day for two months found they had better verbal memory and focused attention after the trial.”

Roland’s tale is inspirational and the methods he used are available to all. Meditation and relaxation are much more than enjoyable states of mind and body, they’re drivers of beneficial effects throughout out entire biology.

Sleep well for a better brain

Psychological research into sleep sometimes offers us fresh insights into the benefits of good  sleep, and sometimes it reinforces widely held beliefs.

It seems obvious, for instance, that a good night’s sleep is necessary for health, well-being and optimal performance. And recent studies on shift work and sleeping patterns back-up this common sense belief.

The British Medical Journal’s Occupational & Environmental Medicine publication demonstrates that disrupted sleep due to shift work can prematurely age the brain and result in cognitive problems. Ten years on antisocial shifts can age the brain an extra six and a half years – it takes five years of normal sleep patterns to recover.

This is one more thing for insomniacs to worry about (as if they didn’t already worry enough), as some of them will end up with lifestyles emulating the worst of shift work sleeping patterns. My free eBook and accompanying audio download Sleep Well Hypnotically (on sale here at CDBaby as well as Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk & iTunes) is designed to provide psychological support for establishing healthy sleeping patterns. It is based on years of experience working with clients on a one-to-one basis and has worked well for many people already.