Health & Wellness Mindfulness By Chris Akins / 6 years ago We all need an occasional mental vacation; a time where we can tune out, switch off, and simply not worry about the demands that pull our lives in a hundred different directions all at once. Without the occasional break, we run the risk of burnout, depression, or even physical illness. However, by making time to unplug we can actually improve our efficiency, performance, and live happier, healthier lives. Here are a couple of ways to take a quick mental vacation Deep breathing. Although we are rarely aware of it, breathing has a remarkable healing power. Simply taking the time out to consciously breath can immediately reduce stress, focus the mind, and help us effectively deal with immediate challenges. Back in April I shared a 10 second breathing exercise for regaining balance. I recommend that you complete this exercise several times each day, even when you are not stressed, to maintain an even keel. It can also be very helpful during stressful situations. Another excellent breathing exercise to use in stressful situations is the Stop -> Breath -> Think -> Act method taught to Rescue Divers. I introduced this method on the blog back in August, 2009, so won’t repeat it here. Just follow the link. Another excellent breathing exercise to gain calm and balance is the 10 Second Breath. I recommend using this method any time you are feeling stress build, or before you go into a stressful situation. Like the 10 seconds to perfect balance exercise, it can also be used for a quick mental vacation, and should be completed any time you want to simply relax. The process is exactly what the name implies; simply take a slow, deep, 10 second breath. The 10 Second Breath can be done with eyes open or closed, sitting, lying or standing, or in just about any situation. Simply breathe in deeply, for a slow 5 seconds, then breath out slowly for another 5 seconds. Repeat as many times as necessary. I often use this method in preparation for meditation, repeating the process 3 or more times until I am relaxed and calm. When you only have time for a quick mental vacation, any of these breathing methods will work wonders. If you have time for a longer vacation I find mental imagery makes for an excellent and relaxing trip. Mental imagery. Mental imagery is a form of meditation that has many uses. Professional athletes use it to prepare for big events, business executives use it before going into important meetings, surgeons use it to visualize complex operations before actually having to perform them. In short, visual imagery can be and is used to enhance performance. It can also be very useful for gaining and maintaining balance, managing stress, and achieving general well-being. To start your mental vacation, find a calm, quite, relaxing place. If you have it you may put on some soft, calming music, or even burn a candle or some incense to help set the mood. Get comfortable, close your eyes, and breathe deeply until you feel yourself starting to relax. The 10 Second Breath works great for this part. As you begin to feel calm, focus on your body, and allow your muscles to relax. Start with your head – your brow, eyes, jaw – and move downwards along your body – shoulders, arms, chest – all the way down to your toes, and spend a few moments on each area to notice how the muscles relax. Once you are relaxed, you are ready to begin your vacation… Now imagine yourself in a relaxing, enjoyable, and serene place. Perhaps it’s a beach, or a glen. Maybe it’s someplace you have actually been, or someplace you create in your own mind. Wherever it is, make it perfect for your purposes in your own mind. Notice the details – the textures, sounds, smells, quality of the light and air – as you allow the place to form in your mind. Totally immerse yourself in the moment and place, and allow yourself to relax. You can remain in this place for as long as you like, and you can always come back after you leave. When you are ready to come back from vacation, simply take a few deep breaths, slowly open your eyes, and feel totally relaxed and balanced. One of the great things about your mental vacation is it doesn’t cost a thing! Only a few minutes a day. And since you are creating it, the vacation is perfectly custom made for you every time you go there. I encourage you to visit often!