Daydream your way to a more relaxed mind & body
If you’ve ever daydreamed that you’re in some far-off magical location, enjoying the benefits of the beach or the mountains or a bustling city or a quiet town...then you’re going to love the relaxation technique I’m sharing with you today.
I learned this relaxation years ago from a lovely therapist who helped me handle my family's move to a new state when I was 10 years old. I was quite traumatized by the life upheaval and had a particularly challenging time each night at bedtime as thoughts would swirl around in my head with no relief in sight.
I've used this relaxation technique countless times, and I’ve never completed it before falling asleep. Not when I'm full of anxiety. Not when I'm ruminating on the same thought over and over. Not when I'm worried about what tomorrow brings. Never.
It’s now my favorite technique for falling asleep when I'm nervous, anxious, or just unsettled (though, thankfully, I don't experience many bedtimes like that anymore). Basically, this relaxation technique can be a helpful trick if you're having a hard time falling asleep for any reason.
But it’s not just for bedtimes. You can use this relaxation method whenever you’re feeling upset or tense, or even for a great meditation practice.
Essentially, I recommend that you use it in whatever way you feel called to, if it resonates with you.
I call this technique the Tri-Sensory Relaxation because it focuses on three of our senses — sight, sound, and touch.
1. Get yourself comfortable either sitting or lying down. Close your eyes. Take several deep breaths.
2. Imagine a serene location that naturally makes you feel relaxed, peaceful, and happy. For me, that's the beach. Whenever I do this relaxation, I picture myself on a tropical island surrounded by blue water, white sand, tall palm trees blowing in the wind, and a hammock for me to lay in. Maybe your ideal location is somewhere high in the mountains, or in a green valley of grass, or even a park or a city center. It doesn't matter where or what your spot is, just make sure you have a crystal clear image of it in your mind.
3. Think of five things you see in your surroundings. For me, I could say “I see the ocean shimmering in the sunlight, I see the white sand, I see tree leaves blowing in the wind, I see the sailboats bobbing on the water, I see the blue sky above me.” Say whatever comes to mind without overthinking it.
4. List five things you hear. This time, consider five things you can hear in your location. In my example of the tropical beach island, I could say “I hear the ocean waves crashing, I hear the wind blowing a light breeze, I hear the birds calling each other, I hear the children playing in the sand, I hear the tree leaves rustling.”
5. Think of five things you feel. In my ideal beach locale, I could say “I feel the sand in my hands, I feel the ocean water on my toes, I feel the breeze in my hair, I feel the warmth of the sun, I feel the strings of the hammock under my body.”
6. Repeat saying what you see, hear, and feel in your beautiful spot. Continue running through what you see, hear, and feel, but each time list one fewer thing for each sense. So, for example, after listing five things you see, hear, and feel, you would list four things you see, hear, and feel. Then you say three things, and so on until you have nothing more to see, hear, and feel.
I’d like to note that it absolutely doesn’t matter if you can’t think of enough things in your surrounding to see, hear, and feel. You could say the same thing five times if it’s the only one you can imagine.
The point here isn’t to actually uphold a vivid picture in your mind of this amazing spot. Rather, the point is to get your mind to stop thinking all the other thoughts running on an endless loop.
By counting backward and using your senses and imagination, you’re taking yourself out of your ruminations and mindfully placing your attention elsewhere — while also relaxing your body so you can feel less tension and more peace.
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