Do you find it hard to slow down and unwind? Are you worried about the shocking cost of living rises we are seeing? Finding ways to relax that fit into our busy lives AND our budget can be tricky. However, if you make time to deeply relax each day, chances are you’ll sleep better, be more productive and be happier. Here are six great ways to relax that won’t cost you a penny.

1. Wild Swim

Exercise is well known to relieve stress and swimming is a wonderful choice, being kind to your joints among other things. However, rather than swim in a pool why not try wild swimming?

I’m a big advocate of the mental and physical health benefits of swimming in a natural environment be it the sea, a river or a lake. Not only do you get the benefit of being in nature which is a great stress-buster in itself, but you also have the added advantage of the many benefits of cold water swimming.

Here in the UK the water temperature of our seas, rivers and lakes rarely rises above 20 degrees celsius (other than at the height of the summer maybe). That may not sound that cold but our skin temperature is around 37 degrees so even water that is 20 degrees is a shock to get into.

This shock releases endorphins, immediately improving your mood. Studies have found that people feel good after cold water swimming and that regularly swimming leads to a gradual reduction in the symptoms of depression. And, as your body learns to react less to the physical stress of entering the cold water, your mind starts to react less to emotional stress too, helping you remain calm and relaxed. I’ve certainly found that to be the case.

There are a great many wild and sea swimming groups around the country. I regularly swim with the Bluetits of Bognor which gives me the added bonus being part of a wonderful community of like-minded people. Read more about it on my travel blog, The benefits and risks of cold water swimming (and why I love the Bluetit Chill Swimmers).

2. Draw or colour

Studies show that being creative even simply colouring mandalas or drawing a doodle for just twenty minutes reduces anxiety.
Drawing and colouring are very mindful exercises bringing us to the present moment,  relieving frazzled nerves and helping us to relax.

Check out my art and craft blog for more ideas about how to get creative, You’ll find some free colouring pages to download here.

3. Walk

Walking is a great form of exercise and that in itself is well known to relieve stress. Even a walk around the block can help you relax and clear your mind. Better still take a walk in nature, be it by the sea, in a park or up a mountain. Best of all though is a walk amongst trees.

Studies have found that being amongst trees offers a great range of health benefits including

  • reducing stress
  • inproving sleep
  • boosting the immune system
  • lowering blood pressure

And more besides.

The term Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing) was first used in Japan in the 1980s when it was recognised that an antidote to our hectic, high-tech, high-stress lifestyles was sorely needed. Find out more about Forest Bathing in my review on Sussex Bloggers.

4. Laugh

Laugher, be it a load guffaw induced by your favourite sitcom, a quiet little giggle watching a reel on Instagram or even a ‘fake’ self-induced laugh is good for you.

When you laugh you increase your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulating your heart, lungs and muscles. Your brain releases endorphins, a natural chemical known to help relieve pain, reduce stress and improve your sense of well-being.

5. Sing

Singing has many benefits from improving lung function to bolstering the immune system. And studies have shown that it relieves stress too, whether you are singing with a group or on your own.

Make yourself a playlist of all your favourite sing-along-songs and make time every day to sing. Sing when you wash up, sing in the shower, or just sing!

6. Meditate

You may think that meditating isn’t for you or you’ve tried it but have found you can’t do it. Think again. There are many different ways to meditate but one of the key things to realise, especially when you are new to meditating is not to beat yourself up when thoughts pop into your head. That’s inevitable. The trick is to observe these thoughts, without judgement and then let them drift away without getting drawn into them.

I recently read that meditating can be more restful than sleep. Apparently, during deep meditation, the level of rest that the body and mind receive can be two to five times deeper than what they receive in the deepest part of sleep.

Many people start meditating by simply lying down or sitting crossed-legged while focusing on their breathing. Every time you find your thoughts wandering return your focus to your inward and outward breath. You may find a guided meditation an easier starting point. And like most things, you’ll get better with practice.

The Hamblin Vision has some great guided meditations on their YouTube Channel.

Alternatively, look out for meditation circles you can join for free. I recently took part in a wonderful meditation and Lammas celebration run by @GreenDoorYoga and @JaneBulbeckYoga in Priory Park in Chichester and they’ve another on 8th August at 6 pm in the northeast corner of the park. See their Instagram accounts for more details.