I noticed recently how throughout a single day, my emotional state can vary from feeling relaxed, calm or happy, to feeling stressed, frustrated or anxious.
There are moments when I am engaged with "relaxing" activities, like sitting in meditation, swimming in the sea, cooking a meal, getting a massage, or hiking with friends in the nearby mountains.
There are other moments when I am engaged with "not relaxing" activities, such as driving on the narrow streets of Lisbon, clearing my inbox, monitoring the stock market or working out with my trainer.
If I wanted to feel more relaxed, more often, my default thesis was that I need to make more time and space for relaxing activities, while reducing or eliminating the "not relaxing" activities.
It all felt very box-y to me. At this moment I am doing something “relaxing”, so I am relaxed, and at this next moment, I am doing something “not relaxing”, so I am not relaxed.
There is also a limit to how many massages, beach walks and friends I can see in a day or week. After a while, I imagine it might start to feel monotonous. Although in theory I could be doing "relaxing" activities the majority of my time, I would not feel satisfied.
I was not convinced that simply doing more “relaxing” activities is the solution to the problem of how to relax.
My new thesis was how to bring a relaxed quality to all of the activities I am engaged with, including the ones I had previously labeled as “not relaxing”.
For example, driving in the narrow streets of Lisbon. With this intention to feel relaxed while driving, I started to make some changes.
First, I realized that I was not always comfortable in my car. Instead of being lazy about it like before, I now adjusted the seat settings to my liking, changed the temperature more often, played pleasurable music and always kept a few water bottles handy.
Next, I slowed down. Once I stopped trying to beat Google Maps by shaving off one or two minutes during a 20 minute drive, I started to feel a lot more relaxed. Additionally, I noticed that when I looked up in advance where I would park instead of anxiously thinking about parking during the entire drive, I also felt more relaxed.
Like this, I have started to rewire my conditioning and habits to redesign everyday activities to feel more relaxed. It is still a work in progress, however I feel really encouraged and no longer feel the box-y nature of moving through my days.
What has also helped is to no longer label activities as “relaxing” or “not relaxing” in my mind. I was pre-deciding how I would feel, and reacting to that in advance.
My one-word intention for this year is open, and for me, that means being more open to feeling however I might feel. When I show up with openness, I have fewer expectations, and as a result, fewer disappointments.
I now no longer feel the need to get massages regularly, and no longer feel a nervous tension of having to prioritize one type of activity over another. I am learning how to feel relaxed with the wide range of activities and during the many different moments that I get to experience, every single day.