We all know that taking time to unwind is beneficial for health and happiness, but in practice, leaving scheduled time for relaxation often ends up at the bottom of the priority list.
Many of us sacrifice relaxing, even though we know that stress can -- if experienced for prolonged periods -- put us at risk of developing myriad physical and mental health concerns.
So, for the sake of your health and well-being, below are seven inspiring -- and scientifically proven -- benefits of relaxation for the body and mind.
1. You Feel Less Stressed
Melbourne clinical psychologist Dr Melissa Keogh said we're all so busy that sometimes it's difficult to take our focus off the things we all tend to worry about. "But the consequence of not relaxing is a build up of stress, which plays a huge role in physical and psychological diseases and disorders."
A plethora of scientific studies continue to prove that simple relaxation techniques can work to relieve the symptoms of many stress-induced conditions including anxiety, depression, Fibromyalgia, headache, high blood pressure, post-traumatic stress disorder and insomnia.
2. You Improve Your Memory
A 2010 study out of the US announced a discovery of a mechanism by which relaxation neurons in the brain work together to improve memory. Researchers determined that stronger and more lasting memories are likely to be formed when a person is relaxed and the memory-related neurons in the brain fire in sync with certain brain waves.
Dr Kerrie Buhagiar, Director of Service Delivery at ReachOut Australia, said the signs of stress can be different for everyone but there are a number of common symptoms to look out for, such as feeling worried, anxious or moody, being unable to concentrate or retain memory, control thoughts or get a good night's sleep.
"Fortunately, there are many resources readily available to assist in relaxation. "ReachOut has a range of apps -- such as ReachOut Breathe and ReachOut WorryTime -- that can be really helpful tools to manage stress and to help you learn essential relaxation techniques," Dr Buhagiar said.
3. You Improve Your Mood
A 2000 report in the International Journal of Stress Management looked at the positive effects of Tai Chi on improved mood and found it can enhance overall psychological wellbeing. Cognitively, it also indicates that Tai Chi exercise may lead to improvements in mood.
"Relaxing allows you to put aside the things you're worried about, which can improve your emotions, the way you perceive the world and put you into a better mood," Dr Buhagiar said.
4. You Sleep Better
Getting a good night's sleep has an important role to play in maintaining health and wellbeing. Dr Keogh said she advocates deep breathing techniques to her clients to achieve relaxation and prepare for sleep.
"The best way to relax is to take just five-to-ten minutes out of your day to do some abdominal breathing from the belly," she said. "The brain can't go to sleep when it's in stress's fight or flight mode, so when the nervous system is calmer, it's much easier to fall asleep and stay asleep."
For those battling insomnia, scientists have acknowledged that relaxation techniques such as deep breathing are effective and can jointly benefit other treatments such as stimulus control and sleep restriction.
5. You Boost Your Immune System
"When you're chronically in fight or flight mode, stress hormones can build up in the body and over time may negatively impact the immune system -- for instance -- via a greater risk of infection" Dr Keogh said.
"The immune system does better with a more relaxed lifestyle."
The findings of an expansive 2006 review, titled Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System and involving a meta-analytic study of 30 years of inquiry, determined that while temporary stress does elicit potentially beneficial changes in the immune system, with chronic stress more components of the immune system were affected in a potentially detrimental way.
6. You Become More Productive
A 2011 study published in the journal, Sleep, investigated the effects of sleep extension over multiple weeks on specific measures of athletic performance. What researchers discovered was improved performance across the board for athletes with an increase in nightly sleep time.
"You tend to be more focused and engaged in what you're doing when you're relaxed and well rested because you're not distracted by the worries and anxieties that might be impacting on other aspects in your life," Dr Buhagiar said. "It frees your mind to get on with what's in front of you and be present."
7. You Increase Your Energy
In 1975, Professor Herbert Benson described what he referred to as The Relaxation Response -- this is the body's ability to experience a decrease in heart rate, respiration rate, blood pressure, muscle tension and oxygen consumption. Research on this approach has shown that this simple technique can increase energy, decrease fatigue and increase arousal from a drowsy state.
"People find that when they do 15-20 minutes of deep breathing at a time, energy is increased after doing that and this is one of the reasons I recommend this exercise to so many of clients," Dr Keogh said.
Reducing stress and increasing happiness helps us all live healthier, more fulfilled lives. It enables us to feel confident in the decisions we make about our homes, lives and well-being. Get Confidence by your side with NRMA Insurance.
Correction: This story has been updated to clarify a quote from Dr Melissa Keogh about the effect of the 'fight or flight' response on the immune system.