Forest bathing to relax

The concept of ‘forest bathing’ or ‘shinrin-yoku‘; is literally walking into a forest, to open and submerse all your senses in nature.









“Whenever we touch nature we get clean. People who have got dirty through too much civilization take a walk in the woods, or a bath in the sea.” – Carl Jung


Forest bathing or ‘Shinrin-yoku’

A great way to relax, is to simply go for a walk in the woods. This has been given the term: ‘forest bathing’; because you are literally submerged in nature. For most of us in Europe; a forest or wood is not far from where we live. By taking just a few hours out from our man made schedules and commitments; we can: boost our immune systems, clear our thoughts and relax to how mother nature made us to be.

Forest bathing in bluebells!

‘Shinrin – yoku’

The ability to go for a walk in the woods has been possible ever since homo erectus decided to stand up on his or hers hind legs and go for a walk! Yet only in recent years, with the overpowering stresses and strains of our man made habitats and societies; has the need to identify ways to relax and return to a state of natural well being.

In the 1980’s, there was a huge increase in the use of technology; with computers, cell phones and other inventions forcing our natural speed to its limits. In addition, more and more people spent time indoors; in: offices, shops, warehouses and factories. With one study by Tokyo Doctor Qing Li; estimating Japanese city dwellers were indoors a staggering 93 percent of their time! The Japanese government noticed that this caused: an increase in: depression, disillusionment and physical pain. So Dr. Qing Li, prescribed to patients not pills; but advice to simply spend at least a couple of hours each week, out in nature. By going to a forest; you are completely surrounded by nature. No houses, roads or machines are visible; so the body can only focus on nature.

Here below; is an Amazon link to buy Dr Qing Li’s book:
Please note: “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”

The Forest of Dean, near Symonds Yat, England

A branch of benefits

Walking through a forest, provides the obvious benefit of fresh oxygenated air.

In addition, by leaving behind your daily stresses from work and social situations; you are returning to your natural self and rhythm. You will give yourself time to contemplate any issues; without being forced into making immediate decisions. Your adrenaline and cortisol levels will drop further as well. Issues that seemed so serious; will often fade into insignificance when you realise they don’t matter out in nature. Take a moment to look for animals and insects and notice their behaviour. Are they: on a phone, on Whatsapp, checking the time? No, they are simply going about their natural need to forage and feed.

Consider your five senses and make sure they are all open to nature. A deep forest will prevent views and sounds of civilization. Touch barks and mosses; smell fragrances of flowers and sap. Evergreen trees give out more beneficial oils but all trees are equally amazing!
Taste any edible berries or just the aromas floating in the oxygen rich air.

Setting sun through trees

The benefits of ‘forest bathing’ do not stop there. Studies have found that trees emit essential oils as they photosynthesise. In these oils, there are chemical compounds known as: Phytoncides. These compounds boost the human immune system by increasing the white blood cells that kill viruses and bacteria that enter our bodies.

This is explained very well by the amazing Dr. Eric Berg on YouTube:

Click on the link

The way to the woods!

I am sure you know of a local wood or forest; that is not too far away. If you are new to an area or just passing through; then you can simply Google: ‘woods near me’!

Try to not drive too far or spend too much time and money getting to a wood or forest. If you cannot get to a lot of trees; try and find just a copse or single tree in a park or street near you.

forest bathing by bike in Grovely Wood, England
Forest bathing in a dark wood in the Lake District, England

As always; take care and be safe. Tell someone where you are going and take your mobile phone but turn it off. Dress appropriately for the time of year and altitude. Check the weather and the sunset time. If you don’t feel safe being alone; then go to forests where there are other like minded walkers.

Try to make a walk in a wooded area part of your daily commute or just go for a Sunday walk with friends, family or alone. Studies show that the benefits of a two hour forest walk last for about two weeks; so set that as a minimum target.

The Avenue; Grovely Wood, England
A small wood in the Benasque Valley, Aragon, Spain

Look at your roots

So by simply going for a walk in the woods; we can reduce stress, risks of serious illnesses and improve our immune systems. Yet the amazing benefits do not stop there. By being outside we are absorbing Vitamin D that again helps to improve our immune system. We are also exercising; so we become stronger and we get another happy hit from the release of the good chemicals called: serotonin.

Do not take my word for it; here are two really interesting articles from National Geographic and Time:

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/01/call-to-wild/

https://time.com/5259602/japanese-forest-bathing/

Okay, so a walk in the woods is difficult for those of you who live in the Sahara, sail the seven seas or are just housebound. If you are currently under a curfew due to the current world pandemic; at least use the many photos on this page for inspiration. Remember them, close your eyes and go for a walk in your mind!

Get out there and return to nature!

Forest bathing above Benasque, Spain.

Moon walk

A moon walk under the setting sun, to climb the green hills of home; then greet the Full Strawberry Moon of July. Inspiration for the moon walk You do not need to be an astronaut to do a moon walk. Being happiest and most relaxed whilst out in nature; I came to realise I was […]

Northwave Origin MTB shoe review

A long term review of the Northwave Origin mountain bike shoe The need for a mountain bike shoe If you are new to cross country mountain biking; you will have come to realise that you need the stiff sole of a road cycling shoe but the ability to walk maybe long distances over unrideable terrain. […]

Forest bathing to relax

The concept of ‘forest bathing’ or ‘shinrin-yoku‘; is literally walking into a forest, to open and submerse all your senses in nature. Forest bathing or ‘Shinrin-yoku’ A great way to relax, is to simply go for a walk in the woods. This has been given the term: ‘forest bathing’; because you are literally submerged in […]

Trusting to Relax

When we are with people we can trust; we feel relaxed. Deciding who to trust and to what extent is a lifelong art.

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” 
– Ernest Hemingway


The importance and need to trust

David DeSteno, states in his brilliant book: The Truth About Trust: “the need to trust implies one fundamental fact: you’re vulnerable.”

A baby has no choice but to trust its parents. As we grow; we learn to test the trust of the people around us. We lose trust and then mistrust; yet we find trust in strangers. Everyday, we are trusting people and things; to love us, to do as we expect, to work, to protect us, to stay alive! So when we are reassured in our trust; we feel relaxed.

Two people I can really trust!

We can look to a dictionary for a literal definition of trust; yet it is an invisible force that only really exists in our minds. So ‘trust’ is a huge concept in: sociology, psychology and philosophy. Yet here I wanted to take a light-hearted look at ways of trusting to relax with the people you meet in life.

Definition of trust (noun and verb)

Noun:
1a: assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something
b: one in which confidence is placed
2a: dependence on something future or contingentHOPE

Verb:
1a: to rely on the truthfulness or accuracy of BELIEVE trust a rumor
b: to place confidence in rely ona friend you can trust
c: to hope or expect confidently trusts that the problem will be resolved soon

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trust


Without trust you will never feel truly relaxed

If your trust has been broken just once by a bad experience; it is easy to try and protect yourself by not trusting anyone ever again! Yet, release all your anger and hurt feelings, in a therapeutic way. Then let yourself trust again and you will soon rediscover the pure love and happiness that comes from trust!

It is said that Arab culture is built on a mutual mistrust; yet it has been proven that they lose out in many ways. Opportunities and experiences are avoided or delayed; which could lead to a pretty sad and boring life: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2016/07/11/commentary/world-commentary/roots-mistrust-middle-east-societies/#.XpmlWshKjIU

In popular culture, there is fear of false arrest; simply because the police have been lied to so many times, they trust no one! Or have you ever seen a healthy poker player?! Do crocodiles have any friends? In the old cowboy films; did the bad guys ever look relaxed?

Closer to home: do relationships without trust last long?


Rebuilding bridges…

I believe we are born with a natural want to trust. We are then fed and protected by our parents when we are young and this leaves a lifelong desire to trust and be trusted. Friends and family can push our abilities to trust, to breaking point. Yet it seems to hurt most when a loved one betrays all the love, effort and dedication that you have given to them. However, trust me when I say the best thing to do is trust again!

First of all; let out the anger that protects you from being hurt anymore. Go for a long walk and scream and shout at the top of your lungs. Exercise until you are so tired you can only sleep. Read my blog on breathing techniques; and become calm:
https://routestorelax.com/2019/11/02/breathing-techniques-to-relax/

Then try to calmly and logically understand why your trust has been broken. Maybe your partner could never be true because they are suffering from mistrust themselves? Maybe your partner has unresolved issues; that all your love and care could never resolve? Maybe you caused them to lose trust in you first and never realized through your own ignorance?

However your trust was lost; accept that you can still trust yourself. If you did the best you could; then don’t look back in anger, look back in acceptance and remember people still trust you.

Do not become as bitter as two lemons!

… to the future

If you lost trust in your partner or feel betrayed by an ex partner; then it is never too late to trust again. When the raw emotion and flames of temper have subsided; why not build bridges and have a new but honest and realistic friendship? This is so much more important when children are involved; because our inability to trust should not be passed onto future generations.

Therefore, hold up your hands and smoke the proverbial peace pipe. Sit down and discuss openly why things went wrong. Your partner may say harsh truths but realise that is far better than rebuilding trust on a foundation of old lies. Be realistic, be honest, be pragmatic; to rebuild and relax in a brave new world of trust.


The benefits of trust

So maybe you can start a relationship afresh and be happier, stronger but more relaxed together? Maybe an ex partner can still be a life long friend because you still remember and can see why you got on so well together in the first place. Maybe you will meet new partners but realise the grass is not always greener! If you trust people and show you can be trusted; you will always be happy and relaxed with many friends and family for years to come who appreciate your trust and good nature.

I do not want to go too deeply into the psychology of trust. Not because I am not qualified; but because I also do not want to bore you! Yet the interesting diagram below by Robert Plutchik; demonstrates what comes from the ability to trust. He stated that there are eight basic emotions that are related to each other: anger, anticipation, joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness and disgust. When you combine the emotions of trust with fear; you become submissive. Yet combine the emotion of trust with joy and you have love!

The Wheel of emotion by Robert Plutchik

Keep trust alive!

So you have realised the importance of trust. You are in a new relationship and want to make it stronger; or in an old relationship that is going the distance after a slip along the way. To keep the trust alive a little work and concentration is needed everyday!

Trust does comes naturally. Yet remember that you can demonstrate your ability to trust and be trusted in simple ways:

– be honest but kind in the words you use
– be honest and tell people your thoughts and not what you think they want to hear.
– admit mistakes and errors in judgement. You will be more trusted ever more.
– be open to trusting strangers; for you are a stranger too!
– trust your feelings
– trust your decisions
– trust yourself; if no one else will!


Therefore I trust I will find you well?

So we learnt to trust when we were young. We are reminded from time to time when we lose trust. Yet take time to consider your actions and make sure they are trustworthy and true. To paraphrase the bible: ‘treat and trust others as you would like to be treated and trusted’. However, when all else fails; you need internal strength and calm, so always trust yourself.

Alone; I trusted myself to climb this mountain!

  • Moon walk
    A moon walk under the setting sun, to climb the green hills of home; then greet the Full Strawberry Moon of July. Inspiration for the moon walk You do not need to be an astronaut to do a moon walk. Being happiest and most relaxed whilst out in nature; I came to realise I was […]
  • Northwave Origin MTB shoe review
    A long term review of the Northwave Origin mountain bike shoe The need for a mountain bike shoe If you are new to cross country mountain biking; you will have come to realise that you need the stiff sole of a road cycling shoe but the ability to walk maybe long distances over unrideable terrain. […]
  • Forest bathing to relax
    The concept of ‘forest bathing’ or ‘shinrin-yoku‘; is literally walking into a forest, to open and submerse all your senses in nature. Forest bathing or ‘Shinrin-yoku’ A great way to relax, is to simply go for a walk in the woods. This has been given the term: ‘forest bathing’; because you are literally submerged in […]

Livin’ it up under ‘Lockdown’

Keep calm and your freedoms will come again

Routes to Relax whilst being housebound during the current world pandemic

So a deadly virus has surprised us all and spread across the world at an astonishing speed. Many of us worry about jobs and money, restrictions on socialising and the great outdoors has been fenced in. Yet we must all count ourselves lucky to be healthy and alive. Look for the good in everything and do not take for granted: a day, an hour or single minute under curfew.

Below, I describe the efforts I am making to make the most of my time under curfew; and weather the storm outside:

Windmills of La Mancha, Spain. Self isolation is necessary but not difficult in a home that works for you.

Cookery classes!

Legumes with chopped tomato and tuna; yummy!
Kale goes well with scrambled eggs, olive oil and seasoning

So there has been a shortage of food because of panic buying and hoarding. Yet why see this as a negative and worry? Relax and take the Breton philosophy of planning a dish after you have gone shopping and not trying to cook with ingredients that are out of stock in the shop?

Draw inspiration from old cookery books and programmes on YouTube, build a dish around a key ingredient, be brave and experiment! Remember though; in these dark days try and help your immune system all you can. Cut out alcohol because that poor old liver is a major part of your immune system. Try to include minerals and vitamins that support a healthy immune system; such as Vitamin C in Kale and Sauerkraut. Also make sure you are taking enough Zinc. Which is not too difficult; when it is found in these tasty foods: red meat, shellfish, eggs, legumes and milk, yummy!

I managed to finally cook a jar of chickpeas by including them in a tasty dish of tomato and tuna. I discovered that I can include the amazing superfood Kale in my diet; by simply adding it to scrambled eggs.


Exercise is a home run with Calisthenics

Exercise is not a trifle; it is an Eiffel!

So you cannot ride across the wide open prairies, the park is closed and you now have a reason to not go to the gym. Yet do not worry; for you can become an Adonis even whilst staying at home! There is a form of exercise called Calisthenics; which involves the use of your own body weight to exercise your muscles. Read up, research and try exercises that suit you.

If you are lucky to have a garden then walk the perimeter as many times as you like; take in every detail and listen to birdsong, or pretend you are walking across a foreign land. If you have stairs, then climb them for fun! The Empire State building has 1,860 steps or the Eiffel Tower has 674 steps; imagine you are there, climbing into the air!

More nonsense by the compiler

Your Academy

Image by Javiermirapeidro from Pixabay

Plato contemplated, thought and taught in the open air; in an olive grove. You too, can use all this time; to voyage through the annals of learning. To think and contemplate the meaning of everything. Dust of those old history books from grandpa, start at the beginning and follow trails of knowledge on Wikipedia. Read ancient Greek poetry like Homers Iliad. Read Dante’s Divine Comedy and descend through your own inferno, find purgatory and then paradise in the comfort of your sofa. Research your family tree, local history, or world history. Learn a new language or just a whole new way of thinking. Learn the six ‘Laws of Attraction‘, the teachings of Buddha and Stoicism and realise your possibilities are endless!


Take a trip down memory lane

Holidaying in the French Pyrenees with my parents. “Excusez moi mademoiselle; où est la pâtisserie“.

No more road trips for now; yet open the door to your mind and take a journey back down memory lane. If you are living with a lover or just your mother; take turns in regaling memories until you are both raconteurs of remarkable repute! If you live alone then not to worry; pretend you are holding a conversation with someone you hold dear to your heart. Start from your earliest memories as a child and recall the long ago acts of every passing year. If you remember someone, you have not spoken to for a while; why not find them on Facebook, and write them a line? Get out all the old family photo albums and study each photo; study faces and body language, the mood of the moment captured in time.


Plan your next voyage whilst you wait out the storm

A local walk or the other side of the world; now is the time to plan your escape!
Captain James Cook(1728-1779). Nathaniel Dance. BHC2628

The viral storm is raging outside; so batten down the hatches! The anchor is holding, you have good shelter and it is a safe depth to leeward. In the warmth of your cabin; unravel your charts and use a bottle of rum as the paperweight.

Research and plan that holiday you always talked about. Plan how to get to your Great aunt in Australia without using a plane! Choose an itinerary for a grand tour of Europe like an 18th Century aristocrat. Discover the quickest way to visit every country in the world. Dream and pretend you are on a first class flight to some hot tropical island, book a room on a luxury yacht and hire a castle but do not enter your card details. Type in: ‘Los Roques’ and workout how to get there. Or just plan a nice walk in the countryside for a hot summers day. When the curfew is lifted and it is safe to venture out again; get out and ‘voyage voyage’!

Voyage voyage!

Le Danse Macabre!

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Death is an inevitable part of life; don’t be afraid of it, don’t ignore it, accept certain inalienable truths and then let me know how! If you have not written a will; then just jot down a few notes on a bog roll if you can find some. More importantly, write a letter to your nearest and dearest with some kind wise words and thoughts for when you are long gone. Do not be morbid and sad about it. Enjoy life and the party whilst the band plays; yet the clock on the wall is ticking and the bell tolls for us all.

At the same time; spend a while remembering those who have gone on before us. You will end up with tears in your eyes yet smiling and laughing too! In Spain and throughout Latin America; they hold a party once a year to remember their ancestors. They dress in colourful clothes and go to the graves of their relatives; remembering and celebrating past life.


Playtime

Mount Fuji

After all your hard work, research, chores and philosophising over life’s rich tapestry; it is time to play! This is so much easier with children; yet if none are available for at least nine months; then bring out that hidden Freudian child from within:

The stairs do not just go upstairs; they are also the summit of Mount Fuji! The cold carpet or tiles around your bed is shark infested water! The sofa is not for sitting on; it is a fairy-tale castle! The bush at the bottom of the garden; is your new home whilst trekking through the Siberian wilderness! Dress up and pretend to be someone else, put on a play with just one actor, sing in the shower and fart in the bath! It is your simple house; yet open your mind to a whole universe!


Keep calm and carry on


Therefore, you are alive and well; in your homely cell. Enjoy and appreciate every second. Fear doesn’t need windows or doors because it comes from within.
Keep calm and carry on.

So did I need to mention the obvious ideas; like: painting the spare room again?

Well have you ever tried painting ceilings…

Andrea Mantegna, di sotto in sù ceiling fresco in the Camera degli Sposi of the Ducal palace, Mantua

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Relaxing YouTube channels

Ten channels to watch on YouTube to help you unwind and relax in this age of high speed internet and social media

1. Modern relaxation music

An obvious choice is relaxing background music. With the aid of computers and vast music libraries; there is now an almost endless supply of electronic based relaxation music. One of my favourite types of music is synthwave; after the background music from classic computer games such as OutRun.

Here are a few to get you going:



2. Classical music

Although not to everyone’s taste; there is always a relaxing piece of classical music that has been uploaded onto YouTube. If you don’t know your Mendelssohn from your Mozart or your Bach from your Beethoven; simply type in: ‘relaxing classical music’. Most YouTubers make the effort to name the classical pieces in their videos so in no time you will be ‘au fait‘ in no time!

Here is one I listen to whilst composing blogs:


3. Hobby and personal interest videos

We are normally on YouTube when we are bored at work, cannot sleep in bed or just waiting and procrastinating! A great way to escape your current conundrums is to watch videos of people doing a hobby or personal interest that you enjoy. As you know one of my favourite things in life is to head out on the bike!

Below are two videos by two different vloggers that I really enjoy watching when I cannot get out on the bike myself. The first guy called Iohan; has been cycling from Alaska to Patagonia. His amiable spirit, friendliness to every human and animal he meets and his breathtaking cinematography is equal to any Hollywood blockbuster.

This second guy not only goes bikepacking; he hikes, cooks and documents his life living in a minivan. Again his easy going outlook on life and dulcet Canadian patter; leaves me feeling happy and relaxed after every video. Enjoy:


4. Walking with Kraig Adams

Not all of us enjoy cycling but who doesn’t like a little walk now and again? Well if you are unable to get your boots on; put your feet up and watch this guy below. Stunning cinematography, his humble character and an almost silent film style; leaves me speechlessly calm.


5. Life in rural China with 李子柒Liziqi

Here is another channel that transcends the need for dialogue to demonstrate the basic needs in life. Travel to rural China and live, cook and care with the beautiful Liziqi. In the video below; you can see her harvest and process cotton.


6. Missing work?!

Sometimes when I am travelling or relaxing; I have unexplained thoughts about working! Well apart from being a blogger; my real proper job is being a lorry driver. When I am faraway from the hot seat of a lorry; I sometimes watch other drivers on YouTube, sad as it may seem. This guy however is my favourite because of his patient and relaxing style of driving. Check it out to see the point of view of a lorry driver.


7. Watching onscreen personal heroes: Keith Floyd

As we wind our way along life’s wide and wonderful path; we come across heroes that agree with our own moral compass and ‘joie de vivre‘. One of my heroes is the legendary chef Keith Floyd. A true ‘bon vivant‘ who loved food, drink and women; maybe too much. Famed for slurping back the wine whilst cooking; he is the forefather of TV cooking. Below is a link to his hilarious film on how to deal with a hangover:


8. White noise

This may seem an odd choice; yet it can work in certain circumstances to help you relax and even fall asleep. For those of you who do not know; ‘white noise’ is a noise containing many frequencies with equal intensity. For example: the noise coming from water flowing over stones in a stream, wind blowing through trees or cars passing on a distant road. It is even possible to buy a machine that produces white noise; to help babies or night shift workers to sleep.

Here is an example:


9. Old television comedy series from when you were a kid

Another way to relax; is to return to happy places from our childhood. A good way to do this is to watch an old comedy that we enjoyed many years ago with our family and friends. Here is one of my personal favourites Benny Hill:


10. Your own video memories

A final idea to relax after a stressful day; is to remind ourselves of happier times by way of home videos we took in the past. Therefore, to finish, I hope I have given you a few ideas to relax by way of YouTube. Search for yourselves and relax. Here is a video from my own channel:


Trusting to Relax

When we are with people we can trust; we feel relaxed. Deciding who to trust and to what extent is a lifelong art. The importance and need to trust David DeSteno, states in his brilliant book: The Truth About Trust: “the need to trust implies one fundamental fact: you’re vulnerable.” A baby has no choice […]

Livin’ it up under ‘Lockdown’

Routes to Relax whilst being housebound during the current world pandemic So a deadly virus has surprised us all and spread across the world at an astonishing speed. Many of us worry about jobs and money, restrictions on socialising and the great outdoors has been fenced in. Yet we must all count ourselves lucky to […]

Relaxing YouTube channels

Ten channels to watch on YouTube to help you unwind and relax in this age of high speed internet and social media 1. Modern relaxation music An obvious choice is relaxing background music. With the aid of computers and vast music libraries; there is now an almost endless supply of electronic based relaxation music. One […]

Beating the winter blues

Keeping relaxed and happy through a long cold winter



“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn”
Hal Borland


Refreshing routes to relax

The merriness of Christmas is gone now, only the bill remains; the winter solstice has gone but the nights are still long; the sun also rises but we keep spinning silently away from it!
Yet do not despair; there is a route to happiness and relaxation when it seems the whole world is conspiring against you!

Here we will look at easy tricks to keep the darkness at bay:


Good morning!

Set the alarm and wake up the same time you do in the summer. It will be dark outside; yet but you are a shining light from within!

Make the bed, have a shower to freshen up and make breakfast. Make a coffee, brew a tea or just have a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Whilst waiting for your breakfast to cook; why not step outside for a moment and breathe in fresh cool air? A boost of oxygen and the shock of the cold; will soon cause both mind and soul to be wide awake.

Try salmon, mackerel or tuna; grilled on toast. Go European and have lean steak sandwich. Or if you are a humble soul like me; just scramble up to three eggs or make a bowl of porridge. The reason being, all these foods are great sources of Vitamin D; so a great substitute for when the sun is not shining.


Vitamin D

The best way to get Vitamin D is to be in direct sunlight. With the body making Vitamin D; when direct sunlight reacts with cholesterol in skin cells. The purpose of Vitamin D is to primarily regulate calcium and phosphorous; that makes are bones and teeth strong. Yet there are other benefits too.

Walk into the light!

Research shows that maintaining levels of Vitamin D can help fight the risks of flu to heart disease and multiple sclerosis! Another benefit of the vitamin is that it suppresses appetite; so helps you feel good that way. Vitamin D also helps fight depression by enabling us to better regulate our mood.


Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

There is a recognised medical condition called Seasonal Defective Disorder (SAD). With symptoms including: moodiness, irritability, lethargy and weight gain. Which is thought to be caused by the natural body clock becoming confused by thee short days. If you are struggling; don’t hesitate to contact your doctor. Find out more on the NHS website here:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/


Bright Light Therapy

A novel invention to try is a Lightbox or SAD lamp.
They work on the idea that by imitating sunlight; you will suppress melatonin and not be so sleepy and sad!

Indoor sun!

They have a bulb that can reach 10,000 lux; and have the full spectrum of light. Sit in front of a light box for 15 to 30 minutes every morning; with your eyes open but not staring directly at the light. Most people prefer to read in front of them.


Exercise

In the Arctic Circle, the sunsets in winter for almost a month. In Scandinavian countries such as Norway; the government has developed a program to try and get every citizen to attend a gymnasium in these dark days to help stave off the effects of the dark.

Limber up for spring!

It is a sad fact that the long dark nights cause a higher rate of suicide. Norway has realized and tackled this problem head on. They have subsidised gymnasiums for all citizens along with other forms of help. This is because research shows that exercise causes the human body to release serotonin; which normally comes from the sun. Along with endorphins that make you feel well and block pain and dopamine that causes you to feel more awake and elated.


Make use of the long dark evenings

It is cold and dark outside so stay warm and bright inside. Do not get cabin fever; get to know your family again! Put down the phone and turn off the TV and talk!

Read a book; write a book; start a website and a blog; plan your routes to relax for when the sun comes you will be ready!

Study like Plato!

Escape!

If you are still struggling after trying all these ideas and your stiff upper lip is starting to quiver; then escape!

The birds fly south; so why not you? Do not go on holiday in the English summer; save your pennies for a cold rainy day!

Anywhere is!
Tromso, Norway

Driving to relax

A few ideas to stay relaxed whilst on the road.

A great cause of stress in day to day life can come about whilst driving a car. Most of us have to drive in order to get to work and be with family and friends. Yet this necessary activity does not need to be a source of stress; rather a chance to enjoy the ride and relax. Here below, can I share with you; ten ideas of driving to relax:


1. Combining journeys

Consider how many errands you can combine in one journey. For example: go shopping on the way home from work; book appointments in town on the same day; arrange to visit far away friends and family on the same day; give a lift to a neighbour going the same way.

The great circle route

If you have to use your car and drive; then try and combine as many journeys as possible. Not only are you saving time; you saving fuel, the environment and reducing your risks of becoming stressed whilst out on the road.


2. Allow time and plan your journey

Do not put yourself under pressure; by leaving the house too late and trying to make up by speeding to your destination. If you are driving on unfamiliar roads or to a faraway destination; check traffic reports and plan your journey to avoid traffic jams and roadworks. The AA have a great website; here is a link: https://www.theaa.com/route-planner/route

If you are just driving the regular commute to work or to the next town to see family and friends; why leave late and rush? It is kind of paradoxical; that the more organised and prepared we become, the more time we are actually relaxed. This is because nothing comes as a shock in our schedule.


3. Clean and declutter your car and windscreen

Keep your car clean; especially the windscreen. This is because our peripheral vision notices movement; so take down those air fresheners.

Where is the road?

In addition try and keep the windscreen; both inside and out clean. This is because our eyes are constantly focusing on different objects whilst we are driving to be aware of possible threats to our safety. Therefore, help yourself; by cleaning off grime and bugs from the windscreen. If you have cracks in your windscreen; get it replaced as soon as possible. Normally, your car insurance will cover the cost. If the windows are misted up or icy; be patient and let them clear. As the saying goes: “a stitch in time; saves nine”.


4. You are the captain of your ship

If you are carrying passengers be aware of their character and consider how it could affect your ability to drive safely and stay relaxed. Screaming children, crying babies, screaming and crying partners, ‘backseat’ drivers, drunk friends, chatty neighbours; mentally prepare before you set off in the car with them.

This is your captain!

Although, you don’t want to come across as a begrudging driver; you are in charge of your car and everyone within it. Like the captain of a ship; if anything happens, you will be held responsible, so be firm yet positive with your passengers. Some passengers, such as children; are simply not aware of how their behaviour can affect your ability to drive in a safe and relaxed manner. So make sure they are in a good mood before you set off; make sure they are fed and watered and have a book or toy to play with. When they inevitably demand to go the toilet in the middle of a freeway; calmly tell them you will pull over as soon as possible. Bring spare clothes and wet wipes for children; so if they cannot hold on, they can freshen up when you are finally able to stop.


5. Let the music play but your way

Personally as a professional truck driver, I drive in silence; without any music or radio. I am listening to the sounds of the engine to gauge engine speed and for outside hazards.

I like listening to the sound of silence

If you do feel the need to play music whilst driving; consider the tempo or speed of the song. Studies have shown that playing music with a beat faster than your heart rate; will subconsciously cause you to speed up and possibly drive in a reckless manner.

Consider, playing classical music to inspire you as you drive through rolling rural landscapes. Try to play happy and upbeat songs; that will cause your body to release serotonin and heighten your senses. Try to avoid to sad or aggressive music that may cause you to dwell on unpleasant thoughts or experiences which may cause you to loose concentration. Try listening to: podcasts, audio-books or a interesting programme on BBC Radio 4 (92-95 FM or 198 long wave).

Yet always be aware of your surroundings; especially approaching emergency vehicles trying to pass you.


6. Read the road and pay it forward

Most road hazards give you warning signs before they develop. Read the road like a developing story and prepare to give way.

Use clues to know what is around the corner

A slow moving car in front of you; may mean the driver is looking for an address and may suddenly turn off. Mud on the road; may mean there is a slow moving tractor after a blind bend. Lots of mums walking along the street in mid afternoon; may mean school has finished and children may run out in the road. Look for the signs, that will prepare you; leaving you ready but relaxed.

In addition, never think that you are in a race with other road users. If someone cuts you up; let them go, they are safer in front of you. If someone is waiting patiently to pull out of a side road; let them out if you will not hold up other road users and cause an accident. If a slow lorry is trying to reverse across a road to park; stop and give them the space they need. Pay the love forward and hopefully someone will repay the favour later on.


7. No need for speed

Driving faster than necessary will not get you much further up the road; yet will open you up to risks, fines and avoidable stress.

Watch those dials!

Most car journeys we make are locally; to work, the shops and family. On these short journeys; speeding will only get there a few minutes quicker at most! For example: driving ten miles at 35 mph instead of 30 mph; will only get you to your destination three minutes earlier. So consider what you will do in those three minutes. Are they worth a speeding ticket? Are they worth risking an accident? Are they worth the extra stress?


8. Pull over

A major cause of stress whilst driving is caused by someone following you too closely; causing you to focus on them and not the road ahead.

Pullover; danger and stress becomes easier when it is in front of you.

So your ego and your self righteousness is telling you to not give in. You want to maintain your sense of self respect; you start to feel anger and malice. You may even in consider driving slower just to spite them. Well quite literally; stop this thinking this way. Instead, consider turning down your rear view mirror. If your wing mirrors are adjustable; then turn them down too. If they are not adjustable; open the window and pull in the wing mirror on the drivers side. This way you can concentrate on the road ahead; without seeing movement in your peripheral vision by way of the mirrors.

If the driver behind you seems aggressive or just too close then consider pulling over when it is safe to do so. If there are no laybys; when you are on a straight stretch of road, indicate to the nearside and pull to the side. This way the driver behind you can safely pass. Trust me, with the danger in front of you; you will soon feel relaxed again.


9. Safe space

Imagine the distance between you and the vehicle in front belongs to you. Simply by slowing down and maintaining a gap; gives you more time to deal with hazards. Remember the old adage: “only a fool breaks the two second rule”. Wait for the car in front to pass a marker; then count two seconds. If you pass the same marker before two seconds you are too close.

Can you see the car in front?

The more space and time you give yourself to react to hazards; not only makes you safer but more relaxed. From seeing traffic slowing up ahead to sudden braking; by creating a safe space, you are giving yourself time to think and when you do not have to think quickly, you will only be relaxed.


10. Feeling tired, upset, unwell, under the influence, going blind?

Would you walk a tightrope whilst drunk? Would you try running whilst tired? Would you chop vegetables whilst crying so much you cannot see? Would you go to work feeling so weak and unwell you cannot even stand up? Would you speed along a motorway in thick fog?

Go to bed not the car!

Well why get in a car whilst feeling this way? A car does not look like a knife; yet it can kill just as well. Treat driving as a privilege and not a right. Yes you have passed the test and paid for a car; yet that does not mean your need to drive is more important than anyone else. If you do not feel well for any reason; do not drive. If anyone is pressurising you to drive; then tell them to catch the bus and then say goodbye, for you do not need these people in your life.


Therefore, most of us need to drive to work and other commitments that we put upon ourselves. Yet never let driving be a source of stress. You cannot control other drivers; yet by anticipating and being prepared we can allow for mistakes.

Ideally, to be completely relaxed; try to aim for a life without need of a motor car. Tibetan monks, Eskimo, Namibian herdsmen; it is possible to live a complete and satisfying life without the wheel!

Drive safe, drive with care, drive to relax.


Beating the winter blues

Keeping relaxed and happy through a long cold winter Refreshing routes to relax The merriness of Christmas is gone now, only the bill remains; the winter solstice has gone but the nights are still long; the sun also rises but we keep spinning silently away from it!Yet do not despair; there is a route to […]

Driving to relax

A few ideas to stay relaxed whilst on the road. A great cause of stress in day to day life can come about whilst driving a car. Most of us have to drive in order to get to work and be with family and friends. Yet this necessary activity does not need to be a […]

Food to Relax

‘You are what you eat’ as the saying goes; so if you want to eat and relax, then check out these ten foods that can help.

Believe it or not; our moods, feelings and ability to stay calm are all affected by the food that we consume. There are times when you need more calories and sugars to be able to complete a long bike ride or keep warm on a cold day. Yet by giving a little consideration to our food; our bodies will take care of the rest. Personally, I try to stay relaxed all day long even when working hard. So I have researched and now eat food to relax.

Please bear in mind I am not a qualified nutritionist; just a guy who has read and researched the subject. Neither am I mother hen; so go forth and find your own food in your own good time. The food items listed below are all inexpensive and healthy; so please consider them if you are not already doing so, bon appetit:


1. Apple

There is an old saying that goes: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”.

Apple jack!

Well an apple can also keep stress away too because of naturally occurring chemicals. These chemicals would normally help the apple survive harsh weather and attacks from insects and birds. These same chemicals have an anti-depressant effect on humans; as well as slowly releasing energy to keep your spirits up. Apples are also a good source of potassium; which helps your nervous system.


2. Bananas

Monkeys always seem happy and maybe that is because they eat lots of bananas!

Smile!

Bananas are good food in so many ways! First they are high in natural sugar that will keep you focused and not grumpy. They are high in potassium too; so will help the nerves. They also contain Vitamin B6 and tryptophan; which convert to serotonin in the human body. With serotonin being the chemical that is thought to regulate mood.


3. Lemon

Don’t be bitter; have a lemon! Well you can mix lemon juice with water and it goes down easy!

Don’t be a lemon; use them in your diet!

For a start, a lemon contains high levels of Vitamin C; which will improve your immune system and stop you feeling low in the first place. If you do become stressed your body will produce a chemical called: Cortisol. Cortisol is produced to increase energy levels so you can deal with a stressful situation. For example: running away from a dangerous animal. However, too much Cortisol in your body will cause you to feel irritable. The Vitamin C in lemon will suppress the release of Cortisol.


4. Honey

Honey is a sweet healthy treat! On toast, or porridge, in coffee or tea; try and get honey into your diet every day.

Sweet as honey!

Honey contains very high levels of tryptophan; that amino acid that turns into serotonin to make you feel happy and melatonin to help you feel relaxed. Personally I put a spoonful in my morning coffee. Yet you can try it with many foods anytime of day. If you forget; have a spoonful but no double dipping!


5. Eggs

Don’t become ‘eggacerbated’; become ‘eggstra’ relaxed eating eggs.

Eggactly!

By eating eggs in the morning; you feel more full because of their high protein content. This means hunger pains will not affect your daily activities. On top of this eggs contain a chemical called: Choline. This chemical is essential for the body to produce another chemical called: Acetylcholine; which regulates parts of the brain that deal with stress and mood. It does not stop there; eggs are also high in Vitamin D which helps deal with anxiety and depression.


6. Porridge or Oatmeal

Be as stoic as a Quaker by eating porridge for breakfast or maybe later!

You will never quake with porridge inside you!

Porridge or Oatmeal in American; is a simple yet stress busting meal anytime of the day. For a start, it is warm and soothing; especially when made with milk. Then with milk it is a great source of tryptophan; remember, that chemical that converts into serotonin to help regulate moods. In addition, oatmeal is a great source of melatonin; which help us to relax and sleep. Furthermore, oats are high in calcium and magnesium; two minerals that help the body to function, repair and relax!

Top tip: If you are running late and do not have time to make porridge; try preparing flapjacks the night before.


7. Celery

Hippocrates, the Greek doctor dude from 2,000 years ago; said that one should eat celery to calm the nerves!

Yes, that often over looked vegetable celery; is a great secret weapon to relax. Studies have shown that eating celery can lower blood pressure in the body. In addition, celery can help create white blood cells; which help fight off disease and infections. Celery also contains a natural chemical called: Phthalides. This chemical helps the liver detoxify the blood; thus improving blood flow to the brain and nervous system.

Top tip: to get the most out of celery; it is best eaten raw because many of its benefits are lost in the cooking process. So, chewing on a few sticks with a sprinkling of sea salt; is a great way to relax and build an appetite before a healthy meal.


8. Oily tinned fish: mackerel, sardines, salmon, anchovies…

Have a fishy on your dishy and feel all warm, relaxed and squishy!

Always look for the high in Omega-3 label

Love or hate them; oily tinned fish are a frugal and fantastically healthy meal. Eat them cold straight out the tin; on toast, in a salad, or even a paella, yet just eat them! Why? Well they are rich in a good polyunsaturated fatty acid called: Omega-3. This acid has been proven to reduce inflammation of the blood system and reduce the risk of heart disease. So like a rocket ship on high octane fuel; we will be operating on full power throughout the day. Then if we have had a good day; we are more likely to stay relaxed and happy as well. Studies have also found that patients suffering from anxiety and depression have very low levels of Omega-3.

Top tip: aim to have oily fish at least twice a week.


9. Cherries

Live life, eat, drink, sleep, breathe, laugh and cry, learn, turn, run and relax; do more, yet always do it with a cherry on top!

Eat cherries as often as possible and stay merry!

Chelan cherries ready for a smoothie:P

These little red beauties are an amazing present from mother nature. For a start, they are one of the few sources of melatonin; the chemical that regulates are body clock and enables us to get a goods nights sleep! Studies have shown that by eating cherries or drinking cherry juice on a daily basis; improves the length and quality of your sleep. So if you are sleeping well you will be well awake too!
Also, they are a great source of: Vitamins B and C, potassium, copper and manganese! Which all help our blood and nervous systems.
Wow, so much in such a little package!

Top tip: try to eat raw dark cherries instead of sweet glazed cherries


10. Turmeric

This nice spice comes from a flowering plant in the ginger family. Normally sprinkled over a curry to give it flavour and colour; it also gives you a whole lot more!

Used in Asian cuisine since time immemorial; turmeric is one of mother natures natural medicines. Turmeric contains a compound chemical called: Curcumin; which is proven to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. With antioxidant meaning it reduces the risk of infections as well as ageing! Anti-inflammatory meaning it helps the body deal with harmful stimuli.

In addition, studies have shown that Curcumin is a natural anti-depressant. With one study even showing that it is effective as Prozac! Adrian Lorpresti of Murdoch University, Australia; states that: Curcumin improves pathways in the brain that deal with anxiety and depression. It also reduces stress hormones; such as: cortisol.

However, there have been reports that turmeric can contain high levels of lead. This is because the regions where it is grown in Bangladesh; are susceptible to heavy rain. This heavy rain causes Turmeric to lose its bright colour; which detracts from its use to colour food. So yes, in this crazy world; some people are risking lead poisoning for the sake of pretty colourful food!

Top tip: always use pepper with turmeric; because compounds in pepper enable you to get the best out of turmeric. Also to get the real benefits of turmeric try taking a Curcumin supplement; as a little sprinkle on your midweek curry will not be enough to enjoy its benefits.


So there you have it; get in the kitchen and get cooking. Do not take my word for it; do your own research and enjoy what you eat. Eat well and eat to be healthy, happy and relaxed.

Subscribe and look out for upcoming blogs; packed with more food and drinks to keep you on a route to relax.

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Happy feet not cold feet

A summary of footwear options for the winter cyclist; with a review of Northwave GTX mountain bike boots

Being able to stay warm on a cold day is so important for our well-being. In extreme situations, we can damage our extremities or weaken our immune system; which open us up to all kinds of infections. In addition, every time we feel too cold or hot; we become irritable and unable to relax. Our skin and blood system is working overtime to try and maintain a normal body temperature. Which in turn causes us to lose focus on other activities and not enjoy our day. By helping our body temperature with the right amount of clothing; we are able to relax and stay happy and comfortable. Here I look at the options to keep your happy feet warm and dry on a winters day; whilst trying to keep fit and ride a route to relax:


Option 1: Wear your normal trainers and hope for the best!

You are just getting into cycling and cannot afford anything more than the trainers you already have? Well they will work great on a short ride when there is no chance of rain.

My UK trainers are made by Karrimor and cost just £30 from

If the trainers are big enough, try wearing a thick pair of socks. Ideally try to wear wool socks; as this natural material keeps your warm by trapping air within its thick fibres. Cotton is better than synthetic materials like polyester and nylon; yet it stills holds a lot more moisture and sweat than wool, lowering the thermal energy in your toes.

In addition, wool has natural anti-microbial characteristics meaning less toe jam! That yucky stuff between your toes; made up of: dead skin, sweat, bacteria and dirt! However, trainers are normally made from synthetic materials so the benefits of wool will be reduced by the fact that you are still wearing trainers!


Option 1 and a 1/2: Add a plastic bag!

Make your frugal footwear choice waterproof by simply adding plastic bags!
Yes you will stop the rain getting in; but just think of the rain forest effect going on inside those trainers!

Happy feet?

I have tried this myself and trust me when I say you will regret it! As the sweat builds with nowhere to escape; you feel like you are swimming and not cycling! Then just wait until you take them off! Oh and take them off outside or you will have one unhappy household!


Option 3: A leather shoe or walking boot

When I first started cycling; I was a jobless teenager. Back then I would use hiking boots or rugby boots with the studs removed! Not stylish but very warm and if I got a puncture; at least I could walk home!

My Alt-Berg boots: comfortable handmade leather boots that designed for hiking.

This is the most sensible option if you cannot afford or just do not want to buy cycling specific shoes. You might get disparaging looks from the lycra clad weekend warriors for not being in their expensively branded clique but do you care? No, your feet and your quietly confident ego; are warm, comfortable and relaxed.


Option 4: Summer cycling shoes

Now this is where cycling can get expensive but then what price do you put on your health? These £80; Northwave Origin MTB shoes have really improved my cycling experience.

My Northwave Origin 2019 MTB shoes

Shoes designed specifically for cycling; are really worth their price tag. For a start they have a stiff sole so all your energy is transferred to the pedal. Shoes for road cycling are flat on the bottom so are very difficult to walk in; yet MTB shoes have raised tread to enable you to walk. A lot safer; especially in those slippery places, e.g. bike cafe loos! In addition, these shoes have vents on the upper and quarter panels. Great for keeping cool in summer yet in winter not so good! Venting cuts down on sweat evapoaration but does not prevent the ingress of that November rain.


Option 4 and a 1/4: Overshoes?!

As the name suggests; you put these on ‘over your shoes’ and secure them with velcro or a zip. They look stylish and space age; yet are flawed in their design.

Neoprene overshoes from ProBikeKit.com

More commonly used in road cycling; these overshoes in my opinion will help, yet there are better alternatives out there. Personally I have not used them for a number of years for a number of reasons. For a start, they have two big holes on the sole for the cleat and the heel of your shoe. These two big holes also let in water and the cold. Every time you put your foot down or engage into the pedal clip; you wear the fabric on the sole. Within a year they will be worn and torn so badly you will have to buy another pair. Costing over £20 for a decent pair; this is an expensive habit! Finally, if they don’t rip on the sole; the zip will surely rust and snap. Did I mention that because they are supposed to be tight fitting; they are also difficult to put over your shoe.

Try them once so you can at least warn others too!

That zip can break when you most need it!
Look at the size of those holes!

Option 4 and a 1/2: Waterproof socks!

A recent development are socks lined with a man made wicking but waterproof material. I have not owned a pair myself; yet my father swears by them.

Look at the sock not the shoe, haha!

Some complain that the sock is too thick and inflexible; yet we are all different, so research and the choice is yours! Various materials are used such as Gore-Tex; with varying prices and quality. Looking on Amazon; these Sealskinz socks are currently priced at between £27 and £40.


Option 5: Gore-Tex MTB boots

Here we have my final option and my own personal choice. When it is cold and raining and you are riding through the great outdoors; this is how to keep your feet happy and relaxed!

My Northwave Gore-Tex MTB boots give me happy feet!

After trying options one to four; I was getting cold feet every time I tried to go out on my bike and relax. Reading reviews I decided on a pair of Gore-Tex lined boots made by the Italian ski and bike outfitters: Northwave. Although they cost me £140 about five years ago; they have been worth every penny.

For a start, they show no signs of wear; unlike those aforementioned overshoes. The Gore-Tex lining keeps my happy feet warm and dry even on long rides in sub zero temperatures. The added ankle support, also extends the warmth up the leg; and stops water and dirt from entering the boot. The inner sole and lining is cushioned and comfortable. The boot is large in comparison to a trainer yet they do not give me the feeling that I am in clumsy clown shoes. The build quality is fantastic; with real thought going into the design and ergonomics. I could go on and on prasing these boots; yet this is a blog and not Wikipedia!

Since I bought my boots about five years ago; the design has changed from Velcro tabs to a wire on a ratchet. Whilst I am dubious of the longevity of the ratchet system over simple Velcro tabs; I am sure Northwave have used quality parts and researched and tested their products.

I am more likely to lose these boots than they wear out. Yet if they do; I will have no hesitation buying Northwave MTB boots again.

For fun, check out my: short review and waterproofing video; which you will find below on YouTube.

Stay safe, stay warm, stay out there until you are happy and above all stay relaxed; cheers.



Breathing techniques to relax

While we breathe, we will hope.”
– Barack Obama

Following on from my first post; I thought it would be great to highlight breathing techniques in order to relax.

All you need is your lungs and a few moments to focus on your chosen technique. You do not have to be in a relaxing environment. For in a way, it is good to test your superpowers to relax; anywhere in this sometime restless world.

Try these techniques anywhere to see how they work for you:

1. Diaphragmatic breathing. Also known as abdominal or belly breathing.
This is one of the most beneficial breathing techniques. It lowers heart rate and blood pressure; as well as increasing strength in your diaphragm and stamina for exercise. Importantly, it can reduce symptoms of many stress and anxiety disorders.

How to breathe to do diaphragmatic breathing:
– Try to sit or lay down and loosen tight clothes.
– Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
– Breathe in through your nose whilst feeling your stomach expand; as your chest stays still.
– Purse your lips, whilst gently pressing on your stomach. Now exhale slowly through the mouth.
– Repeat several times for best effect.

Breathing is part of your automatic nervous system; which controls several functions such as blood pressure without you needing to think about it. The ‘fight or flight’ response is also controlled by this nervous system; so by breathing deeply you can easily deal with issues and then return to a relaxed state.


2. Breathe Focus Technique
This involves using a keyword of your choosing; whilst you focus on your breathing to help you relax.

How to:
– Sit or lie down in a comfortable place.
– Without changing your breathing become aware of your breath both in and out. Now alternate between normal and deeper breathing and notice how this affects you. Then begin deep diaphragmatic breathing.
– Place a hand on your belly button and notice how it rises and falls with each breath. With every exhale; let out a sigh.
– Now combine your deep breathing with imagery and keywords that will help you relax.
– Imagine each new breath in brings more calm and happy thoughts. Your world and your body is becoming more and more relaxed.
– Then each time you exhale; imagine: all your strains and stresses are leaving your body.

Try to do this for at least twenty minutes if you can keep track of time!


3. Alternate nostril breathing
This technique is for relaxation; yet it has been known to enhance cardiovascular function and lower heart rate.

Obviously, you will need the use of both nostrils; so avoid if you are congested or ill. Also it is best practised on a empty stomach.

How to:
– Sit or lie down.
– Raise your hand to your face and after exhaling place your thumb over your right nostril.
– After you have breathed in through your left nostril; close your left nostril with your forefinger and breathe out through your right nostril.
– Continue doing this for at least five minutes.


4. Equal Breathing
This means making the length of each inhale and exhale of breath the same length. This will help make your breathing smoother and hopefully make you more balanced and relaxed.

How to
– Find a comfortable seat; and begin by gently breathing in and out through your nostrils.
– When you have relaxed and began focusing on your breathing; make each inhale and exhale the same length by counting in your head. Count to what ever number is comfortable for you.
– If you prefer, you can pause between each inhale and exhale.


So there are a few techniques, I have learned myself; which I try to include in my daily routine. Read up on the subject yourself; try what suits you. Enjoy relaxation techniques and do not worry too much about following techniques too closely.
The most important thing is to relax.