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Relaxation is a skill

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    By Kent Parker - Posted on 01 March 2016

    Relaxation is a skill that can be learnt.  It is not just something that happens when we stop moving, lie on a sofa or get drunk on beer.  Our ability to relax (or not) is the product of the many years of conditioning, environmental influence, chance events and such that we experience from the time we are born.  Our ability to relax is not fixed, it has been learnt, and as such can be unlearnt or relearnt.

    Not only is relaxation something that can be learnt, the ability to relax lies at the heart of all human functionality.  Performance in most tasks involves tensioning muscles in the body in order to carry out an action.  This applies to sports, performing arts, oratory and any trade or profession.  If we want to be good at something we need to learn how to successfully apply certain actions.  In between actions we need to learn to relax.  For instance a football player, at the moment prior to kicking the ball, allows his body to relax, before suddenly applying all his strength to propel the ball forward.  An orator has to pause sufficiently between phrases to take a breath.  Any accumulation of tension from one action to the next can soon cause dysfunction, the football player fluffs the kick; the orator’s voice cracks.

    On the flipside, the loss of the ability to relax is the foundation for many psychological conditions such as anxiety-based disorders.  Such a person may have difficulty kicking a ball accurately or speaking to others coherently and clearly.  One well-known psychological treatment, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) uses relaxation as part of its repertoire of aids.  There is no doubt that relaxation could be used more widely as a foundation to helping resolve psychological problems and eventually become a recognized mainstream solution in itself, along with appropriate advice and counseling. Furthermore, relaxation training should be advanced as a general skill, like being able to write, and made available universally.

    Relaxation could be taught in schools.  I have no doubt that if primary and intermediate age children are taught relaxation then that would reduce incidence of ADHD and help alleviate discipline problems.  At high school it would reduce incidence of all manner of psychological problems from depression to anorexia.  Why stop there? Relaxation training should be available as an easily available treatment via a general practitioner (GP), and like other treatments, be available with a government subsidy.

    It is likely to take a while to get this technology from where it is now to where it needs to be and first of all it will take a shift in mindset.  What is relaxation?  Relaxation is a skill.