A Superpower with Just a Thought
This year I learned the power of relaxing my muscles. It started off with witnessing the effect of a simple prompt from an online course that taught enjoyment.
The prompt is “how can I enjoy this 10% more”. Every time I ask this, my whole body relaxes instantly – which feels amazing. I started applying this to other areas of my life.
I went for a (rare) run to burn off some lockdown fat, and I was tensing up. My jaws were clenched, my abs were tense, and I had tight fists. I asked the prompt and I could instantly feel something wash over my body, my face became relaxed, my shoulders fell down, my abs felt different. Everything in my body shifted. And I was no longer fighting. I was able to run much further than usual.
Next, I tried this during a migraine attack. I was laying down with my eyebrows furrowed, almost resisting the pain with my facial muscles and I tried to relax. And it happened again, I got to such a relaxed state, it actually became in some odd way, enjoyable!
Then one day I was practicing my typing speed. I was typing slower than my baseline which was frustrating. Then I tried again while relaxing my muscles. It happened again, I increased the speed by about 20 wpm.
I’ve even tried it when I’m resisting a task at work or in my personal work. I decide to choose the task and relax, knowing that the tension doesn’t make it any more pleasant or quicker to complete.
Why muscles tense up in the first place
When we are exposed to stress, the muscles tense up in preparation for potential injuries. However, given that a) the majority of our stress exposure is non-physical, and b) we are exposed to stress frequently, muscle tension is a common issue.
Unfelt emotions can also result in the muscles tightening. We literally hold our muscles not to feel certain emotions. Uncomfortable situations for the muscles such as having bad posture also result in muscle tension. In fact, for some individuals such as highly sensitive people, this can act as excess stimuli, causing them to feel distressed.
What happens when we relax
When we relax, we are able to relieve the muscle tension and increase blood circulation. This causes the muscles to move more freely, which explains why I was able to run further and type faster. Additionally, the brain releases endorphins (natural painkillers), which suggests why the pain becomes more manageable.
And lastly, the brain is thought to release serotonin, which explains the felt enjoyment, the original objective of the prompt.
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