Wow – seems like I just did one of these, but here we are again with a new question from BlogHer’s Life Well-Lived Series.  This time the question is:

What are your favorite relaxation techniques? And what benefits do you see from practicing them?

In a word? 
Face-time with friends.

No matter what is going on in my life, when I look at what makes me relax back in to my own skin and feel good about myself, the single most important and effective technique for as long as I can remember is spending time with friends.  

Taking a bath? Getting a massage? Walking in the woods? Sure those things are all great. So is lighting a candle and remembering to breathe deeply.  Yoga classes almost always leave me with a deep sense of relaxation, both physically and spiritually.  But most of those things are done in solitude (or at least, in the case of yoga, individual practice within a group) and when I’m tense, I can’t stand to be alone with myself.  I need to get outside of my own head and out in to the real world where everyone has fears and anxieties and a muffin-top.  I need community.  I need to laugh, to be heard, to explore a new place or share an experience with people I care about.  

Simple things like sharing a cup of coffee with a girlfriend in a busy cafe help me to feel a part of something greater.

More elaborate evenings out with Bubba and another couple or two, catching up on our families and sharing our challenges and successes gives me perspective.

Walking the dog on a sunny day with others allows me to feel connected and cared for.

If I am out driving or walking and see something extraordinary – a great blue heron standing in the middle of the path, or a glorious sunrise – my first instinct is to find someone to tell. That quickening of my pulse, the sharp intake of breath as I recognize the pure beauty in a moment – those things make me want to turn to someone I care for and say, 

“Wow! Did you see that? So cool!”  

I was not built for solitude.  Perhaps in another life I could climb up into a Tibetan cave on the side of a mountain and sit, reflecting on who I am and seeking enlightenment.  In this life, I need people. Inside my own head I can wind myself up into a frenzy, going down paths that bring me farther and farther away from the life I actually have like some psychotic Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book.  I make things much more complicated than they have to be as I opt for one branch after another based on assumptions I have no business making.  Life seems so much simpler when I can fall back in to the easy community of friends who enjoy the same things I do, who want to get together over tea and talk about all things important and trivial, who can nearly trip over a twisted bit of moss that the juncos turned in to a nest and breathe in the wonder of it with me. I always feel lighter and more grounded after being with friends, and I’ll take that over a hot bath any day.  

As always, there is an ‘expert’ answer on BlogHer’s site here.
You can also go here to enter the current sweepstakes.  (This time the prize is an iPod Touch.)

How does blogging, journaling, writing and connecting online help to increase your happiness?

That is this week’s “Getting Happy” question from BlogHer’s Life Well Lived Series.  Here is the main post at their site.

When I started this blog nearly six years ago, it was at the prompting of a writing teacher who was just beginning to discover the wonders of instant feedback via comments from her readers.  The group of us that took the weekend-long workshop each went home, signed on to a blogging site and hit the ground running.  For someone who had yet to be published, it was a thrill to see my words in writing in a public space and even more exciting to hear what others had to say about my writing and my thoughts.  

More than 500 blog posts later, I’ve developed the courage to hone my writing skills and submit my work to online publications and traditional publishing houses thanks to the comments of many loyal readers.  Three of the original participants in that workshop are still blogging and commenting on my blog and I think we have all learned a lot about how to express ourselves, create conversation, and, more than anything, despite the fact that we live scattered throughout the United States, we have created solid bonds with each other. We support not only each other’s writing efforts, but prop each other up in times of difficulty with parenting or illness and celebrate each other’s successes in life.  

I have found that connecting with others through my blog, Facebook, or other online communities, I am able to share details of my life in real time with a group of people who are like-minded.  Rather than calling one trusted friend at a time, I can avail myself of a myriad of perspectives simultaneously and often get information I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten.  I have found out about new places to submit my work and have gotten published online several times.  I have also been able to offer advice and tips to others who might be stuck in familiar positions.  While I can’t wrap my arms around these women in person or pour a golden stream of champagne into a glass someone is holding, I can certainly offer virtual love and support and cheerlead from afar and I’ve learned that simply knowing someone is in your corner is often enough to keep you going until your partner gets home and wraps their arms around you.  

There is something magical about feeling connected to others, feeling understood, feeling like you’re part of something bigger and, while it certainly isn’t a substitute for personal, close-up relationships, my online communities are as real to me as those friendships I have with my neighbors.  Knowing that my voice is being heard and validated by others is vitally important to my well-being and has sustained my enthusiasm for this solitary endeavor known as writing.  

Head on over and enter the sweepstakes if you haven’t before.