30 things you can do to relax in under 5 minutes
I haven’t got time to relaxWhat’s spare time?
Slow down? Are you serious? I have so much to do.
Everything will fall apart if I take my eyes off the ball.
This sound familar?
I’ve certainly found myself saying a lot in the past, and these kind of phrases are something I hear often now from clients and people around me.
It’s something that I completely understand, which is why I've created a collection of fun and relaxing things you can do in under five minutes for those days where you need time out, right now, but have a gazillion things to do.
And if you can’t find a way to free up five minutes a day, I think we need to chat.
Alternatively, if you have more than 5 minutes, going through the whole list in an afternoon sounds like a pretty good day to me!
Here we go, with Part One!
1. One person dance party
This has to be one of my favourites and it’s courtesy of the lovely Jo Tucker of jo-tucker.com. Find a couple of songs that make you feel happy, make you feel alive, or make you forget about other things you’ve got going on right now. Put them on, nice and loud, and have a good dance in your living room (or bedroom, or bathroom, or wherever really!) Dance you worries away. (My recommended songs for doing this: Holy Ground - Taylor Swift, Can't Hold Us - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Wake Me Up - Aviccii.
When you have a million and one thoughts going on in your head, often the last thing you want to do is sit still, breathe and try and forget everything. There’s often so much to do, we’re juggling so many balls (don’t even go there!) that we dare relax because we don’t want to miss anything. For those of you in this category, I can’t recommend this illustrated guide enough: ‘Quiet the Mind’ by Matthew Johnston. It’s full of lovely colourful pictures, exercises and I think it would be near impossible to find someone who didn’t feel calmer after reading it.
3. Read an article
And try and make it completely unrelated to whatever you spend your most time doing. If you’ve got your own business, forget the go-to blogs for increasing productivity and sales. If you’re an avid campaigner or work in the caring profession, avoid anything too heart wrenching or close to home. Instead find something else that fascinates you, be it the autobiography of one of your favourite writers, an illustrated guide to something creative or even just a list of uplifting quotes.
4. Look at a candle
Sounds silly, but don’t knock it till you try it. Find a comfy seating position, light a candle and watch the flame. Get lost in the flickering and allow yourself to daydream and get lost. Kudos for a nice scented candle, my personal favourite is pumpkin or apple pie. Yum.
5. Play with an animal
When I’m sad or angry, upset or frustrated, I can always turn to one of my bunnies for a quick pick me up, or instant relaxation. If you’ve got a pet, go give them a cuddle. If you haven’t, there are plenty of cute videos of animals that will make your troubles melt away in no time. (If it doesn’t work the first time, repeat, then repeat again.)
6. Walk around the block
A little walk goes a long way. That’s my philosophy anyway. A five minute walk is good for the heart as well as the soul, and exactly the kind of thing you need if a) you haven’t left the house in a while or b) every time you leave the house it’s for work or for someone else. Grab you coat (weather depending) and go for a walk. Try to look for things you haven’t noticed before and appreciate living in the present.
7. Look at a nice picture
Whether it’s looking through photo albums (or dropbox) at photos that make you go awww, or browsing for stunning landscapes on Google, spend five minutes looking at things that make you smile. Get a fresh perspective, zoom out of what’s going on with you right now and find something to be in awe of.
8. Browse some quotes
Pinterest is the perfect tool for relaxing. Setting up an account is simple and you never need to show anyone your boards. Type in whatever you’re in search for right now (hope, courage, inspiration, motivation) and let the beautiful quotes and graphics do the work for you. If you're stuck in a rut, a vision board might just to the trick.
9. Sip a hot drink
Sometimes, all it takes is wrapping my hands around a warm drink (in a nice mug) and sipping something nice and sweet (ever tried a steamer? It's warm milk with a syrup, yum!). There's something about warm drinks that can melt away troubles and let out a big sigh.
Grab a piece of paper (back of a receipt, napkin, anything you can find) and start doodling. You don't have to be an artist - though you can take it up as a hobby and learn - and you don't need equipment. Set a timer for five minutes, take your biro and just doodle. Listening to music sometimes helps. Let your thoughts wander or try and clear your mind and take it out on the paper, dammit!
Many an hour of mine has been spent on Vine. Vines are really short videos uploaded by users all over the world and range from hilarious to downright bizarre. Whether you're in the office, at home, or on the move, put your feet up and put on a compilation. If you manage to keep your viewing time to just five minutes, let me know as I’ve never managed it!
12. Savour a piece of something sweet
This is a great exercise that I learned in my Positive Psychology training. Grab a piece of fruit (or chocolate!) and spend five minutes looking at the texture, the smell, the feel and the taste. Take as long as you can to eat it, and really bask in how it tastes. Remain completely focused on what you’re eating and let it bring back memories, and find new flavours you might ignore when rushing around as part of daily life. (If you want to extend this exercise, I totally recommend a tub of Ben & Jerry’s phish food, and Whip It. Just saying…)
13. Check in with your senses
You can do this anywhere, and there are about a million ways to do it, but I'm just going to suggest two:
a) You can do a five minute body scan which involves shutting your eyes, focusing on your breath and checking in with every part of your body. See where you're holding tension in your body, and release it.
b) Shut your eyes, and focus on what you can hear. What's in your immediate surroundings? What sounds further out? What can you taste? What can you feel around you? What do your feet feel like on the ground? What can you smell? Now open your eyes and look for three things you haven't noticed before, take a deep breath and continue with your day.
These exercises keep you grounded in the moment and you should return to whatever you're doing with a clearer mind and relaxed state.
14. Put headphones in with no sound
This one sounds so strange, but I can't tell you how well it works! Whether you're on your way somewhere and don't want to be disturbed, in a busy area or at work, try this on for size. It's sometimes great to feel like you're in your own little world, and putting headphones in blocks every day noises away just enough for you to get a bit of peace and quiet.
15. Look for a yellow car
There's a saying that what you focus on gets bigger. Sometimes a bit of mindful distraction is exactly what you need when feeling stressed to the max. If you're near a road, focus on finding a yellow car. They're rare enough to warrant the need to focus on finding one, but common enough to realistically find one, so win win! You can also do this for different colours, and see what you notice that you other wise wouldn't.
16. Do five minutes of yoga
I am no yoga expert. Laughter yoga yes. But yoga yoga, no. But there are lots of ways you can learn, and there are lots of positions and postures that you can do in five minutes which are great for your body and soul. There are lots of videos of yoga poses you can do at your desk, just like this one.
17. Funny videos on Facebook
Facebook can be a source of good and evil. Let’s face it, sometimes we get sick of baby pictures and seeing what the person you went to school with made for breakfast. But, there’s also a lot of funny shit that we don’t take the time to look at. For five minutes, scroll through your timeline and only click on the funny videos and pictures. Let them cheer you up. And if you don’t have Facebook, check out this awesome video featuring a talking guinea pig:
18. Guided meditation
We touched briefly on breathing and meditation last week, but I wanted to take some time to discuss this in more depth. Meditation is a great way of accessing a sense of calmness. Try this one. Or you can read Quiet the Mind, a FANTASTIC illustrated guide to mindfulness. Think children's book meets meditation = awesome.
19. Wash your face/give yourself a quick facial
Doing something we wouldn’t usually or spoiling ourselves can be a great confidence boost. Take five minutes to look after yourself and make yourself feel good! And if you’re looking to extend the activity you can find recipes to make your own face masks here. Though, maybe just stick to the banana. The vinegar and the mayonnaise ones make me want to vom.
20. Tidy and de-clutter
Although I generally live by the rule of ‘Why should I clean my room when the world is such a mess?’, tidying and cluttering can be great for the mind.
21. Water your plant
Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a plant die on you. Yeah, me too. But it’s nice to have something pretty to take care of, and plants give off oxygen and shit (science really isn’t my forte - I totally didn’t just google it to make sure I was right). But it is relaxing looking after a plant. I don’t know why, it just is.
22. Phone a friend
You can always rely on friends to cheer you up. Ring up one of your close friends and ask them what funny things have happened to them lately. Or just catch up with someone you’ve been meaning to call in a while. Whether you end up laughing or simply feeling loved, it’s a win win situation.
23. Close your eyes and think of the last time you had a good belly laugh
I love this one. So much so that I’m going to share the last belly laugh I had. It was on the tube in London with a lovely friend and I shared one of my favourite jokes:
Didn’t say it was funny, did I?!
24. Send someone special and e-card
Sometimes it’s all about the little things. There are loads of great e-cards (or you could send snail mail) to choose from, and it's guaranteed make a loved one’s day. Bonus points as it will make you feel all warm inside as well.
25. Google a new recipe and print it out
Shaking up your kitchen is a great way to relax, especially if you love to cook, which I do. Think about the things in your fridge, or a meal you’ve been meaning to check out, and print it out for later. Alternatively, look up recipes on Pinterest and see what you find!
26. Scrunch or rip paper
Similarly to a stress ball, ripping up paper and scrunching paper into a ball can be a good reliever of all things stressful. Extra brownie points for writing down a list of things that are on your mind and ripping them up. Let it go. And no, I wasn’t quoting Frozen.
27. Make a gratitude list
Establishing a gratitude practice can really improve your life. Not only does it allow you to live more in the present, but if you do it regularly enough, you’ll find yourself actively looking at things in a different way, and searching for more things to be grateful for. One of the easiest ways to do this is to write down three good things that have happened to you in the last 24 hours. Alternatively, there are gratitude apps as well.
28. Write a short story
You’d be amazed at what you can create just five minutes at a time. Start a fictional story (even a piece of fan fiction if you fancy, though it doesn’t float my boat personally) and add to it in five minute chunks. Make it funny, make it provoking, make it erotic (ooh-err), whatever will bring you happiness!
I've recently (as in, for the purposes of this post) been introduced to the work of Deva Premal. Her music is rather beautiful, and her 'Mantra for Precarious Times' is worth giving a go, though I've been warned it can be quite intense.
30. Take five minutes to sort your bag out
I think we’re all guilty of this to a certain extent. I’ve been called Mary Poppins for the amount of things (crap) in my bag. And I get a strange sense of satisfaction when I’ve cleared my bag out and I’m all organised. Try it out and see if it works for you! And on that note, that’s my cue to leave and go do just this!
I hope you’ve found new inspiration for things you can do to relax in under five minutes! I really set out to show that you don’t need a weekend or a whole day to relax. It really is about the little things, and embracing the time youdo have and using it to make you feel amazing!