Sometimes (well, often!) you have so much on your plate that thinking clearly becomes a struggle, it's like the noise in your head drowns out all productive thoughts. Have you ever noticed how when you decide to just take a break, go for a walk, or watch a mindless TV show, solutions start suddenly popping into your head? That's how you know you have given your brain some space to process things, and it then comes up with this stuff almost as if the problem just solved itself. Of course that's not the case, you put in the time to cram all the details in there yourself, but had you not allowed yourself to relax a little, you might not have ever produced that particular solution.
The good news is that this doesn't need to happen only by accident, you can use a variety of relaxation techniques to utilise your brain in this way intentionally. I talk a lot about different techniques for generating new ideas and solutions, which really are priceless in my book, but the difference with this method is that, rather than forcing new ideas, it allows you to access solutions that are already somewhere in your mind. Cool, huh? For the best chance of this working, these are the four things to consider:
A calm environment.
Make sure that the room you are in is quiet and pleasant, and doesn't have mountains of stuff that needs to get done in it. Or alternatively find a pretty, quiet spot outside.
Empty your mind.
If you practice meditation in any form, you'll be familiar with the concept of trying to empty your mind. The trick is to not resist thoughts if they come, but rather let them pass through your mind without holding on to them.
Sit in a position you know you'll feel comfortable in for about 15 minutes, but not comfortable enough to fall asleep!
Favourite relaxation method.
If you already have a favourite technique or meditation you use regularly by all means use that, or you can try some of the ones below.
Technique 1: mind travel
Imagine either a favourite past holiday, or a dream holiday you'd love to take. Conjure up an image of you doing something that would relax you most, maybe laying in a hammock on a beautiful verandah, looking out to the ocean, while the sun warms your skin. You can hear the sea and the seagulls and distant noise from the harbour. There may be a warm breeze, the scent of coconut sun lotion and the feel of the material of your favourite summer dress. The more specific you can be in your daydream, or more detailed in your memory, the deeper your relaxation will be. Stay on your imaginary trip for as long as it feels enjoyable, but try to do it as often as you can, preferably daily, so that your mind will make stronger links between your imagery and relaxation.
Technique 2: your sanctuary
This technique has been called many things from ‘House of Mind' to ‘Truman's Foxhole', but the basic principle is the same. You can create an inner sanctuary in your mind, a place that is for you to retreat to when you crave peace and relaxation. Building something quite specific is the key, what would you ideal bolthole look like, what kind of environment would it be in, what materials is it made of? It can be just a room or a whole house, or a nest in a tree for that matter, just follow where your mind takes you. Once you have your sanctuary established make it a habit to visit it when ever you need a break from all the pressures, or when you want your mind to work on specific challenges. You can adapt your sanctuary as and when you see fit, you can add rooms, sensory elements, environments, sky's literally the limit! I've heard of many examples where sporting heroes use an inner sanctuary to concentrate for a game, perhaps visualising sitting in their imaginary house on a luxurious sofa, watching themselves playing the perfect game on a huge plasma TV.
Technique 3: deep-muscle relaxation
This technique starts with the body, and the idea is to relax each of your muscle in turn. Begin by sitting comfortably and then go about systematically relaxing each muscle in sequence. Try to imagine all tension flowing out of your body as each part relaxes. You can start from the top and relax your face first, let your frown go, then move on to your jaw, then shoulders, arms, hands and each finger. Systematically relaxing all the areas of your body will help you to reach a deep state of relaxation that will make it easier for your subconscious to come through with its ideas. Remember to breath deeply and slowly from your stomach. If you are having trouble relaxing your muscles in sequence you can try imagining that you are a constructed of balloons, and one by one you'll let the air out of the different areas, letting your balloon arms, legs, feet deflate and flatten.
I hope these techniques can get you going! You can find many more variations, and other techniques, both online and in books. Hopefully you'll find one you feel comfortable adopting into your every day life. Not only is it good for you and your overall health to have tools for relaxing your mind and body, but it may also help you uncover what ever brilliant things your subconscious has cooked up for you!