Most self-help books are rather
brash, promising a better life if you follow the advice provided, follow their
program and get the accompanying workbook. You feel you are being sold
something and even being judged if you don't become less relaxed, a better
lover, a better parent, a more productive worker using their plans. Often they
come in low-cost low-quality paperbacks that fall apart when you break the
spine. Learn to Relax and similar ones in the Learn to... series
from Chronicle Books are much more mellow and enjoyable to read. It is a
collection of suggestions for how to achieve a more relaxed state, illustrated with
pleasing art and high production values. You can read it from start to finish,
or you can dip into it randomly. The suggestions are often informed by ideas
from eastern medicine and philosophy such as the flowing energy qi, with
recommendations of meditation, massage, yoga, and breathing exercises. It even
suggests that acts of kindness to others can be relaxing. The book contains 25
exercises designed to help the reader to relax, but there's no suggestion you
have to follow them consecutively. There are also many other suggestions that
make plenty of sense, such as learning to communicate with one's partner,
guided imagery, and getting enough sleep.
Does it work? I can't say. One of
the most difficult steps for people who are stressed out is finding time and
energy to actually follow through the suggestions of a self-help book to learn
to relax. Even once you find the time to act on the of the book's suggestions,
there can't be any guarantees that you will actually wind down. But it's
possible that you could learn some useful techniques from Learn to Relax
that could last a lifetime.
© 2004 Christian
Perring. All rights reserved.
Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities
Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also
editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on
philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.