How to Relax Your Mind and Body
How to relax your mind and body when you don’t feel your best
Knowing how to relax is a skill in itself, so we’ve compiled a list of tried-and-tested ways to relax your mind and body, with expert advice on how to incorporate a little bit of relaxation into your daily routine and reap the benefits.
“Relaxation can help to reduce your blood pressure, heart rate and rate of breathing. Often when we are stressed or anxious we can hold our postures in quite tense positions which can lead to pain, stiffness or inflammation,”
– Julie Jennings, Occupational Therapist.
In other words, it’s vital to take some time to unwind.
Focus on your breathing
It sounds obvious, but often if we’re feeling stressed or anxious, we can forget to breathe properly. Relaxed breathing means taking big inhales and exhales; filling your diaphragm increases the amount of oxygen in your blood which can lower heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels, whilst relaxing tense muscles and more.
Taking a moment to concentrate on your breathing may also help you to learn how to relax your mind and ground you in the here and now.
- Find a comfortable seated position with your head, neck and shoulders relaxed and your arms by your side. Gently close your eyes.
- Slowly breathe in through your nose to the count of four, focusing on expanding your diaphragm and filling your lungs with air.
- Then, slowly breathe all the air out of your mouth to the count of four, making sure you expel every last bit of breath. You may want to rest one hand on your chest and the other on your lower rib cage to feel them gently rise and fall with each inhale and exhale.
- Repeat this exercise three times. Then, open your eyes and notice how different you feel.
If you find breathing exercises useful, you might want to try mindfulness and meditation as other ways to relax. Both have been practiced for many years by millions of people around the world – and for good reason. They encourage you to be present in the moment, inspiring gratitude and a deeper self-awareness of what is going on both internally in our minds and externally in the world.
Incorporating this into your life can have a significant positive impact on your overall stress and anxiety levels. Why not download a meditation app like Headspace and try a five-minute exercise? You can also take a look at our beginner’s guide to mindfulness for more useful tips on how to relax your mind.
Listen to calming music
Music can have incredible psychological benefits for our mind and body; it triggers the release of dopamine (a neurotransmitter that sends messages between nerve cells and plays a role in how we feel pleasure) and directly impacts our mood and wellbeing. There’s a reason why many athletes listen to their favourite playlists to get them ready for a race!
Equally, listening to calming music could have a soothing effect when we want to relax. Of course, it depends on what kind of music you listen to, and whilst this will come down to personal preference, music with easy-going melodies and gentle lyricism best supports relaxation. Think classical, blues, slow jazz and soft pop genres.
Music can distract your mind, help you get out of your head, prompt you to sing along, tap your foot and usually puts a smile on your face.
If you’re wondering how to relax, simply picking up a book, newspaper or magazine and having a good read is a great place to start. Whether it’s for five minutes or five hours, losing yourself in a story is a wonderful way to relax. It’s quick, easy and can be done anywhere. You can learn more about the benefits of reading here.
Find a quiet spot, make a cup of tea, try to forget about everything else and focus on the text in front of you. If you’re not an avid reader, why not try an audiobook or podcast instead? There are countless numbers out there, so whatever tickles your fancy – from entertainment to sports and gardening – you can find something for you.
Take active rest
Learning how to relax doesn’t mean you have to be sedentary. Some gentle movement might be exactly what your body is craving, especially if you’re tense and want to relax your muscles.
If you’re feeling a bit burnt out, go for a walk around your local park; spending time in nature is thought to reduce anxiety, stress and have a calming effect on us too (you could even listen to some music whilst you wander). Alternatively, try a yoga class or some simple stretching. Any mild exercise to get your blood flowing and ease any tension is a fantastic way to relax and unwind.
“Yoga and tai-chi encourage deep breathing and build an awareness of your body and how to create the movements involved. The aim is to build strength/maintain flexibility and fluidity while developing a sense of calm.”
– Julie Jennings, Occupational Therapist
Write it down
There is something very cathartic about writing down your thoughts and feelings on a piece of paper and knowing that no one – not even you – has to read it ever again.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a big jumble of words or complete nonsense. The act of writing it down can help you to process your emotions and also means you’re not bottling them up which could make you feel even worse.
That’s why so many people keep diaries, but if you’re looking for a one-off way to relax your mind, grab the nearest pen and paper and start scrawling. We bet you’ll feel like a weight has been lifted in no time.
We know that in today’s world it can be challenging to stop and take a moment for yourself, but we hope that the useful tips and advice in this guide will make a difference and allow you to relax more often.