Relaxation Techniques

Here are a selection of techniques to help with relaxation.

Counting Your Breath

This relaxation technique is both easy to do and very effective.  The best way to do this is to practice.  It is a great way to wind down when you get into bed and are having trouble getting your mind to relax.

The technique is simple:

  • Breathe normally and count at the end of each breath.
  • Breathe in, breathe out, one.  Breath in, breath out, two…
  • Keep going until you get to ten, at least.

You will notice that your mind tends to wander during this.  Don’t worry, this is normal.  The counting is there to bring you back.  Just let any thoughts that you are having go by saying to yourself, “Right now I’m counting” and continue with your counting.  The thought will fade away if you don’t give it attention.

Practice Belly Breathing

This technique helps you focus on breathing and is good to use when you are trying to relax.  Once you get good at it you can also use it when you get upset, mad, or worried to help you calm down.

  • Get comfortable.  Sit or lie down.
  • Breathe in through your nose.
  • First, fill up the lower part of your lungs toward your belly.
  • As you continue to breathe in, fill the middle section of your lungs, then the top.
  • When you have taken a full in breath, hold your breath for about 2 seconds.
  • Breathe out through your mouth slowly.  It helps if you try to make a whooshing sound like Darth Vader does.
  • Keep practicing for several minutes.  Avoid breathing too fast and getting light headed.

Stretching

I also recommend using stretching exercises to help one relax.  These can take many forms and should be done only if you feel comfortable doing them.  Examples include:

  • Standing straight with feet together, reach up as far as you can, then try to touch your toes.
  • Standing with legs about shoulder width apart and touching your left toe with your right hand.  Then swap sides.
  • Stand straight then twist at the waist as far as comfortable to each side.

Mindfulness Meditation

This is a way of keeping one’s attention focused on the present.  It helps us avoid getting lost in our thoughts that sometimes make us feel anxious or angry.

  • Get in a comfortable position.
  • Breathe naturally or use one of the techniques described previously.
  • As you breathe, pay attention to your breath.  How it feels going in and out of your body.  Notice things that are going on around you, the color of the room, the small noises that surround you, or the position of your body.
  • Simply note these things.
  • As you continue, you may notice your mind wandering.  This is normal.
  • Simply note what is going through your mind.  It is a thought?  An image?  A feeling?  Whatever it is, just say to yourself “this is just a thought,” or an image, or a feeling, whichever.
  • Then return to watching your breath.

You can continue this for several minutes until you feel that you have done long enough.  Five minutes it a great start and you can build it up over time to a half hour or more.

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