Anxious thoughts, worries about the future, regrets about the past. Tension and stress have a unique way of infiltrating our minds and overwhelming us. Managing stress and modern life stressors can be challenging.
Fortunately, there are relaxation techniques and practices you can introduce into your daily life to help calm your mind and find peace, event in the time of struggle.
How Can I Relax My Mind?
While we cannot eradicate all stress from our lives, we can learn to manage it better. First, begin with an awareness of stress response and the number of stressors you expose yourself to daily. What does keep your mind in constant alertness? What does bring you the most worry?
After identifying issues, you can look for treatment. The possibilities are endless, from physical movement to nutrition, sleep, meditation, and breathwork.
We outlined four relaxation exercises that will relax the mind and are beginner-friendly.
Learn How to Meditate
Meditation benefits are manifold and can be felt both physically and mentally. Many studies conducted that meditation has fantastic effects on stress relief, mental health, and even blood pressure control.
There are numerous ways to use meditation to reduce stress and anxiety, feel calmer and even address depression symptoms. But while meditation comes in many forms, at its core, it is the practice of training your awareness and honing your attention.
Visualization meditation is an excellent place to start if you’re new. Just as famous athletes practice visualization before the big game to play to the best of their abilities, you can practice calming visualization meditation to help you stay relaxed or relieve anxiety.
Follow these steps to engage in basic visualization practice:
Start by finding a quiet place to sit — on a meditation cushion or upright at the edge of a chair is good.
Set a timer for five to ten minutes.
Keep your back straight. It can help to imagine you have a string running from the base of your spine up through your back, neck, and out the top of your head.
Gently close your eyes.
Imagine a tranquil location. Let’s say that you are seated on the grassy shore of a softly flowing stream. The weather is perfect. The sun is warming your skin, and a cool, soft breeze keeps you from getting too hot.
Hear the stream water running down. Feel the breeze on your skin. Smell the fresh scent of flowers and the outdoors.
Breathe slowly from your lower abdomen. Focus on the breath going in and out of your lungs.
When a thought, feeling, or emotion enters your mind, imagine that thought, feeling, or emotion sitting on a maple leaf floating down the river. See the leaf and what’s on it. Accept that thought, feeling, or emotion. It’s not bad or good, scary, alarming, or worrisome. Simply see it on the leaf and let it pass you down the river. Go back to focusing on the breath and your visualization at the stream's edge.
Continue like this every time you experience an extraneous thought until your alarm sounds. Then, slowly release the picture you’ve visualized. Before you get up, take just a few minutes to exit the meditative state.
Getting into a meditative state will be a swift and easy process for you with regular practice. You will feel less physical tension in your body as you dive deeper into the practice.
Mindfulness is another great practice for promoting peace and relaxation. It is pretty close to meditation, but it is unique in that you can practice mindfulness anywhere, anytime. The goal of mindfulness is to stay present – simple as that.
Here is a basic mindfulness practice you can try while doing a chore activity, such as washing the dishes in your kitchen sink:
Stand at your sink, ready to wash your dishes. Tell yourself that washing dishes will be all you’ll do for at least the next ten minutes. Commit to this time.
Tense all the muscles in your body that you can. Hold for a count of three. Release. Repeat this three times.
How does your body feel now? Notice if you’re focusing on a specific body part. Give your body a little shake to get out any extra tension.
Take three deep breaths, in and out. Any other thoughts knocking on your mind’s door? Tell them to wait.
Turn on the tap. Spend time getting the exact right temperature of the water — not too hot, not too cold. Focus on how the water looks as it glides over your fingers. Feel it change from cool to hot to warm. Hear it rush from the faucet and trickle into the drain.
Add some soap to a sponge. See its glossy color and note its scent. Agitate the sponge to create bubbles, watching the bubbles grow in number and feeling their warmth run over the skin of your hands.
Feel an extraneous thought or feeling coming up? Notice it. Then let it go. Return your attention to the soap and sponge.
Pick up a dish to wash. Examine the dish. Slowly, begin to clean it, taking care to wash every piece of debris off.
Rinse the dish, seeing all the dirty spots and soapy waterfall away. Set it aside to dry. Continue breathing deeply.
Don't rush. Continue washing your dishes in this manner until you finish. Now, take a clean cup and pour yourself herbal tea. For more mindfulness exercises, check out mindfulness meditation here.
Take Up Yoga
Yoga is another excellent way to find peace and calm when you feel your mind is racing.
The mind-body connection with yoga is phenomenal. The theory behind the mind-body connection is that what goes on in mind — thoughts, emotions, and feelings — affects what goes on in your body, which in turn affects how you feel physically. At the same time, how you feel physically and how healthy and fit your body is will affect your thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
Yoga is a practice that considers the mind-body connection and aims to benefit all aspects of your being. While it may seem that asanas only affect the physical side, your mental state is heavily influenced as you practice. Each pose can strengthen and improve flexibility in your body while stimulating the organs and working on circulation. Every pose is also meant to stimulate the brain, inducing focus and peacefulness.
Try taking a yoga class or doing a lesson at home to take advantage of this practice's many benefits. Without doubts, you will leave the mat with less muscle tension, stress and more focus.
Learn to Breathe Better
Most of us take our breath for granted and underestimate the importance of breath in our life. We believe that because our lungs function all the time, without us having to tell them what to do, they must be doing what they're supposed to and require no improvement. However, this is not exactly true. There are right and wrong ways to breathe.
Did you know that most people breathe far too shallowly?
Many people breathe only the air that resides at the top of their lungs. This causes short, weak breaths that tire you out, and it causes “stale” air to remain in the bottom of your lungs.
To check yourself, place one hand on your stomach and the other hand on your chest. Breathe normally. Do you feel the hand on your belly rise as you inhale, or do you sense the hand on your chest rise? If you feel the hand on your chest grade as you exhale, you’re a shallow breather.
Ideally, you should take your breaths much further down, gathering up all of the air from your lungs. As you inhale, you should feel the hand on your stomach rising, and the hand on your chest should hardly move.
Breathing exercises are often one of the most valuable techniques for calming the mind and restoring correct breathing patterns. Here’s one to get you started:
Find a quiet place to sit where your back will be supported.
Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest.
Keep your back straight, pretending that you have a string running from the base of your spine up through your back and neck and out the top of your head.
Lightly close your eyes.
Take several deep breaths without thinking about how you’re breathing.
Take a deep breath, and as you inhale, feel your belly and the hand on your abdomen rise. Breathe slowly, and as you do so, say to yourself, “I inhale quiet and peace.”
When you can no longer take air in, begin to release the breath slowly and exhale. As you do so, say to yourself, “I exhale tension and stress.”
Repeat this exercise for five to ten minutes or for as long as you please.
Relaxation Tips in a Pinch!
Imagine you’re about to go on stage for a big performance, and your mind is racing a mile a minute. Try this mindful relaxation tip to regain some peace and tame racing thoughts.
#1 – Find a quiet place
Start by going somewhere quiet to center yourself – another room in your house, the break room at work, outdoors, or even the restroom.
#2 – Sit down if possible
If you can, find a chair where you can sit with your back supported. Ideally, you will be able to put your feet flat on the floor. Now, place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
#3 – Do a short breathing exercise
This exercise is called square breathing. You might also hear it called box breathing, four-part breathing, or 4x4 breathing. To do the square breathing, follow the steps below:
Exhale all of the air out of your lungs.
Count to four slowly as you inhale through your nose only. As you inhale, you should feel the hand on your stomach rise. Your other hand should not move.
Lightly hold your breath in your lungs for another count of four.
Count to four a final time as you gently exhale the breath slowly out of your mouth. The hand on your stomach should fall again as you do this.
Repeat this exercise at least four times to relax and relieve stress.
How to Relax and Unwind
Whether at work or home, we sometimes simply need to step aside and find ways to relax, and engage our minds in relaxing things to do. How we unwind is different from person to person. We all have our ways to chill. For some, this could mean stepping out for a few minutes and taking a pleasant walk. For others, it could be playing some type of sport, instrument, doing meditation, yoga, or breathwork. Some just learn how to chill out by watching their favorite TV show or corking up a bottle of wine.
The important part is that we all find the ways that work for us and allow us to, calm down, unwind and enjoy wellness, and self care moments. Falling back onto relaxing things to do will help us learn how to relax.
Relaxing Your Mind: Frequently Asked Questions
How can I stop overthinking?
To stop thinking so much, practice mindfulness meditation regularly. Ten minutes of meditation practice each day can make a difference in your focus and concentration, allowing you to shift your attention when you begin thinking about things you don't want to ruminate on.
In some cases, distractions can be helpful as well. Just be sure to choose healthy distractions, and don’t rely on them to keep you from thinking about anything serious. Distractions can be helpful in specific situations when you simply can’t get yourself to stop obsessing about something.
If, for example, you find that it’s difficult to stop thinking about a recent breakup, try distracting your thoughts by spending time with friends, volunteering, exercising, engaging in favorite hobbies, or developing new hobbies.
How can I calm my mind while I sleep?
Sleep disorder is a common health issue affecting millions of people around the world. The truth is that anxiety and stress often come hand in hand with sleeplessness. Whether bad sleep is caused by anxiety and stress or vice versa is up for debate and may vary from person to person.
Still, one thing is for sure: Calming the mind can significantly benefit your sleep if you typically experience sleep issues. To prolong a deeper state of sleep, try these mind relaxation tips:
Try a short meditation session before bed.
Listen to white noise or nature sounds (like waves or a babbling brook) as you doze off.
Do 5 to 10 minutes of yoga next to your bedside before sleep.
Try to practice mindfulness as you fall asleep (focusing on your breath and the present moment and observing your thoughts, feelings, and emotions as they come and go).
Listen to a recorded guided meditation before bed.
Develop a nighttime routine in which you shut off all devices, dim the lights, and change into your pajamas approximately one-half hour before you intend to fall asleep.
What gets rid of anxiety?
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this. Different things cause everyone’s anxiety, and as a result, what gets rid of one person’s anxiety may not do something for the next person.
The best solution is to use some combination of the above suggestions to cultivate a more relaxed mind. Likewise, you might try the following to improve your overall health and wellbeing and reduce daily stress:
Eat a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, and healthy fats.
Exercise regularly, including both cardiovascular and strength training exercises in your routine.
Improve your sleep by developing a sleep routine and aiming for at least 6 to 8 hours every night.
Invest in Better Stress Management and Enjoy a More Relaxed Mind All the Time
When the stress of life gets to you and nothing seems to be going right, it can feel like a storm is raging in your mind. At these times, having at least a few dependable mind relaxation tips in your back pocket is beneficial.
Use the techniques, tips, and tricks mentioned in this article to enjoy a more relaxed mind, particularly in those times of challenging stress and struggle, improve your mental health and reduce stress.
Anxious thoughts, worries about the future, regrets about the past … Tension and stress have a unique way of infiltrating our minds and overwhelming us.
While we cannot eradicate all stress from our lives, we can learn to manage it better. This starts with having some stress-reducing techniques at the ready for when you feel your mind reeling and ruminating with negative thoughts and emotions.
Here are four relaxation suggestions that are sure to relax the mind.