If you’re living in modern society, you probably experience your fair share of stress and anxiety. Globally, stress has reached record levels, and the U.S. ranks among the top ten most stressed countries in the world, with stress affecting some 40 million adults each year.
If you’re one of the many who suffer from stress, it might help to know you’re not alone. It might also help to know that, no matter how tense you feel when the overwhelm starts to become too much to handle, there are several mind and body relaxation techniques that are excellent for soothing the senses.
If you’re ready to experience natural ways to relax your body and mind, the following are a few mind and body relaxation techniques that are popular.
Top Five Mind and Body Relaxation Techniques
Try Focused Breathing Exercises
A quick way to relax both body and mind at the same time is to focus on the breath. There are several focused breathing exercises that can help soothe the senses when you feel the familiar tensing sensation of “fight or flight.” Let’s go through two simple breathing exercises that can help ease some of the stress you might be experiencing.
- Focused Breathing
Focusing on the breath is one of the simplest mind and body relaxation techniques that rapidly works to relieve stress. When we’re hit with stress, our breathing tends to become shallow and can have a profound effect on both mental and physical tension. We might not even realize how much our breathing affects us until we actually take a moment to focus on it.
To practice focused breathing when feelings of stress arise, simply stop what you’re doing and focus on taking ten slow, deep breaths. Try making each exhale longer than the inhale, counting each breath as you go.
You might consider slowly breathing in for a count of four, then slowly breathing out for a count of eight. If that’s too much, breathe in for a count of three, and breathe out for a count of six. Repeat each round of inhalations and exhalations ten times, and you’ll notice a significant shift in your stress levels.
- Alternate Nostril Breathing
Alternate nostril breathing, known as nadi shodhana, is a form of pranayama used in yoga that involves inhaling and exhaling through one nostril at a time. The benefits of this ancient practice are said to offer both mind and body relaxation, ease anxiety and promote a greater sense of wellbeing.
Hillary Clinton even used alternate nostril breathing after her campaign loss, bringing the practice to mainstream attention in a CNN interview where she described the practice as “very relaxing.”
To perform alternate nostril breathing, bring your right hand up close to the nose and bring your middle and forefinger in to touch your palm. Inhale deeply through both nostrils, and then close off the right nostril with your thumb and exhale and inhale deeply through the left, making sure your breaths are of equal length. Remove your thumb from the right nostril, close off the left nostril with your ring finger and exhale and inhale deeply through the right nostril, keeping equal length. This is one round. To get the most benefits from this breathing technique, repeat for at least ten rounds.
Listen to a Guided Relaxation Meditation
Meditation, one of the top mind and body relaxation techniques for centuries, has been increasing in popularity. Whether you’re new to meditation or have been practicing for years, guided relaxation meditation is a surefire way to center and recharge the body, mind and spirit.
There are countless guided relaxation meditation videos you can search for free on YouTube. We’ve found that guided meditation works wonders when we need a bit of assistance to help us fall asleep or detach from overthinking.
There are also meditation apps with guided meditation practices designed to help you ease into a state of tranquility and soothe any mental or physical stress you might be experiencing.
Engage in a Gentle Yoga Routine
Just like meditation, the popularity of yoga has skyrocketed in the West in recent years. There’s a reason for this: yoga can be delightfully relaxing for both body and mind. Combining meditation, breath and various postures, yoga is known to soothe the senses and melt away both mental and physical stress.
If you’ve never practiced yoga before, now is the perfect time to start. You can find plenty of free yoga classes on YouTube, and there’s likely more than one yoga studio close to where you live. When using yoga for mind and body relaxation, look for a gentle yoga class or find a studio that offers yin yoga, a slow-paced style where gentle poses are held for much longer than a traditional yoga class—sometimes up to five minutes.
One of our favorite ways to relax is to engage in a gentle yoga routine right before bed. Doing so not only helps us unwind after a long day but can also help soothe us gently into a good night’s sleep, which we know is one of the most important factors in reducing stress throughout the day.
Consider Body Scan Meditation
This type of meditation is a mind and body relaxation technique that focuses on progressive muscle relaxation. Body scan meditation won’t just ease the physical stress you can feel; it’s also great to help relieve tension you might not even be aware you’re holding.
Body scan meditation is typically practiced lying down, especially before going to bed. You can also sit up during a body scan meditation. Be sure you’re in a comfortable position where you won’t be disturbed.
Start with a few minutes of deep breathing, and take the time to allow yourself to become as relaxed as possible. Begin to focus on one area of your body at a time, starting at the top of your head and working your way down to the tips of your toes. During the body scan, focus on one part of the body or a group of muscles, breathing slowly in and out of your nose while you mentally release any tension you’re feeling in that particular area.
If you feel you could use some guidance when practicing body scan meditation, you’ll find several sources online that will help. As with guided meditation and yoga tutorials, YouTube is an excellent source for guided body scan meditation.
Soak in a Hot Bath
Taking a hot bath is easily one of the most relaxing rituals to ease mental and physical tension. There are serious benefits to taking a bath, and many consider it their go-to self-care act. Not only can a hot bath help you decompress after a particularly challenging day, but it can also help alleviate some of the physical tension you might be carrying.
Consider mixing a cup of Epsom salt with your bath water or drop in a soothing bath bomb to help melt your body into an even more relaxed state. Add a few drops of lavender essential oil, known for its calming benefits. Research also suggests that lavender may be beneficial to the nervous system.
When drawing the ideal bath, think of the “Goldilocks zone.” You want a bath that’s not too hot and not too cold. As tempting as it might be to make your bath as hot as possible, a warm bath is much more beneficial for your skin and immune system. The best bath for relaxing mind and body should be slightly warmer than your body temperature. Plan to soak for 10-15 minutes. Candles and soothing spa music can also benefit the entire experience.
Many of us are all too familiar with the overwhelming feelings of stress and anxiety. Knowing various ways to help relax your body and mind can help tremendously when life becomes a bit too much to bear.
The techniques we mentioned are but a few of the many ways to relax. We’d love to hear about the ways you soothe stress and relax your body and mind in the comments below.
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Hannah Smith is Joy Organics Director of Communications. She is driven by her passion for providing clear and accessible wellness and CBD education. In 2015, she received her BA in Media, Culture and the Arts from The King’s College in New York City and before Joy Organics, worked as writer and photographer in the Middle East and North Africa. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Vice, Vox, Denver Post, and the Coloradoan.