Relax – to be calm, unwind, loosen up, de-stress, slow down, chill out.
Relaxation can help increase your sense of calm and reduce anxiety and stress.Relaxation techniques can slow heart and breathing rates, reduce blood pressure and decrease muscle tension and is a good tool for stress management. Different techniques work for different people and can include anything from deep breathing, laughter, positive thinking, visualisation, meditation and mindfulness.
Practising relaxation can:
Relaxation doesn't have to take hours. Five minutes of dedicated relaxation helps promote a calmer mind and body. Try some of the ideas below and find what works for you.
There is some evidence to suggest meditation may help reduce:
Mindfulness is about increasing your ability to stay calm and focused in the present moment rather than worrying about the past or future. Research has shown mindfulness to be effective in controlling stress and problems with mood.
Mindfulness meditation starts with the following steps:
In this video Dr Craig Hassed from Monash University talks about mindfulness and how it can promote relaxation, feelings of calm and benefit your health overall.
In this podcast below, mindfulness expert Peter Muizulis guides you through a mindfulness meditation that you can practise right now, and return to time and again.
Keen to listen to more podcasts on mindfulness? Check out the related resources on the right (or below if you're on a mobile).
Positive thinking and 'affirmations' can:
Affirmations are positive statements you make to yourself. They need to be present tense, positive, personal and specific, e.g.:
When you laugh, your body produces natural chemicals that:
Research indicates that just 10 minutes of exercise is all that is needed to put people in a more positive mood.
Exercise releases endorphins that give you a feeling of happiness, it keeps cortisol (a stress hormone) in check and helps your mind to relax.
Rhythmic exercise such as running, walking, rowing or cycling is most effective at relieving stress and promoting relaxation because you can also focus on the repetition in your body's movement and also breath to match the movement.
Hobbies can offer distraction from daily routines and tensions and open your mind to life's possibilities
Become involved in a hobby like calligraphy, design, antique restoration, art galleries, archery, croquet, singing, chess, salsa dancing, camping, cycling, judo, cooking, film collecting – there are more possibilities than you might know!
Every day do something you enjoy and do something for someone else
Make time in your day for activities like reading, listening to music, gardening, sewing, taking a bath, lighting a candle, using a lovely hand cream, walking through a flower shop, taking a friend for coffee, giving a loved one a kiss.
Download our weekly activity diary (PDF) to help you take time for yourself.
This involves imagining a scene in which you feel at peace and are free to let go of tension and anxiety
Use each of your five senses and imagine:
Research suggests yoga can:
There are a few key things you would learn in a yoga class:
Progressive muscle relaxation is about learning to feel the difference between tension and relaxation.
This awareness helps you to recognise and respond to the first signs of the muscular tension that accompanies stress.
Deep breathing is a simple but powerful relaxation technique that can be done anywhere, anytime.
In eastern philosophies, mastery of the breath is the key to controlling the body's life force energy.
The technique involves methodically tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in the body.
A variation is to simply focus on the sensations in each part of your body so you become aware of where the tension is: the neck, shoulders, and head are common stress points.
Deep breathing helps focus you on the present moment by concentrating on the 'in and out' of your breaths.
Drop your shoulders and breathe in for 7 seconds and out for 11 seconds (use the store 7/11 to remember). Know that 3 of these breaths lowers the tension level in your body.
Deep breathing can be combined with aromatherapy and music.
Research indicates the following benefits of having a pet:
This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at March 2014.