Our mind and body are connected in powerful ways. The way that we think can positively or negatively impact how our body physically feels. For example, negative emotions such as stress and anxiety can be accompanied by physical symptoms of tiredness, soreness, and pain. Our mental state can in turn be impacted by how we treat our body with things such as exercise and nutrition. When we deal with physical symptoms such as chronic pain, our emotional state can be negatively impacted. If we are able to relax and calm the mind we are more likely to feel better physically and vice versa. These relaxation techniques can help you to strengthen that mind-body connection in a positive way to help manage negative emotions and physical symptoms. The more that you practice, the easier these exercises will be and the stronger your mind-body connection will become.
1. Progressive Muscle Relaxation:
Starting with your toes and feet, contract your muscles for 5 seconds and then slowly release. Take a few deep breaths and then repeat all the way up your body to your neck and facial muscles, one muscle section at a time. When you reach the top, contract every muscle at the same time and then slowly release. Focus on the feeling of relaxation and tension leaving the muscle as you release each contraction.
2. Diaphragmatic Breathing:
Take slow deep breaths, feeling your stomach fill with air on each inhale. Place a hand on top of your stomach to physically feel the rise and fall of your stomach with each long breath. Focus only on the inhale and exhale of each breath. If you feel your mind wander, refocus your thoughts back to your breath.
3. Visualization and Guided Imagery:
Think of a place, real or fictional, that makes you feel calm. Take long deep breaths as you visualize yourself in this calm place. Imagine hearing the sounds, smelling the aroma, and feeling the textures on your fingers of this place. If you feel your mind wander, guide your thoughts back to your breath and your safe place. You may choose to use a guided audio to help you find this safe place, or you may choose to guide yourself.
4. Repeated Phrase Practice:
Find a word or a phrase that has meaning to you. It could be a simple phrase such as “strong and calm” or even a prayer. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. With each breath repeat your phrase to yourself either outloud or in your head. If your mind wanders, refocus your attention back to your breath and your phrase.