We’d all love to be less stressed and more relaxed. But what are some actionable relaxation techniques we can actually incorporate in our lives?
In this article, we go through 19 proven and effective relaxation techniques that can help to improve your overall mental health and wellbeing.
We’ve included plenty of different types of relaxation techniques, from meditations to hydrotherapy, so you’ll be sure to find a relaxation technique that works for you.
What is a Relaxation Technique?
To put it simply, relaxation techniques are different things you can do to help you relax. What relaxation techniques do, is they help to activate the body’s relaxation response.
Unfortunately, often stress in our everyday lives is unavoidable. But too much stress hormone activity can really take a toll on our overall health and wellbeing.
Therefore, what relaxation techniques can do, alongside reducing stress hormone activity, is teach your body how to better produce the ‘relaxation response’, a response that is the opposite of our stress response.
Rather than the negative effects of prolonged stress on our bodies, when we use relaxation techniques to activate our relaxation response, we see our body do rather different things.
Changes we see when we activate our relaxation response include:
- Reduced stress hormone activity
- Relaxed muscles
- Lower blood pressure
- Slower and deeper breathing
- Increased blood flow
- Reduced heart rate
On top of this, when we improve the ratio between stress and relaxation in our lives, we can see many more wide ranging benefits which we’ll discuss in the next section.
What isn’t a relaxation technique
It’s important to clarify what is, and what isn’t a relaxation technique.
Unfortunately, the things most of us do to relax (ourselves included), such as watching TV, reading, etc, don’t quite cut it.
These things, although are enjoyable and ‘relaxing’ in a sense, aren’t actually enough to produce the physical and psychological benefits that the relaxation response will.
If you’re looking to actively reduce stress in your life rather than just passively relax in your downtime, you’ll need to adopt some of the techniques we’ll be discussing in this article.
The Benefits of Relaxation Techniques
So we know what relaxation techniques are, but now let’s discuss in more detail some of the benefits of relaxation techniques.
Relaxation is a key part of improving our overall health and wellbeing, and can have a wide range of positive impacts for our lives.
Many of us just aren’t aware of how wide ranging the benefits of relaxation techniques can be.
Physical benefits of relaxation techniques
Alongside some of the physical changes we discussed earlier such as relaxed muscles, lower blood pressure, slower and deeper breathing, increased blood flow, and reduced heart rate, there are plenty more great physical benefits.
Some of these other physical benefits of relaxation include:
- Improving digestion
- Helping with headache
- Maintaining blood sugar levels
- Reducing muscle tension
- Reducing chronic pain
Mental benefits of relaxation techniques
As people who are passionate about wellness, mental health is central to why we advocate wellness practices.
In our modern busy lives, anxiety is becoming more and more common, and always seems to appear in the worst way at the worst time.
So relaxation techniques are one way to improve many aspects of our mental and physical health, and combat the unwelcome guest that is anxiety.
Some other ways relaxation techniques can improve your mental wellbeing include:
- Improving concentration
- Improving mood
- Improving sleep and aiding insomnia
- Reducing fatigue
- Reducing anger and frustration
- Helping with depression
In general, we like to believe in ‘happy mind, happy body’, and vice versa.
The more things you can do to take care of yourself mentally and physically, the better, and relaxation techniques are a good way to do this.
19 Stress Busting Relaxation Techniques
There are lots of different types of relaxation techniques to choose from, that can help banish stress. We’ve picked out 19 of the most effective.
Rather than try to adopt all of these different techniques, you should try and find the relaxation techniques that suit your preference and lifestyle.
The key to making sure you can practice relaxation techniques consistently, is finding ones you can enjoy and actually keep doing.
Therefore, we’ve split our relaxation techniques into different sections, so you can choose the types of techniques that best suit you.
Meditation comes in many different forms, and is known for being able to improve overall health and wellbeing.
We recently reviewed some meditation books for beginners that are a great place to start if you want to start meditating.
Meditation is also growing in popularity and becoming much more accessible for beginners.
We ourselves both meditate and it helps to quiet the mind and relieve stress.
If you’re still not convinced, there are plenty of celebrities and successful business people who swear by meditation, including Oprah Winfrey, Emma Watson, Tim Ferris & Joe Rogan, to mention a few.
We’ll now go through a few forms of meditation that are great relaxation techniques:
1 – Deep & Focused Breathing
The simplest form of meditation and the foundation of much meditation is the breath.
When we focus solely on our breathing, and breathe deeply in and out, this is a simple and effective relaxation technique.
A simple way to do this is to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Count to 3 on the breath in, and 5 on the breath out.
Taking 5 minutes out of your day to find a quiet comfortable space to do some deep and focused breathing, is a very effective relaxation technique.
2 – Bodyscan meditation
Another form of meditation is the bodyscan meditation.
This is where you bring your awareness back to the sensations in your body, and relieve tension wherever it is found.
This meditation helps you bring focus to the real time experiences happening to you right now, and away from the stresses and worries of normal everyday life.
It is a very simpful and effective form of meditation that is also a great relaxation technique.
3 – Mindfullness meditation
Rather than worrying about the future or the past, mindfullness meditation involves focusing your mind on what you’re experiencing in the present moment.
It involves simply being aware and paying attention to whatever you are experiencing in the present, all without judgement.
It is similar to the bodyscan meditation, but is broader in that it can involve breathing (as discussed above), mental imagery, awareness of mind as well as body, and muscle and body relaxation.
If you’re wanting an introduction to mindfulness meditation, we’re big fans of the meditation app Calm which has some free meditations you can try out.
4 – Autogenic relaxation
Autogenic relaxation involves using body awareness and visualization to reduce stress. You learn to concentrate on physical sensations of warmth, heaviness and relaxation in different parts of your body.
It involves repeating words or suggestions to yourself that may help relaxation and ease muscle tension.
This technique is particularly effective for helping with anxiety and stress.
5 – Repetitive Prayer
If you are more spiritual or religious, repetitive prayer involves silently repeating a short prayer or phrase while practicing breath focus.
It is a good way to focus the mind and engage in a simple meditation practice.
Different forms of exercise have long been used not only for fitness and keeping in shape, but also as methods of stress relief and relaxation.
When it comes to relaxation, doing exercise that allows you to get into a rhythm of constant and repetitive movement can be very relaxing.
There are plenty of ways to achieve this kind of relaxation, and lots of different forms of exercise such as running, walking, dancing, climbing and cycling, for example.
However, we’ve picked our favorites below which will each suit different people and lifestyles, and have slightly different benefits.
6 – Moderate Intensity Rhythmic Exercise
As well as ‘burning off some steam’, doing moderate to high intensity exercise serves well to reset your mindset, and the repetitive rhythm can also be very relaxing.
Not to mention, when you exercise, your body releases endorphins which trigger an overall positive feeling in the body.
We’ll all have different preferences as to how we work out or exercise, so find something that works for you.
7 – Walking
One of the most simple but sadly often under-used on the list is walking.
We mean taking the time to go for a walk somewhere outdoors where you can be surrounded by nature and present in the moment, without allowing yourself to be distracted.
Go to your local park and take it all in and try to notice the things you don’t usually notice, the wildlife, the sounds, the smells.
If you’ve got a dog (like we do as you can see), then this definitely helps keep walking a part of your daily routine and keep you motivated to walk frequently.
But if you don’t, try and take time in your day to go for a short walk. Or even better use one of your free days on the weekend to go somewhere new and explore.
These days when we’re all so busy, taking a short time out of your day to go for a walk without distraction can be a really great and accessible relaxation technique.
8 – Exercise + Mindfullness
In the same theme as being present on your walks above, you can also incorporate more mindfulness in your other exercise.
Try to be engaged in the present moment, and be aware when your mind is racing or you get distracted by your stress and worries.
When this happens, just bring yourself back to the present, and focus on the sensations you’re experiencing. The rhythm of your feet, your breath, how the activity is making you feel.
Practices & Disciplines
9 – Yoga
Yoga is a well known ancient practice that brings together mind and body. It combines breathing exercises and meditation, and has been proven to benefit both mental and physical health.
Yoga is well known as a great way to improve relaxation and reduce stress, and in recent years there have been several medical and scientific studies proving yoga to be useful in reducing stress and anxiety.
In one of these studies, 52 women were included in the analysis. The results were that after 12 sessions of regular yoga practice; depression, anxiety and stress decreased significantly.
10 – Tai Chi
Tai Chi is often described as ‘meditation in motion’, and is a graceful form of exercise involving a series of movements performed in a slow and focused manner, accompanied by deep breathing.
Tai Chi promotes serenity and relaxation through gentle flowing movements, and is suitable for people of all ages and abilities.
As well as decreasing stress, anxiety and depression, Tai Chi can also result in improved mood, better aerobic capacity, increased energy, better flexibility and balance, and improved muscle strength.
11 – Qigong
Qigong is an ancient Chinese exercise that involves meditation, controlled breathing and movement.
In the word Qigong, the ‘Qi’ means energy or spirit, and the ‘gong’ means mastery or cultivation.
When you do Qigong relaxation techniques such as breathing, meditation, or physical exercises, your conscious mind lets go of stresses and worries you may be having.
Qigong also helps with muscle relaxation, and easing of tension.
There are plenty of relaxation techniques that are more specifically designed to target muscle relaxation, and we’ll now discuss a few.
12 – Massage/Self Massage
Massage will likely be an obvious relaxation technique for many. However, unfortunately we don’t’ all have a masseur or masseuse on hand, or a willing partner to give us a massage every day.
If you do have a willing partner or are able to hire a professional, then you should start there.
However, if like most of us, you don’t have a willing someone on hand to give you a massage, a lesser well known relaxation technique is self massage.
It sounds a bit strange doesn’t it, ‘self massage’, but if you give it a try, then it can actually be an effective relaxation technique.
Some ideas for self massage you can try are:
- Working on the muscles at the back of your neck and shoulders with a loose fist
- Massaging your scalp and temples with your fingertips in circular motions
- Lightly massaging other areas of your face, by going in small circles using your thumbs or fingertips
Give it a try and you’ll be surprised how much tension you can relieve on your own.
13 – Progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a where you in turn tense and then relax different muscle groups in your body.
Like many other relaxation techniques, it can also be combined with deep breathing for additional stress relief. For example, breathing in as you tense your muscles, and breathing out as you release the tension.
Progressive muscle relaxation is a really effective stress relief and relaxation method, because the theory is that when your body is physically relaxed you cannot feel anxious.
Beginners may want to use audio recordings to direct this relaxation technique. The audio will walk you through the different areas of the body in turn and give more direction to the practice.
14 – Warm Heat Wrap
If you’re feeling tense, or have muscle soreness, a warm heat wrap is often a great way to relax and ease some tension at the end of the day.
We use a microwaveable heat wrap that was made by a local supplier in BC, and it’s great for sitting around your shoulders and easing tension.
Once you’ve heated it, you could also try dabbing it with some lavender essential oil or similar for increased relaxation.
Other relaxation techniques
15 – Listen to music/relaxing audio
Listening to music is a simple and effective stress reduction and relaxation technique.
If you listen to soothing relaxing music, you’ll relax your body and significantly reduce how much stress you feel.
You can also listen to relaxing sounds such as rainfall etc, some of which are also provided through the Calm meditation app mentioned earlier.
The most effective music for relaxation is music with a slower tempo, that will allow you to fully quiet your mind and relax.
You can also incorporate deep breathing into your listening, for even more relaxation.
16 – Art therapy
Art therapy is a widely used technique with many different applications and benefits.
It comprises creative activities such as drawing, painting, or sculpting etc, where people can express themselves artistically.
No artistic talent is needed as it’s more about the process of expression and creating the art that’s important.
It allows the mind to focus on a singular thing, and there are lots of different forms of art therapy you can try out too.
17 – Aromatherapy/Essential Oils
We’ve written alot about essential oils and aromatherapy, and also extensively about some of the benefits of essential oils elsewhere on the site.
But in summary, certain essential oils have natural stress relieving properties, and can be really useful as a relaxation technique, or alongside other techniques such as meditation or massage.
Essential oils are commonly used in diffusers, which diffuse the essential oil into the air and allow you to reap the relaxing benefits.
We personally use lavender essential oil frequently, as it has very relaxing properties and also smells great too.
18 – Hydrotherapy
Hydrotherapy, is essentially the use of water for the purpose of healing.
It is designed to alleviate tension and muscle soreness, as well as helping create a feeling of calm and relaxation.
If you’re worried you need to go to the spa and pay a bunch of money to enjoy the benefits of hydrotherapy, i.e. saunas, jacuzzis etc, then worry no more.
Hydrotherapy can come in many different forms, and ways to use hydrotherapy as a relaxation technique at home include:
- Immersing yourself in a hot bath
- Adding purifying minerals or essential oils to your bath
- Placing wet towels (hot or cold) over your skin
- A warm foot bath
19 – Socialize
Finally, the last relaxation technique is to socialize.
Human beings are social creatures. It’s easy to forget in our screen-centric 21st century lives, but nothing beats actually spending time with people face to face.
If you’re stressed and needing to relax, nothing will take you out of that stress bubble better than meeting up with a friend or loved one and spending time with them.
You might be able to share some of your worries or stresses, and mutually help your friend with theirs.
There are plenty of activities you can do with others that will also aid in your relaxation.
Socializing with friends or family is a great way to get out of your own head, and voice your problems.
This will all result in helping you to feel more relaxed.
So there you have it, our 19 stress busting relaxation techniques.
However, the relaxation won’t just happen from reading this post. You need to make sure that you actively make relaxation a priority and set aside time in your day you can focus on it.
Some tips for making sure that you keep your relaxation techniques as effective as possible are:
- Incorporate relaxation into your routine
- Don’t try relaxation techniques if you’re over fatigued or tired, they won’t be as effective
- Try out different methods to see which work best for you
- Keep at it, and don’t give up
Like many things, relaxation takes practice. You’ll take a while to adapt to the process of stepping back and taking this time for yourself to relax.So don’t worry if it seems difficult at the start or you’re not quite seeing the benefits as quickly as you would like.
Keep at it and you’ll be more relaxed and less stressed in no time.
Summary – 19 Stress Busting Relaxation Techniques
In this article we’ve gone through lots of varied relaxation techniques, so you’ll be sure to find some that suit your lifestyle and preferences.
It’s really amazing what just taking 5-10 minutes of your day to focus on relaxation can do for your overall health and wellbeing.
So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, just remember some of these relaxation techniques, and they’ll help reduce the burden.