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Tips and exercises to help you relax.

How could relaxation help me?

Exploring relaxation can help you look after yourself when you're feeling stressed or worried. Relaxation might not make what you are stressed or worried about go away. But it can give you a mental break from these feelings and help you refocus.

There are lots of relaxation exercises out there. Many can be done in a short time with no equipment. Have a look at the tips and ideas below to see how relaxation can fit into your daily life.

Don't worry if some ideas don't work for you. Just try the ones that do.

How to relax – 8 relaxation tips for your mental health

Watch our animation for 8 relaxation tips to help you look after your mental health and wellbeing.

Take a break

Relaxation doesn't have to take up lots of your time. Just stepping away from something stressful for a few minutes or taking time away from your normal routines and thoughts can give you enough space and distance to feel calmer.

  • Read a book or a magazine, even if it's only for a few minutes.
  • Run yourself a bath, watch a film, play with a pet or try out a new recipe.

Try active relaxation

Relaxation doesn't have to mean sitting still. Gentle exercise can help you relax too.

  • Take a walk, going at your own pace. You might choose to go for a longer walk, but even a few minutes of walking can help you feel relaxed.
  • Look for a class you'd like to try, such as yoga, Pilates or gentle stretching.
  • Try some seated exercises, which you may be able to fit into your day more easily if you are busy. They may also help if you have mobility restrictions that make other exercise difficult. The NHS has a selection of sitting exercises you could try.

See our pages on physical activity and mental health for more tips.

Focus on your breathing

Learning to breathe more deeply can help you feel a lot calmer. It takes just a few minutes and can be done anywhere.

  • Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to keep your shoulders down and relaxed, and place your hand on your stomach – it should rise as you breathe in and fall as you breathe out.
  • Count as you breathe. Start by counting 'one, two, three, four' as you breathe in and 'one, two, three, four' as you breathe out. Try to work out what's comfortable for you.

You can find more details about this exercise on the NHS website.

Get creative

Getting in touch with your artistic side can help you feel more calm and relaxed.

  • Try painting, drawing, making crafts, playing a musical instrument, dancing, baking or sewing.
  • Try not to worry too much about the finished product. Just focus on enjoying yourself.

See our page on relaxation exercises for more ideas on how to use creative activities to relax.

Spend time in nature

Spending time outside and in green spaces can be great for your physical and mental health.

  • Take a walk in a green space if you can, taking time to notice any trees, flowers, plants and animals you see on the way. See our page on relaxation exercises for a guided mindful moment in nature.
  • Spend some time taking part in conservation, whether that's digging in your own garden or taking part in a local green project. You can find projects and outdoor activities to suit whatever level of mobility you have. See our pages on nature and mental health for more information about how to find projects in your area. If you live in an area where it is difficult to access nature and green spaces, our page on overcoming barriers may help.

Picture yourself somewhere serene

Even if you can't physically get away, your imagination can transport you to somewhere you feel calm.

  • Think of somewhere relaxing and peaceful. You might choose a memory of somewhere you've been, or a place you have imagined.
  • Close your eyes, and think about the details of this place. What does it look like? What kind of colours and shapes can you see? Can you hear any sounds? Is it warm or cool? Let your mind drift and your body relax.

Listen to music

Music can relax you, connect you to your emotions and distract you from worrying thoughts.

  • Listen to your favourite songs. You could dance or sing along, or just close your eyes and enjoy.
  • Really listen to the music. Can you pick out different instruments? Can you hear a drum beat or a certain rhythm? Focus on the music, and let other thoughts fade away.

Do a tech check

Technology can be great for helping you feel connected, but if you're using it a lot then it can contribute to making you feel busy and stressed. Taking a break can help you relax, even if it is only short.

  • Try turning your phone off for an hour, if you can.
  • Step away from the TV, or have an evening where you don't check emails or social networks. Use the time to do something relaxing. You could try some of the ideas above.

Further support

Making space in your life for relaxation is only one part of managing your mental health.

Our pages on coping with stress and anxiety have more suggestions for ways to help yourself. We also have tips to help if you experience panic attacks and dissociation. And our page of useful contacts for relaxation lists some other organisations who can help.

If you're finding things very hard right now and the tips on this page don't feel possible, it is ok to ask for help. See our pages on seeking help for a mental health problem for guidance on talking to your doctor about options for support and treatment.

For more support and suggestions, if you're:

Mental health apps

There are various apps available that you could use to help yourself day-to-day. But it's hard to know which ones are worth trying. Would you like some recommendations? We've put together a library of safe apps that meet our high quality standards.

Explore mental health apps

This information was published in November 2021. We will revise it in 2024.

References and bibliography available on request.

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