There are several things you can do to receive the maximum benefit from this relaxation guide.

  • Choose a good time to practice when it is unlikely that you will be interrupted for 15 minutes or so.
  • Use a comfortable chair, recliner, or bed: A comfortable position is important while doing this exercise.
  • Select a place where there are few sounds or lights to distract you.
  • You may use the image below or imagine you own safe, relaxing place.

man in forestJust let yourself become relaxed; don't force it. Forget about whether you are doing this "right," or the precise timing of this practice. Concentrate on feelings of heaviness and comfort in your body.

Think about a 1 or 2 syllable word that has a very relaxed sound to it. Some people choose the word "calm," some the word "easy," some use the sound "peaceful." Keep this word, and take it with you in your mind as you begin your exercise.

Once you have the time, place, an image, and a chosen word:

Sit or lie quietly in a comfortable position.

Close your eyes throughout the practice.

Become aware of your breathing; concentrate as you take a breath in deeply, hold it for a second; exhale slowly and imagine the tension leaving your body as you push the breath away from you. As you breathe out say your chosen word to yourself. Continue to breathe easily and naturally.

Systematically relax all of the muscles of your body. Start at your head, forehead, eyes, jaw, cheeks, etc., and progress down through your feet and toes. If, find an area of your body that feels particularly tense, tighten the muscles in that area even more, hold for a second, and then exhale slowly and let it go..

Mentally scan your body as you become relaxed. Focus your mind on the idea of those parts of your body beginning to feel more heavy and relaxed.

Focus your mind's eye on the goal of relaxation. Give yourself permission to let go of anything else for these few minutes. If distracting thoughts enter your mind, say to yourself, 'I'll have time to think about that later,' and let your mind return to your chosen word. Again focus again on taking a few deep and refreshing breaths, slowly repeat that word to yourself with each exhale.

Continue for 10 to 15 minutes. You may open your eyes to check the time, but do not use an alarm clock. When you finish, with your eyes still closed, sit or lie quietly for a few moments, and savor the feeling. After a few moments, remain quiet but let your eyes open with little effort. Practice once or twice daily until you have built an automatic relaxation response. Once you are well practiced, you may find that you are able to relax in stressful circumstances by giving yourself a few moments to relax your body, concentrate on your breathing, and focus on your chosen word.

Relaxation And Sleep

If you are having difficulty sleeping, relaxation may prove quite helpful. Many people find that if they do this exercise when they go to bed, sleep follows more easily. Practicing relaxation at night before you sleep can also help your body to recuperate from the day.

By the Northern Michigan University Counseling and Consultation Services Staff