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 your pet or try out a new recipe.
Focus on your breathing
Learning to breathe more deeply can make you feel a lot calmer and increase your sense of wellbeing.
- 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 to 4 as you breathe in, 4 as you breathe out, then work out what’s comfortable for you.
Listen to music
Music can relax you, connect you to your emotions and distract you from worrying thoughts.
- Listen to your favourite songs. Turn up the volume and dance or sing along, or put your headphones on and close your eyes.
- 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.
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.
Try active relaxation
Relaxation doesn’t have to mean sitting still – gentle exercise can help you relax too.
- Look for a class like yoga, Pilates or gentle stretching.
- 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.
See our page on physical activity and mental health for more tips. If you're interested in getting more active to support your mental health, take a look at our Get Set to Go campaign to find out more about how you can get active in your local area.
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, and 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 wellbeing.
- Take a walk in the countryside or through a local park, taking time to notice trees, flowers, plants and animals you see on the way. See our page on relaxation exercises for a guided mindful walk 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 ecotherapy for more information about how to find projects in your area.
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, even a short one, can help you relax.
- Try turning your phone off for an hour (or a whole day if you’re feeling brave).
- 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 – try some of the ideas above!
This information was published in April 2015. We will revise it in 2018.