Three Exercises to Relax Mind and Body

Practice Gratitude

Cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” has been linked to better health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression, higher long-term satisfaction with life and kinder behavior toward others, including romantic partners. In one study, people keeping the gratitude journal were more optimistic and felt happier than the control group. They reported fewer physical problems and spent more time working out.


  • Bring to mind something or someone in your life that you feel grateful for. Take a moment and think about them, remembering what makes you grateful about this thing or person. Allow yourself to remember how you feel in your body, when you’re with that thing or person. Notice how your body and mind respond when you feel this gratitude. Enjoy the feeling of gratitude and the positive changes it brings.
  • Second step. Write down or share with another person, a couple things or people in your life you are grateful for. Speaking and writing activate different parts of the brain which helps you integrate the benefits of gratitude.

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing has been scientifically proven to affect the heart, the brain, digestion, the immune system — and maybe even the expression of genes. Breathing techniques can be used as a method to train the body's reaction to stressful situations and dampen the production of harmful stress hormones.

Deep breathing actually stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. "Think of a car throttling down the highway at 120 miles an hour. That's the stress response, and the Vagus nerve is the brake," says Esther Sternberg. "When you are stressed, you have your foot on the gas, pedal to the floor. When you take slow, deep breaths, that is what is engaging the brake."


  • Sit or stand with your back straight or lie on the floor. Put your hand on your belly. When you breathe deeply, you will engage your diaphragm and your belly will expand on the in breath and relax on the out breath.
  • Breathe in, imagining your breath coming in all the way down into your belly. Let the breath relax and flow out with each exhale.
  • With each exhale, count yourself from 5 down to 1. When you reach one, your mind will be a little calmer and you will feel more relaxed.

Yoga and stretching

Research has shown that Yoga has tremendous physical and psychological benefits. A practice of yoga can stabilize the nervous system, decrease respiratory rate and blood pressure, increase cardiovascular efficiency, and even normalize gastrointestinal functions. Psychologically, Yoga can improve moods and subjective well being, decrease anxiety and depression, and improve concentration and memory.


  • Stand. Soften your knees and feel the floor underneath you.
  • Twist. Gently twist your shoulders and arms from side to side, let your head gently turn each direction you face to gradually increase your stretch.
  • Forward bend. Soften and lightly bend your knees as you let your head roll downwards in front of you. Let your back bend as you continue bending toward the floors, arms handing and relaxing. At the extent of what feels comfortable to you, breathe deeply and hang. You can straighten your legs if it’s comfortable to you in the stretch.
    To come back up, soften the knees and bend the legs slightly. Slowly roll back up, imagining stacking one vertebra at a time, straightening the knees again when you’re standing. Raise your arms up over your head to stretch, and let them relax back down.
  • Shoulder Rolls. Gently roll shoulders first one direction then the other, lifting up towards ears then lower on each circle.
  • Neck stretch. Lean one ear toward shoulder, feeling a gentle stretch in the neck on each side.
  • End standing with soft knees. Feel your breath flowing deeply into your belly. Enjoy the sense of oxygen in your body and brain.


Exercises are from: Transform Yourself - A Self-hypnosis Manual by Patrick Marsolek • Copyright 2006