Progressive muscle relaxation

This exercise helps to ease tension and keep you in a relaxed state. Using relaxation skills such as this one can improve your state of mind if you take the time to learn and hone these skills.

How to do it:

  • Choose a quiet room and find a comfortable chair to sit in. If you want to, you could play soothing, relaxing music in the background.
  • Rest your hands in your lap and your feet on the floor. Make yourself as comfortable as possible. Use extra cushions if need be or loosen any tight clothing.
  • Take a deep breath, letting it out slowly.
  • Extend one arm in front of you. Make a tight fist and tense the muscles as hard as you can. Hold for a count of five. Concentrate on how tense the hand feels.
  • Relax your hand partly. Clench it again for a count of five. Notice and remember the difference in sensation between the clenched and unclenched muscles.
  • Now release the tension completely, allowing your hand to feel completely relaxed. Take a deep breath and exhale slowly.
  • Repeat this sequence for the other hand, then for your arms, shoulders, neck and facial muscles. Take deep breaths between each muscle group until the entire upper body is relaxed.
  • Using the same routine of tensing and then relaxing muscles, go on to your stomach, buttocks, legs and feet.
  • After tensing and relaxing your entire body, close your eyes and sit quietly for at least five minutes. Breathe deeply and concentrate on a pleasant thought or peaceful scene.

It may seem that some muscles just do not want to relax. Be patient. It takes time to change bad habits. Spend a few extra minutes on those muscles each day. If it is your hands, flex and unflex the fingers and then try to relax the entire hand.

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