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5 Simple Stress Reducing Exercises for the Mind and Body

In a rush? Feel like your head has been clouded in a thick fog of stress all day? You are not alone. With a society moving at an arguably faster pace than ever before, it has become increasingly important to take time out of your day to practice reconnecting with your breath, body, and spirit. Take just 10 minutes and try these quick and simple exercises to return to some calm today.

  1. Focus on your breathing. Simple enough. With your eyes open or closed, begin to notice your breath. Notice the feeling of the air as it enters and exits your nostrils. Maybe you notice a tingling sensation or the changing temperature of the air with each breath in and out. Notice your body, wherever it happens to be in this moment. Notice your chest and/or belly rising and falling with each breath. Now, set a time and, for just 2 minutes, focus on these sensations. Whenever your mind becomes distracted, as it inevitably will, turn your focus back into the sensations of your body and breath.

  2. Do some chair yoga. In a seated position, begin by gently dropping your right ear toward your right shoulder, look down at the floor, now circle your left ear to lean toward your left shoulder. Look up gently toward the ceiling. Repeat this rotation gently a few times as you notice the sensations in your neck, shoulders, and upper back. Now allow yourself to twist gently from side to side. If you’re seated, you can place your left hand on the outside edge of your right thigh as you twist to look slightly behind you. Do the same on the opposite side, breathing in and out deeply with each big movement that you make. See, not so bad. You can get creative with the movements if you’d like.

  3. Count your blessings. List 10 things that you feel grateful for in this moment. These may be tangible things like feeling warm inside on a cold day or less tangible things like appreciating family or friends. You can write this list down on a sheet of paper or in a journal, or you can simply list them out loud, in your head, or to a close friend or loved one. The most important thing is that you focus on the feelings of appreciation and gratitude that arise as you recognize the things on this list.

  4. Give yourself a hug. This may seem cheesy but there is actually evidence to support that your body can have a hard time differentiating between a hug that you give yourself and a hug that your receive from someone else. If you’re in public, you can always fold your arms and rub your shoulders with the tips of your fingers. This hugging action releases some much needed oxytocin, a neurochemical that sends feelings of self-love, empathy, and generosity to your mind and body.

  5. Consider a positive event. Think about one experience that either happened today or yesterday that you can reflect on quite positively. You can close your eyes or leave them open, but begin to imagine this experience in full detail. Who were you with? Where were you? What were you doing? How were you feeling? Bring this moment to light in your mind for two minutes. You can set a timer if you’d like. Allow yourself to feel immersed back in this positive experience.

There you have it. Feel free to elaborate on each activity as much as you would like and check back soon for more stress relieving suggestions and activities. If you are interested in taking your stress relieving practice a step further, I encourage you to check out the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion or a program in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.

Happy breathing!

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