Relaxation techniques

How to use visualisation to unwind

In this article we will look at how to calm the mind, and we'll focus on a couple of approaches that use the mind to calm the body.

Imagery

The use of imagery (or recreating in your mind an experience of another situation or place) is widely used in sport psychology for a number of purposes. In focusing on relaxation it can be used in two ways: either to train oneself to remain calm while imagining stressful sporting situations or by using images of a completely relaxing scene to calm the body.

The following steps outline the latter use and require you to have identified a calm image to retreat to in times of stress. Many people use images of places such as sunkissed beaches or cool leafy woods for this and use recordings of the imagery script to talk themselves through the imagery process:

1. Find a quiet place, with limited distractions. Close your eyes and take five deep, slow, calming breaths.

2. Picture in your mind your tranquil place. See the environment around you and the peace of the location. Focus on the distinctive sounds calming you. Feel your surroundings taking the stress out of the body and making you feel calm and relaxed.

3. Extend the image so that you can hold onto this place for a period of time. This will require practice and you developing a scenario that's right for you but the results can be significant. Practice can also allow you to shorten the process of imagery so that feelings of relaxation can be generated through short periods of imagery lasting only a matter of seconds.

Feel your surroundings taking the stress out of the body and making you feel calm and relaxed

Meditation

While for some the concept of meditation is based in religious belief, it can be practised and developed by anyone.

Underpinning meditative relaxation is the use of a 'mantra', a repetitive sound or word that provides the focus of the meditator's attention and aids relaxation. Good choices for mantras for beginners are words such as "calm" or "relax" but any non-stimulating word or sound will do. Mantra chosen, practise via the following steps:

1. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed.

2. Relax your body by taking a couple of deep breaths and ensuring that the muscles throughout your body are relaxed.

3. Breathe in through the nose and out through your mouth. On exhaling say the mantra softly and calmly. Then repeat, inhaling through the nose, exhaling via the mouth saying the mantra every time.

4. Continue for a period of around 10 minutes. Even if disturbed or not feeling particularly relaxed, practice will allow for deepening relaxation and for you to develop longer time periods for meditation if required.

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