It’s hard to feel good, relaxed, or comfortable when our bodies are tight, tense, and sore. And with life turned upside down, you’re probably feeling a lot more aches and pains lately. Our bodies are weary, but our brains might be buzzing with all kinds of worries, making it tougher to unwind. Thankfully, there are many simple ways we can ease the physical tension, sending soothing signals throughout our bodies (and our minds).
Here are seven feel-good practices you can try right now:
- Practice a body scan meditation. Lay down and close your eyes. Starting at your head or your feet, move to different parts of your body, paying attention to any tension, tightness, tingling, soreness, or other sensations. As you notice an uncomfortable sensation, breathe into it, or gently massage it.
- Shake out the stress. I recently did a 12-minute shaking meditation in a virtual yoga class and absolutely loved it. This doesn’t have to be a formal practice, though. You can simply put on your favorite upbeat song, close your eyes, and shake your entire body. Or you can start by shaking a different body part at a time (like in this YouTube video).
- Focus on your shoulders. To relax commonly tight shoulders, roll your shoulders forward several times and then roll them back several times. Raise your shoulders to your ears, hold for a few moments, and then lower them. You can also tilt your head to your right shoulder, holding for 10 to 30 seconds. Then switch to your left shoulder, and do the same.
- Try Legs Up the Wall. I’ve mentioned this yoga pose before, and that’s because it really is wonderful and fast acting. It’s especially helpful in promoting relaxation before bed. You simply lay on your back with your legs against the wall and your arms at your sides. You can put on some calming music, light a candle or two, and sink into this pose.
- Do some cardio. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.” What are your favorite cardio exercises? For example, you might run in place, do jumping jacks, take a brisk walk, or have a dance party.
- Give yourself a massage. Massage away the aches and pains in your hands, feet, neck, shoulders, arms, lower back, or legs. Or ask a loved one to give you a massage.
- Try visualization. Stand up straight and feel your feet sinking into the ground, grass, or floor. Visualize the tension dissolving into the earth, forming strong roots for new trees. Or visualize yourself removing the tension as if it were a winter coat. Or visualize the tension melting away with the summer heat. Or use your creativity to imagine a different scenario that decreases the tension in a particular body part.
Pick whatever practice resonates with you and make it part of your daily routine. Or take a few minutes to find a short, tension-releasing stretching video for everyday use. We carry so much physical (and emotional) stress inside our bodies. Finding exercises that relieve at least some of that tension can make a big difference in helping us to feel calmer and more supported.