Basic Psychology, Psychopathology

Using the Relaxation Response to Relieve Stress – Rhythmic movement and mindful exercise

The idea of exercising may not sound particularly soothing, but rhythmic exercise that gets you into a flow of repetitive movement can be very relaxing. Examples include:

  • Running
  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Dancing
  • Rowing
  • Climbing

For maximum stress relief, add mindfulness to your workout

While simply engaging in rhythmic exercise will help you relieve stress, if you add a mindfulness component on top, you’ll get even more benefit.

As with meditation, mindful exercise requires being fully engaged in the present moment—paying attention to how your body feels right now, rather than your daily worries or concerns. In order to “turn off” your thoughts, focus on the sensations in your limbs and how your breathing complements your movement, instead of zoning out or staring at a TV as you exercise. If you’re walking or running, for example, focus on the sensation of your feet touching the ground, the rhythm of your breath, and the feeling of the wind against your face. If you’re resistance training, focus on coordinating your breathing with your movements and pay attention to how your body feels as you raise and lower weights. And when your mind wanders to other thoughts, gently return your focus to your breathing and movement.

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