How to Ease Depression with Relaxation Techniques

Three Parts:Soothing Your Fatigued BodyCalming Your Depressed MindTaking It Easy When You're Depressed

Depression is a common mental illness affecting millions of people each year. In general, most people will require a combination of therapy and medication to manage the symptoms of depression. However, research has shown that certain relaxation techniques can also ease mild to moderate forms of depression.[1] Learn how to improve your depression symptoms with relaxation.

Part 1
Soothing Your Fatigued Body

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    Schedule in some progressive muscle relaxation to manage your stress. Scientists have found progressive muscle relaxation to be especially promising for helping some depressed people feel better.[2] This exercise can teach you how to identify tension in your body and relieve it as necessary. You can practice this exercise twice daily until it starts to come naturally to you.
    • To complete this technique, set aside about 15 minutes of time free of distractions. Find a comfortable place to sit, such as a chair or a floor cushion. Close your eyes and take several slow, deep breaths.
    • Start by tensing one muscle group, such as your toes. Inhale. Hold the tension for about 5 seconds. Notice what the tension feels like. Now, let the tension go and relax the muscles. Exhale. Notice the muscles go limp as the tension disappears. Be aware of the difference between tension and relaxation. Move to a different muscle group and repeat the process.[3]
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    Try out yoga to develop a mind-body connection. The practice of yoga strives to help people become more aware of the connection between mind and body to reach a state of relaxation. It involves meditation, physical positions, and controlled breathing to reduce anxiety and depression.[4]
    • If you are a beginner in yoga, you can take a class at your local YMCA or gym for yoga. You can sign up to an outdoor yoga Meetup in your area. You can also learn helpful yoga poses from YouTube and various health and fitness sites.[5]
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    Stretch your muscles to release feel-good chemicals in the brain. It may seem like stretching has very little to do with easing your depression symptoms, but this simple activity may actually work wonders. When you are depressed, you may not feel up to a total body workout—and that’s normal. But stretching is something fairly easy you can do to energize your body, increase blood flow to your muscles, and relieve stress when you’re feeling low.[6]
    • Spend just 10 to 15 minutes when you wake each morning stretching. You can also complete a range of stretches after periods of inactivity or before bed. Just be sure to focus on specific muscles groups at a time, particularly those that feel tense.[7]
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    Get enough sleep to help with depressive symptoms. About 75 percent of people who feel depressed also experience problems sleeping, research shows.[8] Sleep offers the opportunity for your body and mind to rejuvenate and restore. When you are not getting the prescribed 7 to 9 hours each night, you may complicate your depressive symptoms. Improve your sleep hygiene by:[9]
    • Exposing yourself to sunlight in the early part of your day
    • Staying physically active
    • Reducing the amount of caffeine and/or alcohol you consumer
    • Avoiding naps
    • Creating a calming, wind-down period at the end of your day
    • Sleeping and waking on a regular schedule

Part 2
Calming Your Depressed Mind

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    Learn mindfulness meditation to calm your thoughts. Mindfulness has been proven to reduce the symptoms of depression by promoting relaxation as well as changing unhelpful depressive thought patterns. Some research has shown that mindfulness therapies may provide longer-lasting effects against depression than medicines.[10] A variety of mindfulness practices have demonstrated effectiveness.
    • You can do mindfulness meditation by selecting a time when you can sit quietly without being disturbed. Sit upright in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Close your eyes. Imagine your breath through your mind’s eye as it flows in and out.
    • Focus completely on your breath as you inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. When you notice your attention wandering from your breath, just refocus again. Do not judge or criticize yourself, simply return your attention to your breath. Continue this exercise for approximately 20 minutes daily.[11]
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    Identify negative thought patterns that worsen depression. Your thought patterns have a great deal of influence on how depressed you feel. Depressed people tend to see most situations from a negative point-of-view. When you can gain control of your thoughts and alter them to be more realistic and positive, you can start to manage your symptoms better. Common ways of thinking when you’re depressed may include:[12]
    • Jumping to conclusions – “Joe didn’t call so he obviously doesn’t really like me.”
    • Black and white thinking – “If I’m no good at basketball, I suck as an athlete.”
    • Emotional reasoning – “I feel like a loser. That’s why no one likes me!”
    • Overgeneralizations – “I’m always messing things up!”
    • Labeling – “I’m a loser.”
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    Challenge negative thinking. Once you come to spot negative thought patterns you can take strides to changing them. To challenge negative thoughts, you must learn to identify when they’re happening and choose to view the situation differently. You can ask yourself a series of questions to challenge the validity of your negative thoughts.[13]
    • Reality testing – What evidence is there that shows my thinking is accurate?
    • Alternative explanations – Is there another way to look at this situation?
    • Putting things into perspective – Will this matter in a year’s time? In 5 years?
    • Goal-directed thinking – Can I learn something from this situation that can prevent it from happening again?
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    Escape stressful surroundings by using visualization. The practice of visualization can help you relax, minimize stress, and improve the quality of your sleep. The goal of this technique is to calm your mind by focusing on peaceful images. Visualization can be completely strictly as a self-guided activity with your imagination or you can listen to a scripted video or audio that guides you to a state of relaxation.[14]
    • Choose somewhere comfortable to sit without interruption for 10 to 15 minutes. Close your eyes and steady your breathing. Think of a place that you find relaxing—it can be a childhood refuge, a mountain retreat, or an exotic beach location. Imagine that you are in that very place.
    • Open your imagination to the sensations that you would feel in this place: the sounds, smells, colors, textures, and temperature. Visualize the place in as much sensory detail as you can. Spend 10 to 15 minutes in this restful place before opening your eyes.
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    Listen to calming music. Music has incredibly soothing powers that are linked to your emotional experiences. Listening to certain kinds of music can bring about a feeling of serenity. As a result, the blood pressure is lowered, less stress hormones are produced, and the body reaches its natural relaxation response.[15]
    • The type of music that relaxes you will depend on your personal preference. Try listening in the car as your drive to your destination, through headphones in a populated environment, or turning on the radio when you’re taking a bath.

Part 3
Taking It Easy When You're Depressed

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    Celebrate every small success to improve your mood. In addition to changing how you think, it can also be helpful to shift your perspective in a more positive direction. Oftentimes, people only choose to celebrate major successes, and, otherwise, dwell on persistent mistakes or failures. When you make an effort to pat yourself on the back for even the smallest victories, you may start to feel better about yourself and about life.
    • The next time you want to beat yourself up for not reaching a major goal, take a moment to acknowledge smaller feats you have overcome. This can help to rewire your brain to a state of positivity.[16]
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    Don’t over-plan your days. It may not be in your best interests to lie around and do nothing because you’re feeling depressed. On the other hand, you also don’t want to book up every minute of your day. When you do this, you are planning to fail or disappoint yourself. A common trigger for depression is feeling stressed out and overwhelmed by your daily life. Counteract this by refraining from over scheduling your days.[17]
    • Avoid over planning by breaking up complex tasks into several smaller pieces. Do these over a series of days to minimize overwhelm. You can also schedule 3 to 5 top priority tasks and consider everything you do beyond those as optional. Finally, take breaks as necessary to restore and recharge.
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    Do things that nourish your mind and body. Self-care is an important aspect to a healthy lifestyle. When you’re feeling depressed, neglecting this essential can worsen your symptoms.[18] Being depressed can be draining to your mood and energy levels. Strive to do at least one thing daily that allows you to tend to your body and mind. Ideas for self-care include:[19]
    • You can also erase depression by breathing. You will have to stop one side of nose with your one finger and breathe with another.Then again do the same thing to the other part.
    • Eating a healthy diet
    • Exercising regularly
    • Spending time with good friends
    • Writing in a journal
    • Walking your dog
    • Reading a good book
    • Praying or meditating
    • Taking a warm, luxurious bath
    • Getting a massage
    • Getting a manicure or pedicure
    • Be self-confident


  • Exercising every day can make a huge difference in your emotional health. The endorphins boost your well-being and give you a sense of greater energy. Exercise helps to clear away the blues. And the great thing is that exercise can be as simple as walking the dog or as complex as taking judo classes. As long as you push your body to get out of its rut.
  • Often you will feel sad post holiday season or post vacations. Realize this for what it is - that you are making a transition back into real life and it may take a week or two to feel back in the routine.
  • Look up yoga centers in the phone book or online to see about taking a class, or check out a yoga video from the library or YouTube.


  • If you are thinking about hurting yourself or others, call the US suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.
  • If you have symptoms of clinical depression for more than two weeks, contact your doctor about other steps you can take.

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Categories: Depression | Relaxation Techniques