How to do it
Before starting, choose your location. It should be a quiet place free from draughts and bright light. Loosen clothing and lie or sit down in a comfortable position.
1. Place your hands on either side of your ribcage and close your eyes. Softly inhale through your nose, visualising the air passing through the nostrils and throat and into your lungs. Allow your ribcage to expand by moving your palms outwards.
2. Breathe out through your nose or mouth, gently compressing the sides of your ribcage with your hands to ensure full exhalation.
3. Continue this diaphragmatic breathing for about five minutes. Then lower the palms to your sides or place them in your lap, and begin visualisation while continuing deep, relaxed breathing.
4. Visualise a beautiful place where you feel really relaxed. It may be a garden, beach, mountain or a particular beauty spot. Picture it vividly with all your senses.
5. Picture yourself enjoying this special place and feeling relaxed and happy. Mentally repeat phrases that confirm this, such as “I feel very relaxed” and “I’m content and at peace.” Stay in this place as long as you like.
6. When you’re ready, picture yourself leaving and returning to your current environment. Stretch your limbs and slowly open your eyes. Drink a glass of water.
You can return to this place whenever you need to relax. Just close your eyes, breathe deeply and picture the scene anew. With regular practice, relaxation quickly follows.
This article was last medically reviewed by Dr Stephen Hopwood in April 2009.