How do you calm a troubled mind

Mindfulness: Three Ways to Relax Your Body and Mind

Those who manage to calm the body can also cope better with psychological stress. In some cases, processes that are thousands of years old help - but also newer methods whose effectiveness has been scientifically proven

All those people who regularly relax physically, can mentally switch off and, above all, are mindful of their own needs are well armed against stress. And stress researchers agree that all of these skills can be systematically practiced and intensified.

Because just as the body and mind react to stress, for example by accelerating the heartbeat or negative feelings arise, both also show reactions when the organism experiences relaxation:

The blood pressure drops - and positive thoughts arise. Therefore, relaxation should be part of our everyday life as well as tension. Many people find it helpful to be passive, for example to be calmed down by massages. But when the stress gets out of hand, such simple means of relaxation are no longer enough. Then it is important to actively seek rest, to practice and to intensify, just like when you strengthen a muscle through strength exercises. There are a number of different procedures for this.

But not all have been scientifically researched, and not every variant of a particular technique is as effective as another. In the guidelines of the statutory health insurances, three types of exercises are listed that have been shown to have a relaxing effect and are therefore also paid for by the health insurers:

• progressive muscle relaxation,
• Autogenic training,
• meditation.

Those who train these exercises regularly are able to reduce arousal in a targeted manner even in difficult everyday situations or avoid stress that can no longer be shaken off.


"There is probably no more general cure than rest," wrote the US physiologist Edmund Jacobson, who in 1929 published his method of voluntary muscle relaxation for the first time. Certain muscle groups are tensed one after the other, for one to two minutes each time. Then you try to loosen the muscle group that is just tense for three to four minutes as much as possible.

Step by step, all parts of the body are tensed and relaxed, from the limbs to the trunk to the head. Today, mostly simplified versions of Jacobson's program are taught. But their goal is also to be able to perceive more and more precisely the degree of tension in individual muscles.

Researchers have not yet been able to prove whether muscle relaxation actually - as Jacobson assumed - influences the activity of the central nervous system. But studies show: Those who train active muscle relaxation increase their long-term well-being, are less sensitive to pain and react more calmly in stressful situations.


In the 1920s, the German psychiatrist Johannes Heinrich Schultz observed that people can put themselves (autogenously) into a kind of trance without external intervention - a state in which they experience deep calm, feel warmth in their limbs and then feel refreshed . He then developed exercises with which everyone should be able to specifically influence their heart rate, regulate their breathing and create a feeling of warmth.

The scheme is always the same: The practitioner repeats sentences in his mind that relate to a calming sensation, such as “The right arm is heavy” or “The heart beats calmly”.
Almost anyone can learn to actually induce such physical changes. After just a few weeks of regular training, self-suggestions produce the desired effect for most of them: calm, warmth and relaxation set in. Even in stressful situations, it is often easier for experienced people to calm down again - and thus to be more confident


In almost all religions there are techniques that are supposed to help to gain self-knowledge, to expand consciousness and to explore higher worlds, thus to find “enlightenment”. Relaxation is a prerequisite for these meditative procedures. Therefore, some of the methods, detached from the spiritual meaning, also work for the
Proven to deal with stress.

The Indian hatha yoga and the Chinese practices tai chi and qigong are recognized by the health insurance companies. These three techniques combine mental immersion with movement, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, sometimes dynamically, sometimes focused. Studies show: The procedures can help to alleviate and reduce stress reactions in the long term
To bring the body into a healthy balance of tension and relaxation.

Five rules for ideal relaxation

1. Come to rest

It is important to calm the body regularly during times of stress. Massages, music or acupuncture can help, as can relaxation techniques.

2. Loosen the muscles

With the help of special exercises, the muscle tone can be controlled and tension can be released in a targeted manner.

3. Practice self-suggestion

Almost everyone can learn to use autogenic training to create sensations of calm and warmth that counteract stress.

4. Let energies flow

Meditation in connection with specific movements, such as Hatha Yoga, Tai Chi or Qigong, can bring body and mind back into harmony.

5. To be in the here and now

Those who carefully observe their thoughts and feel their emotions gain control over their feelings and thoughts and are better able to withstand stress.

All of these methods help you experience a sense of control. They create an awareness that one is not helplessly exposed to everyday stresses and complaints
is. Because it is important to feel your own body more sensitively than in the usual perception, to observe thoughts, to feel feelings. And at the same time paying attention to the interplay between the environment and the interior. So that we don't just feel a vague discomfort, but can see more clearly what exactly triggers pain or nausea, what irritation or tiredness.

The concept of mindfulness

Only in the past few decades has a term established itself for this ability: mindfulness. In a sense, it is a natural medicine used by humans to avoid or relieve stress. Because it helps to recognize early signs of stress and not to ignore it carelessly.

Scientists are therefore intensively investigating how mindfulness can be strengthened in a targeted and long-term manner. A method developed by the US scientist Jon Kabat-Zinn has proven to be particularly effective: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. In the USA, this standardized procedure is taught in hundreds of clinics and health centers, and it is also widely offered in Germany.

In courses lasting several weeks, participants learn elements of traditional meditation techniques, such as being aware of their breath, observing their thoughts with equanimity or attentively following an aroma. Religious references are expressly avoided. The focus is on actively practicing mindfulness, relaxation
to deepen. In this way, studies have shown, we can immediately strengthen our resistance to excessive stress.

Mindfulness dampens fear

Brain researchers have found: With regular meditation exercises, the activity in the parts of the thinking organ that regulate emotions and physical sensations can be changed in the long term. Meditators also strengthen the thalamus, the brain area in which sensory impressions are bundled and thus attention is focused.

What's more, they dampen their neural source of fear, the amygdala. This region is always particularly active when we feel stress and are tense. Mindfulness and relaxation exercises have been shown to alleviate stress-related physical complaints, such as headaches, sleep problems, heart palpitations or circulatory disorders.

Those who train regularly can also reduce arousal in a targeted manner in difficult everyday situations - and thus avoid long-term (and therefore particularly harmful) stress from developing in the first place.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Website of an association of certified mindfulness teachers on courses in the vicinity as well as further ones
Let literature be found.

Ulrich Ott: "Meditation for Skeptics" (O. W. Barth): explains the effect of meditation from a neuroscientific point of view.