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Mind Body Interventions

Mind body interventions involve learning and using very simple relaxation techniques. These methods quiet the mind, which in turn calms the body. When practiced consistently, they are beneficial in managing anxiety or pain and in promoting restful sleep.

Clinical research shows that focused breathing, guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation exercises are particularly valuable. While in the hospital, patients requesting complementary therapy are taught these exercises as a way to participate in their own recovery process.

Descriptions of the exercises have been included on this site. They apply to the time prior to your entering the hospital, as well as after your discharge. You can practice all of them or choose whichever one works best for you. If you are scheduled for surgery, we suggest you practice a relaxation technique at least 15 minutes per day for two weeks prior to your surgery date. (Surgical patients may also order a special tape and book program Prepare for Surgery: Heal Faster at

Focused Breathing

When the mind focuses completely on the breath, the body takes a much needed "time out." This helps lessen discomfort and anxiety. Focused breathing can make us feel "in control" again, in spite of what is going on. Close your eyes; observe your breath. This can be done with eyes open but is more effective with eyes closed. Feel the inhale and exhale of each breath. (Breathe normally, only through the nose if possible. It is not necessary to breathe deeply.) While exhaling, silently repeat the word "one." This deepens concentration. If thoughts or noises distract you, gently bring your attention back to your breathing. Several minutes practicing this technique can quiet the mind and body. Ideally, this exercise should take 10-20 minutes.

Guided Imagery

Imagination can produce peaceful thoughts and feelings which create deep relaxation. Close your eyes and breathe quietly. Remember an experience where you felt safe, comfortable and happy. Feel this memory. See the colors; hear the sounds; smell, taste and touch the surroundings. If you become distracted, gently bring your attention back to your images. You can use this technique to send kind thoughts to areas of your body which are unwell, uncomfortable or recovering from surgery. Work with your body to imagine it healthy and feeling better. Positive mental images and comforting thoughts may help you heal more quickly.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This technique involves tightening and releasing different muscle groups in the body. Beginning with the feet, inhale quietly and clench for five seconds. Then release the tension slowly for ten seconds, breathing quietly. This allows your body to "tense and release" as you inhale and exhale to create relaxation. Work your way up the body, from feet to head, one muscle group at a time. Skip any areas that feel uncomfortable. Repeat the series as often as you like.


Meditating by concentrating on the here and now can stop restless thinking, increase relaxation and boost energy. Regular practice is like putting money in your energy bank! You can focus on a sound, a word, an image, a movement or the feeling of breathing. Meditation can happen naturally by paying complete attention to whatever you are doing: drinking water, eating a cookie, walking, washing dishes, watching fish in an aquarium or sitting in the sunshine. It is very important to focus only upon this one thing until you feel calm and still inside. If thoughts or noise distract you, gently refocus and begin again.

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