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Stretching for your mental health

Stretching for your mental health may sound like a silly idea, but it can actually help reduce stress and improve your mood. Winter is prime hibernation time for many people, when the cold and the early evenings can disrupt even the most established exercise routines. While it can be great self-care to curl up with comfort food and listen to the rain on the roof, it’s also important to look after your body during this season. This is where stretching for your mental health comes in.

So many reasons…

Just like physical exercise, stretching releases endorphins that can boost your mood and help you relax. It releases serotonin, the hormone which helps to stabilise mood,  and can also help to improve your sleep. Stretching can also increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which helps to improve mental clarity and focus. Benefits of stretching go beyond the physical. When we release tightness in our bodies, we can also release mental and emotional tension. Stretching can help to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. It can be a form of moving meditation, helping us to focus on the present moment and connect with our breath.

So if you’re feeling a bit low this winter, or just want to give yourself an extra edge, why not try some stretching for your mental health? Here are a few simple stretches you can do at home (make sure you take it slowly and work within the limits of your body)

Top tips for stretching:

  1. Neck rolls: Start by sitting up straight with your shoulders relaxed. Slowly roll your head from side to side, letting your chin drop towards your chest on each side.
  2. Seated forward bend: Sit with your legs outstretched in front of you and your spine nice and straight. Slowly lean forwards from the hips, keeping your back flat, until youIt also helps to increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which can improve mental clarity and focus.
  3. Cobra pose: Lie on your stomach with your feet together and your hands placed flat on the floor beside your shoulders. Slowly lift your chest and head off the ground, letting your back arch naturally. Hold for a few breaths before returning to the starting position.
  4. Child’s pose: Start in a kneeling position with your buttocks resting on your heels. Lean forwards, stretching your arms out in front of you and lowering your forehead to the ground. Breathe deeply and hold for as long as you feel comfortable.
  5. Cat-cow pose: Start on all fours with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. As you inhale, arch your back and look up towards the ceiling. As you exhale, round your back and tuck your chin to your chest. Repeat this sequence a few times, moving slowly and smoothly with your breath.

So next time you’re feeling stressed or down, try taking a few minutes to stretch. You may be surprised at how much better you feel afterwards!

Women’s Health and Wellbeing Services is offering our Winter Stretch and Meditation series! If you’d like to join in our restful and cozy workshops, we’ll guide you through gentle stretches to soothe your nervous system and bring on a sense of wellbeing. Find out more here!

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