Healing the Nervous System: A Guide to Self-Regulation Activities

Looking to heal your nervous system? Here are self regulation activities for emotional intelligence, mental wellness, and a calm nervous system.

self regulation activities

In the fast-paced and often overwhelming modern world, mastering the art of emotional and behavioral regulation has become increasingly vital. Self regulation entails skillfully managing one’s emotions, thoughts, and actions, fostering healthy responses to diverse situations. This essential ability plays a pivotal role in cultivating emotional intelligence, nurturing mental well-being, and achieving success in both personal and professional spheres of life.

In this article, we will explore what is self regulation, the 4 zones of self regulation, and effective self regulation activities and strategies for healing the nervous system.

This article is all about self regulation activities.

Self Regulation Activities

What is Self Regulation?

Self-regulation involves the ability to recognize and understand our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors and exert control over them in productive and healthy ways. It allows us to manage stress, cope with challenges, and maintain a sense of balance and stability amidst life’s ups and downs. While it is a skill that can be developed over time, practicing self-regulation activities and strategies can significantly improve its effectiveness.

The 4 Zones of Self Regulation

The Zones of Regulation is a popular framework often used in educational settings to teach children and adults about self regulation. It categorizes emotions and states into four color-coded zones, each representing a different level of emotional arousal:

  1. The Blue Zone: This zone is associated with low energy and low emotional arousal, where one may feel sad, tired, or bored.
  2. The Green Zone: The Green Zone represents a balanced emotional state, characterized by feelings of calm, focused, and ready to learn or engage in activities.
  3. The Yellow Zone: In this zone, one experiences a heightened level of emotions, such as frustration, anxiety, or excitement. It is a state that may lead to impulsive or reactive behaviors.
  4. The Red Zone: The Red Zone indicates an intense emotional state, often accompanied by anger, panic, or extreme excitement. In this zone, a person may struggle to think rationally and may exhibit aggressive or unsafe behaviors.

Examples of Self-Regulation Activities

So what does self regulation look like? There are countless ways to regulate our emotions, thoughts, and nervous systems. Here are a few primary examples:

  1. Mindfulness and Breathing Exercises: Practicing mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing, helps individuals become more aware of their emotions and thoughts. Regular mindfulness exercises can reduce stress and promote a sense of calm.
  2. Journaling: Keeping a journal allows individuals to process their emotions and gain insights into triggers and patterns. It is a safe space to express feelings, thoughts, and experiences. Here are our journals specific to healing and personal development.
  3. Physical Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activities, such as yoga, running, or dancing, helps release endorphins, which are natural mood boosters.
  4. Progressive Muscle Relaxation: This technique involves systematically tensing and relaxing different muscle groups to reduce physical tension and promote relaxation.
  5. Time Management: Properly managing time and setting realistic goals can alleviate feelings of overwhelm and stress.
  6. Visualizations and Guided Imagery: Guided imagery exercises can help individuals visualize positive outcomes and reduce anxiety and fear.

Self Regulation Activities For Healing The Nervous System

Self-regulation activities that focus on healing the nervous system are particularly beneficial for individuals who have experienced stress, trauma, or chronic anxiety. These activities aim to activate the body’s relaxation response and promote a sense of safety and calm. By engaging in practices that support the nervous system, individuals can reduce feelings of hyperarousal and increase their capacity to manage stress. Below are some self-regulation activities that aid in healing the nervous system:

  1. Deep Breathing Exercises: Deep, slow breathing activates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, triggering the relaxation response. Practice diaphragmatic breathing, where you breathe deeply from your abdomen, holding the breath for a few seconds, and exhaling slowly. This helps reduce stress and brings a sense of calm.
  2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR): PMR involves systematically tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups. This technique helps release physical tension, promoting relaxation and reducing the body’s stress response.
  3. Grounding Techniques: Grounding exercises involve bringing awareness to the present moment and the physical sensations of the body. Focus on the feel of your feet on the ground, the texture of objects you touch, or the sound of your breath to anchor yourself in the present and reduce feelings of anxiety.
  4. Mindful Movement: Engage in gentle physical activities like yoga, tai chi, or qigong. These practices combine movement, breathwork, and mindfulness, which can help regulate the nervous system and promote a sense of relaxation and balance.
  5. Guided Imagery and Visualization: Visualization exercises can create a sense of safety and calm by imagining peaceful and positive scenarios. Guided imagery recordings or visualization apps can assist you in this process.
  6. Self-Compassion and Affirmations: Practice self-compassion by offering kind and understanding words to yourself during challenging times. Positive affirmations can help rewire negative thought patterns and promote feelings of self-worth and safety.
  7. Nature Walks: Spending time in nature can have a calming effect on the nervous system. Take a leisurely walk in a park or natural setting to connect with the healing power of nature.
  8. Mindful Eating: Pay attention to the sensory experience of eating, savoring each bite. Mindful eating can promote relaxation and reduce stress-related eating patterns.
  9. Creative Expression: Engage in creative activities like art, writing, or music to express and process emotions in a healthy way. Creative expression can serve as a form of therapy and aid in nervous system healing.
  10. Warm Baths: Taking a warm bath can help relax muscles and soothe the nervous system. Add calming essential oils like lavender to enhance the relaxation experience.

Remember that healing the nervous system is a gradual process, and it’s essential to be patient and gentle with yourself throughout this journey. Consistency in practicing these self-regulation activities can lead to significant improvements in nervous system health and overall well-being. If you have experienced severe trauma or struggle with chronic stress, consider seeking support from a mental health professional to guide you through the healing process.

Self-Regulation Strategies

Self-regulation strategies refer to the techniques, approaches, and mental processes individuals employ to manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively. These strategies are cognitive and behavioral tools used to regulate reactions to various situations and maintain emotional balance. Self-regulation strategies are usually broader in scope and encompass a wide range of practices that individuals can use in different contexts and situations. Self-regulation activities, on the other hand, are specific actions or exercises that individuals can engage in to practice and develop their self-regulation skills. Here are a few strategies to keep in mind while working with the activities listed above:

  1. Recognize Triggers: Identifying the situations, people, or thoughts that trigger emotional responses is the first step in self-regulation.
  2. Take Breaks: When feeling overwhelmed, stepping away from a situation can provide time to cool down and regain emotional balance.
  3. Use Positive Self-talk: Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations to foster a more constructive mindset.
  4. Seek Support: Confiding in friends, family, or a professional therapist can offer valuable insights and coping mechanisms.
  5. Practice Empathy: Understanding and empathizing with others’ emotions can enhance emotional intelligence and foster better relationships.

Want more?

Here’s a list of 50 self-regulation activities that individuals of all ages can engage in to promote emotional well-being and cultivate self-control:

  1. Deep breathing exercises
  2. Mindfulness meditation
  3. Progressive muscle relaxation
  4. Counting to ten before reacting to a situation
  5. Using positive affirmations
  6. Practicing gratitude journaling
  7. Engaging in physical exercise
  8. Going for a nature walk
  9. Guided imagery or visualization exercises
  10. Coloring or doodling
  11. Listening to calming music or nature sounds
  12. Taking a warm bath or shower
  13. Cooking or baking
  14. Doing a puzzle
  15. Engaging in yoga or stretching
  16. Journaling about emotions and experiences
  17. Creating art or crafts
  18. Practicing mindfulness during meals
  19. Mindful tea or coffee drinking
  20. Playing with a pet
  21. Reading a book or watching a movie
  22. Writing a letter to oneself
  23. Doing breathing exercises with a Hoberman sphere (breathing ball)
  24. Practicing grounding techniques
  25. Making a gratitude jar or board
  26. Gardening or tending to plants
  27. Listening to a guided relaxation or sleep meditation
  28. Engaging in progressive relaxation of different body parts
  29. Practicing self-compassion exercises
  30. Mindful eating of a favorite treat or snack
  31. Engaging in aromatherapy with calming scents like lavender or chamomile
  32. Dancing or moving to favorite music
  33. Playing a musical instrument
  34. Spending time with loved ones
  35. Writing a list of things that bring joy and referring to it during difficult times
  36. Setting and achieving small goals
  37. Doing a body scan meditation
  38. Practicing “5-4-3-2-1” grounding technique (identifying 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you touch, 2 things you smell, and 1 thing you taste)
  39. Creating a calming or sensory corner in your living space
  40. Watching funny videos or comedy shows
  41. Trying out different breathing patterns like box breathing or 4-7-8 breathing
  42. Engaging in biofeedback or heart rate variability training
  43. Doing a random act of kindness for someone else
  44. Engaging in a hobby or creative activity
  45. Creating a vision board for personal goals and aspirations
  46. Mindful listening to favorite music or sounds in nature
  47. Taking a digital detox and disconnecting from screens for a set period
  48. Engaging in a guided progressive muscle relaxation exercise
  49. Playing a board game or solving puzzles with family or friends
  50. Reflecting on the day in a journal and identifying areas of personal growth.


Self-regulation is a skill that benefits individuals of all ages, allowing them to navigate life’s challenges with emotional intelligence and resilience. By incorporating self-regulation activities and strategies into daily routines, individuals can improve their emotional well-being and create a positive impact on their lives and the lives of those around them. The Zones of Regulation framework serves as an effective tool, particularly for children, in understanding and managing emotions effectively. Embracing self-regulation is a powerful step towards a more balanced, fulfilling, and contented life.

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