Looking for quick, effective stress relief that you can do each day to lift your spirits? When it comes to fueling positive mental recovery, whether after a long day at work or following an emotional conflict with a friend or spouse, science offers a handful of helpful (easy) activities that may just do the trick for you:
Take a Walk Outside
Have ten minutes and looking for a breath of fresh air? Step out of your stuffy office or head outside first thing in the morning for a quick walk outdoors in the most natural setting you can find. Researchers conducting a study comparing the brain activity and feelings of participants who spent time walking through nature versus a bustling urban environment found that those who spent time in nature experienced far less feelings of rumination (brooding), and even felt more attentive and happy. Even better for fall, plan on a daily bike ride through a lush, scenic neighborhood or park.
One of the easiest ways to draw your focus away from negative thoughts and stress, and instead funnel it towards building something beautiful, creative, and thoughtful is with coloring. Adult coloring took the world by storm several years back and still proves to be a great calming activity for adults of all ages. The Journal of American Art Therapy Association even reported in an experimental 2016 study that participants who took part in creating visual art had lowered cortisol levels (stress hormone) following their experience. Keep a coloring desk handy at work and at home for quick spurts of stress-relieving art time.
Stress relief brought on by simply smelling aromatic plant extracts might seemed far fetched, but essential oils like lavender, bergamot, and sandalwood have been used to provide calming and relaxing benefits for centuries. Researchers in Thailand found that jasmine oil used with massage also procured greater stimulation from participants helping to combat depression and lift mood. Essential oils can be diffused, burned with candles, or incorporated into massage or a bath for the greatest effects – even consider spraying your practice mat with a diluted essential oil to optimize stress-relieving activities like yoga.
Take a Bath
The mere thought of ending a long work day with a nice hot soak in the tub seems to bring about calming feelings all on its own so it’s no wonder that research has shown multiple positive effects of hydrotherapy. Spending ten minutes in a whirlpool, for example, was reported to increase participant feelings of well-being as well as decrease anxiety. Warm baths can also provide temporarily relief to sore muscles which have tensed up due to stress. When combined with essential oils and muscle stimulation, like from the best back scrubber, a warm soak can cue cognitive and nervous system responses of relaxation and stress reduction too.
Listen to Music
Music therapy, or simply listening to, singing, or playing music in efforts to alleviate emotional and behavioral symptoms, has been employed by cultures all over the world for centuries. Popping on your favorite tune might simply make you feel happier, while some songs have been shown to specifically target brain regions responsible for calming and relaxing you. One 2013 study of dementia patients in a nursing home showed that music therapy helped to lower agitation and disruptiveness, which meant potentially avoiding unnecessary medicinal interventions.
A 2014 report published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience looked at an overarching framework of yoga’s psychological and physical benefits within the scope of self-regulation (autonomous monitoring, willpower and motivation of one’s own responses and impulses). Acknowledging how yoga practice has been shown to improve symptoms associated with stress, anxiety, and depression as well as boost emotions of happiness and self-reliance, researchers additionally uncovered how yoga generates complex, adaptive physical and mental training in the practice of self-regulation.
Stress-relief is most often less about completely eliminating external factors which cause stress and more about finding self-empowering ways to gain perspective, soothe tension, and calm anxious thoughts. Understanding natural, simple ways to seek stress relief like with taking walks outside, coloring, and yoga, may help prevent some people from self-medicating or over-consuming alcohol or food.