Whether you’re a blossoming college student or eager, young professional, you have probably been crippled with stress along the way. Below are 11 scientifically supported ways to decrease your stress, allowing you to tackle any hurdles that arise on your journey to success.
1. Take deep breaths
According to science, slow, deep breathing can calm your body, forcing it to retreat from a stressed state. More specifically, relaxed breathing reduces cortisol levels—a neurochemical credited with inducing stress—and can cause a temporary drop in blood pressure. Guided breathing physiologically forces your body and mind to be more relaxed.
2. Think positively
A study from Harvard University found that reappraising and then thinking positively about stressors can help moderate one’s stress. The researchers found that thinking positively about stressors enhances happiness and decreases stress. If you cannot view your stressors through a “glass-half-full” lens, try keeping a “gratitude journal,” wherein you write something you are grateful for at the close of each day. Science has found that those who documented their gratitude were more optimistic and less stressed overall.
Be active; do not let a stressed mind fester! According to research, exercise releases endorphins—the body’s “feel good” chemical—overriding your overwhelming feeling of stress. Another study found that exercise helps people cope with anxiety and stress for an extended period of time post-workout.
4. Take time off (and check your e-mail less frequently)
People who take annual vacations report having better health, less stress, more energy, a heightened sex drive, better productivity, and increased happiness, according to a survey taken by over 2,000 respondents. However, it is not enough to just take a vacation; you must refrain from checking your e-mail so frequently! According to science, obsessively checking and immediately responding to work e-mails is a major stressor. They found that those who resisted the temptation to check their messages were less stressed compared to those who constantly checked their inbox.
5. Moderate your sleeping habits
Taking control of your sleeping schedule can significantly decrease stress. Science has shows that regular naps reduce cortisol levels—the chemical released in your body when you are stressed—aiding in stress relief. According to a study done at the University of California, Berkeley, the regions of your brain that contribute to excessive worrying, stress, and anxiety are active when you fail to get a sufficient amount of sleep. However, alleviating stress is all about moderation: finding the balance between achieving the proper amount of sleep and waking up at the right time. Another study reports that early risers perform better at their jobs, attain greater career success, and reap higher wages than people who start their days later.
6. Take a walk outside
Science indicates that a stroll can do wonders for stress relief, especially when taken outside. Exposing yourself to nature while on a walk reduces rumination—repetitive negative thoughts—and subsequently decreases stress levels, according to a recent publication. That study also showed decrease brain activity in areas linked to mental illnesses when on a walk through a natural environment.
Laughter has a plethora of health benefits, including reducing stress. According to science, regular laughter has been linked to decreased depression and stress. Laughing releases endorphins—the body’s “feel good” chemical—further decreasing your state of stress.
8. Listen to music
Research indicates that music can help relieve stress. Music triggers biochemical stress reducers and lessens anxiety. This is known as the “Mozart Effect.” More specifically, an additional study specifies which genre of music you should listen to in order to alleviate stress. Results suggest that listening to classical music after exposure to a stressor significantly reduces negative emotional states and physiological arousal compared to listening to heavy metal music or sitting in silence.
9. Play with a pet
Research indicates that those who are surrounded by animals are comparatively less stressed than their pet-less counterparts. Another study found that an animal’s presence in the working environment both lowers office stress and boosts employee satisfaction.
10. Chew gum
Contrary to what you were scolded for doing in Middle School, chewing gum mitigates stress by increasing blood flow to the proper parts of the brain. A study has linked chewing gum to a reduction in stress levels as well as increased alertness and performance. Another study found that chewing gum assuages negative moods, boosting calmness and contentment whilst shrinking stress.
11. Hug (or kiss) someone
Physical contact, in the form of hugging or kissing, has been linked to reduced stress levels. A study from Carnegie Mellon University suggests that hugging lowers both stress levels and blood pressure. Another study adds to these findings by demonstrating that hugging releases oxytocin—a neurochemical associated with happiness—thus, further decreasing stress. Kissing also does the trick! Science has shown that kissing unleashes chemicals that ease stress hormones in both sexes.
Employ the aforementioned, scientifically supported, stress reducing techniques because not only will your stress levels decrease, but your happiness will increase as well! A study conducted by Harvard University revealed that 25% of our happiness relies on how well we are able to manage stress. These techniques are a win-win!