It's probably safe to say we could all benefit from a bit less stress in our lives. But if the mere thought of finding ways to minimize it tends to cause even more, fear not. Here are five surprisingly simple yet effective things you can do to keep everyday stress at bay:
It might sound too good to be true since it’s so easy, but simply taking a few mindful breaths can trigger the body’s natural relaxation response including lowering your heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and releasing muscle tension. It’s actually so universally effective, the experts at the American Institute of Stress call it the “Super Stress Buster” and recommend it for everyone — even kids.
Laughter may not be the best medicine for every ailment, but it’s good medicine for most things. In fact, in a comprehensive review of studies on the benefits of laughter, it was found to have physiological, psychological, social, spiritual, and general quality-of-life benefits — so much so that the researchers recommended using it as an alternative therapy for preventing and treating disease. In regards to stress, laughing lowers cortisol (your body’s stress hormone) and boosts hormones called endorphins, which relieve stress and boost your mood.
Bathe in nature.
Shinrin yoku, or “forest bathing,” has become increasingly popular (and even prescribed by health professionals) in Japan over the past few years for its beneficial impacts on stress levels. It’s not too surprising since a good, old-fashioned walk in the woods has always been appreciated for its ability to calm the nerves. And the science backs it up. A recent meta-analysis investigated whether forest bathing, defined by the authors “as staying in a forest, either walking or simply resting and watching it, and taking in its air for a specified amount of time" could really can significantly reduce levels of stress. Not only did they find rather conclusively that cortisol levels were significantly lower after forest bathing, they also noticed an "anticipatory effect" — that is, people’s cortisol levels dropped at the mere mention that they were going to take part in forest bathing.
And, don’t worry if you can’t take the proverbial plunge whenever tensions rise. The mental health benefits of being around green spaces, in general, are also receiving growing attention from scientists. And, other research shows that simply bringing a little nature indoors increases happiness, too.
Having good manners makes those around you feel better, but truly being grateful and practicing a mindset of gratitude makes you feel better. And it’s not just warm fuzzies. It leads to scientifically validated stress benefits (among other things). Studies show people who experience gratitude can cope more effectively with everyday stress, and have increased resilience in the face of trauma‐induced stress, and enjoy more robust health in general.
Feed your ECS.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is your internal superhero. It’s a relatively recently discovered family of molecules, receptors, and enzymes now known as the “master regulator” of the body — woven throughout the central nervous system and peripheral tissues, maintaining homeostasis (balance) across all of our physiological processes. Not surprisingly given its ubiquity, it plays a key regulatory role in the body’s stress response mechanisms. And, one of the most buzzworthy supplements in the natural therapy landscape, cannabidiol (CBD) can play a vital role in supporting your ECS. At least two studies using a simulated public speaking test to induce stress have found that CBD reduced its symptoms.