Today is National Relaxation Day.
Relaxation is good because it reduces stress. Chronic stress is bad because it leads to weight gain, increases blood pressure, and makes us depressed.
Here are 10 ways to make sure all those bad things don’t happen.
1. Listen to the most relaxing song on Earth.
In a study paid for by Radox Spa, stress specialists found that “Weightless” by Manchester band Marconi Union helped women relax more than songs by Enya, Mozart, and Coldplay. “A continuous rhythm of 60 BPM causes the brainwaves and heart rate to synchronise with the rhythm: a process known as ‘entrainment,'” according to ShortList.com.
2. Have a makeout session.
Kissing releases chemicals of oxytocin that reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, according a study presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2009.
3. Watch a funny movie.
Laughter is a proven stress-buster. One study published in 2009 in the journal Humour found that laughter is effective at reducing psychological stress. That’s because people who laugh appear to have lower levels of cortisol, which increases in response to stress.
4. Take a yoga class.
Studies show that yoga — through a combination of controlled breathing and specific poses that relax your muscles — reduces anxiety, depression, and fatigue. In a study of 50 medical students, scientists found that yoga led to higher test scores as a result of improved concentration, lowered irritability levels, and a more upbeat outlook on life.
5. Eat chocolate.
According to Anna Magee, co-author of the The De-Stress Diet, research has shown that 40 grams of dark chocolate a day can help us cope with stress by releasing “happy chemicals” known as beta endorphins in the brain.
6. Create a “mental trigger.”
This is something in your head that will snap you into a calm state, usually before engaging in a particularly strenuous activity. The method is described in the “The Art of Learning” by Josh Waitzkin as spontaneous relaxation.
“A physiological connection is formed between the routine and the activity it precedes,” Waitzkin, a Tai Chi grandmaster, writes. The routine is anything that you perceive as calming — taking a bath, listening to music, or sitting on a bench, for example. During brief recovery periods, pro-athletes will use this technique to quickly wind-down before jumping back into the game.
7. Get a pet.
Studies show that people with companion animals, including dogs and cats, have lower blood pressure and are more chilled out when comforted by a furry friend.
8. Grab a drink.
9. Chew gum.
Whatever the flavour, studies find that chewing gum lowers stress levels and improves concentration because it reduces the amount of cortisol in the saliva.
10. Ignore your phone.
At least if it doesn’t involve work. Research from the British Psychological Society found that compulsively checking text messages, alerts, and updates made people really stressed out.
People benefited from using their smartphone to manage work load but once they began using it for personal things, the “work load management benefits [were] displaced by the pressure to keep abreast with their new expanded virtual social life,” according to researchers.