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Resolve to Relax and Reduce Stress

Stress-free tips for 2012

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Resolve to Relax and Reduce Stress

There are plenty of little things we can do to reduce stress in our daily lives. Start 2012 in a more relaxed state of mind with these 12 easy stress-reducing tips.

There are plenty of little things we can do to reduce stress in our daily lives. Start 2012 in a more relaxed state of mind with these 12 easy stress-reducing tips.

Get pampered

Go for the traditional: back massages feel good and are proven pain-relief remedies, or the trendy: getting tickled with a feather is now an option at a chain of spas in Spain. However, you don’t have to go as far as Madrid or even to a spa to be pampered; make a deal with your significant other to treat each other to a tickle or a back rub.

Put pen to paper

Expressive writing can reduce stress and make you feel better. In a recent study one group wrote about activities they did that made them feel good and also about how they could increase those feelings. A control group just wrote about their daily activities. The group that did the expressive writing showed a significantly higher sense of satisfaction and lower levels of depression and stress than those in the control group.

Treat yourself to dark chocolate

Eating dark chocolate can help you feel less stressed. In a recent study, research found that participants had reduced levels of stress hormones after two weeks of eating 40 g (1.4 oz) of dark chocolate per day. 

Go to the theatre or take in an art show

A Norwegian study found that people who participate in cultural events are more satisfied with life and have lower levels of anxiety and depression. It doesn’t matter if the participation is active (as the artist) or passive (as a member of the audience or a volunteer). Furthermore, the positive effects increase with the number of events attended.

Find some green space

City dwellers have a greater risk of developing depression and anxiety. In fact, the stress of city life seems to permanently change the brain. Recent research shows that areas of the brain responded more to stress in the participants who grew up in a city or who currently live in one. If you can’t get away to find some anxiety-calming nature to help relieve your stress, look for a spot of nature within the city.

Make plans

Psychologist Robert Epstein conducted an online survey regarding stress, and found that the most effective tool for managing stress is planning. Knowing what we are doing tomorrow, next month, and even over the next few years gives us a feeling of control and prevents us from getting into stressful situations in the first place.

Paint your room

Colour trends may come and go (remember avocado-coloured kitchen appliances in the 1970s?), but the effect certain colours have on our mood is perennial. Cool colours such as blues, greens, and lavenders are thought to make us feel relaxed, while warm tones such as reds, oranges, and yellows are believed to stimulate.

Stand up straight

Adopting a powerful stance (head up, shoulders back, chest out) increases the levels of testosterone in the body and decreases the stress hormone, cortisol. This leads to a greater feeling of confidence and control. Researchers also found that standing in this dominant posture decreased a person’s sensitivity to pain.

Eat mood-boosting foods

Carbohydrates contain tryptophan, which boosts the levels of serotonin in the brain. Studies show that an imbalance in serotonin levels may influence mood or lead to depression. The tryptophan in carbohydrates is more easily absorbed than the tryptophan found in protein-rich foods such as poultry. Choosing complex rather than simple carbohydrates keeps blood sugar levels stable, helping you feel more balanced throughout the day. 

Seek out peace and quiet

Exposure to noise can increase blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of stress hormones. Studies have linked traffic noise with an increased risk of heart attacks and also a greater risk of strokes in people over the age of 65. Even when we’re sleeping, our blood pressure increases when we hear noise, even if we don’t wake up.

Take a tea break

Drinking black tea reduces the levels of cortisol after a stressful event and can make you feel more relaxed. In a recent study participants consumed either four cups of black tea per day or a placebo. After performing a stressful task the tea drinkers had lower levels of cortisol and reported feeling calmer than those in the placebo group.

Watch a comedy with friends

Research shows that laughing out loud with a group of people benefits us much more than laughing alone or just feeling pleasure. Contagious laughter that we experience in a group triggers the release of endorphins. Other studies show that the mere anticipation of laughing out loud increases endorphin levels and decreases stress hormones.


Immune boosters

One of the effects of stress is a weakened immune system. The following vitamins and minerals can give you a boost.

  • vitamin A
  • vitamin B6
  • vitamin C
  • selenium
  • magnesium
  • iron

Mood-boosting supplements

  • Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce anxiety and may be useful for depression.
  • Folic acid (folate) helps to maintain levels of serotonin in the brain.
  • Vitamins B6 and B12 may be useful for depression. Vitamin B6 affects the rate at which the brain converts tryptophan to serotonin.
  • Vitamin D may be helpful for those with seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
  • St. John’s wort may lessen anxiety and insomnia and moderate forms of depression.
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