Advertisement

Tie up a loose end

Tie up a loose end
Getty Images

Taking care of some undone task that’s been hanging over your head can soothe difficult emotions and boost your mood, according to psychologist, Dr Alice Boyes. Loose ends create a sense of disarray and as they pile up, they become demoralising. “Addressing a problem that has been hanging around forever can help you feel more in control and confident,” writes Boyes. “Identify a task you started, but didn’t finish, one which could be completed in less than 30 minutes – ideally, less than 15,” then handle it. Ah, near-instant relief.

Try progressive muscle relaxation

Try progressive muscle relaxation
Getty Images

Stress and anxiety create tension in your muscles. One way to break that tension and improve your mood quickly is a strategy called progressive muscle relaxation. The way it works: simply tense one group of muscles – such as those in your face or hands– as you inhale, then relax them as you exhale. Then move on to the next group.

Or you could try these 12 breathing exercises to help you relax in minutes.

Take a coffee break

Take a coffee break
Getty Images

For coffee-lovers, sometimes all it takes to feel instantly better is walking in the door of a café, and getting hit in the face by that warm scent of java. It’s not just the pleasurable smell and taste of coffee that makes folks feel good – caffeine is a powerful mood-booster. A study of more than 50,000 women by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that caffeine acts as a mild antidepressant by increasing production of feel-good brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine.

Read on for the scientific secret behind the perfect cup of coffee.

Bake some cookies

Bake some cookies
Getty Images

…or just light a vanilla-scented candle: the fragrance of vanilla may trigger the release of feel-good endorphins in the brain. One study at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center found that a sweet, vanilla scent lowered patients’ anxiety while undergoing MRI scans. In research published in the journal Chemical Senses in 2005, study subjects reported feeling happy and relaxed after smelling vanilla. Easy ways to keep vanilla handy when you need it: stress-relief candles that contain the fragrance, vanilla-scented hand lotion, and essential oils to diffuse the scent into any room.

Check out these other genius uses for essential oils in your home.

Let it go

Let it go
Getty Images

Sometimes struggling against a difficult emotion or blue mood makes it feel even worse. “Telling yourself that a certain emotion is intolerable or dangerous traps you,” writes professor of psychology, Dr Noam Shpancer. “You become hyper-vigilant about any possibility of this feeling arising.” Accepting the reality of your feelings, while not diving into and wallowing in them does the opposite – and it’s a key tenet of a type of psychotherapy called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. “Acceptance is implicitly akin to saying, ‘This is not that bad.’ Which is the truth – negative emotions may not be fun, but they won’t kill you,” says Dr Shpancer. “Experiencing them as they are is eventually much less of a drag than the ongoing (failing) attempt to avoid them.”

Make a stress ball

Make a stress ball
Shutterstock

Social worker, Tammie Rosenbloom, has found that some of her clients are tactile and like to use sensations as a way to calm themselves. So she has them make stress balls by placing rice and essential oils like lavender into a balloon. “The action of squeezing a stress ball gives people a way to expel nervous energy. Others report it improves their concentration,” she tells Reader’s Digest.

Don’t miss these weird symptoms you didn’t know were linked to stress.

Advertisement

Touch and be touched

Touch and be touched
Getty Images

A quick hug, or even some friendly shoulder-patting sets off a cascade of reactions in the body that lead to a calmer, happier state of mind. Not only does a supportive touch lower blood pressure and slows down your heart rate, it just plain feels good, Dr Matt Hertenstein. “A soft touch on the arm makes the orbital frontal cortex light up,” the same area of the brain that reacts to good aromas and sugary foods, Dr Hertenstein said. “So, touch is a very powerful rewarding stimulus – just like your chocolate that you find in your cupboard at home.”

Sniff something pepperminty

Sniff something pepperminty
Getty Images

Research suggests that breathing in the scent of peppermint can lower blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Other studies show that sniffing the minty stuff can increase energy levels and allow exercisers to work out longer and harder. One way to get more mint in your life: put one drop of essential peppermint oil onto a cotton pad, hold it under your nose and breathe normally for a minute or two.

Find out here which herbs can help ease stress.

Switch off your phone…

Switch off your phone…
Getty Images

…and computer, smartwatch and tablet. Numerous mental health experts have warned us of the negative effects of being too ‘plugged in’ – and studies back them up. One 2017 study published in the Depression and Anxiety journal found that adults who use social media frequently are 2.7 times more likely to be depressed than those who don’t. “The latest research demonstratively shows that excessive Internetting, smart phoning and social media make us miserable,” author Blake Snow told Best Life. “Bottomless Internetting causes dopamine loops, which keeps us searching and searching instead of creating and connecting with meaningful things. When I’m feeling down, I always refresh my offline endeavours…This has rarely failed me.”

Run around the block

Run around the block
Getty Images

One of the quickest ways to get the happy juices flowing in your brain is to move your body. Exercise – even just a little bit – increases heart rate, boosts energy, reduces tension and can trigger the release of endorphins in the brain. “I tell all my clients if you can do a quick ten squats wherever you are; at your desk, waiting in a line, or even in while you’re shopping – it will release dopamine and serotonin directly to your brain and you will instantly feel happier and be in a better mood,” Dr Cali Estes told Best Life.  “I find it to be the quickest, cheapest, and most effective way to get that serotonin dopamine boost naturally.”

Read on for the running mistakes you didn’t know you were making.

Never miss a deal again - sign up now!

Connect with us: