Boost your joy and silence your worries with these simple strategies proven to help you breeze through even your busiest day with ease.
Bird watching cuts stress by 70 percent.
Gazing out your window at starlings flitting by or hanging a bird feeder in your yard to attract blue jays can do wonders for your well-being. Just a glimpse of birds — whether you live in a city or the countryside — makes you three times less likely to have anxiety and 70 percent less likely to experience stress. According to a study in the journal BioScience, birds deepen your connection to nature, triggering a relaxation effect.
Clear your head with a breath of fresh air.
For a quick pick-me-up when you’re feeling overwhelmed, step outside and relax on your patio or a park bench. Boston University investigators discovered that getting as little as 15 minutes of fresh air and sunshine soothes the mind, prodding the creation of calming brain waves that elevate your mood by 30 percent.
Sharpen your focus with gentle yoga stretches.
When you’re worried, it can be hard to focus on anything other than what’s bothering you. Luckily, a few simple stretches is all it takes to heighten your concentration. Researchers reporting in the journal Mindfulness found that practicing yoga for 25 minutes improves your ability to plan and complete tasks by an impressive 65 percent. That’s because light, easy movement increases blood flow to the brain, allowing it to better tune out mental distractions.
Stash your phone away.
If you’re struggling to brainstorm ideas for a church fund-raiser, stash your phone in another room or your purse while you work. University of Texas at Austin scientists say when your phone is within reach, the brain expends energy trying not to check your messages, which drains your mental resources, making it hard to maintain your focus.
Up your energy by donning a red jacket.
Instead of reaching for another cup of coffee when worry saps your energy, throw on a crimson jacket or ruby scarf. Gazing at the color red can boost your vim and vigor by 31 percent. University of Rochester researchers report the fiery color activates the area of the brain responsible for taming fatigue.
Stop and smell the roses.
Inhaling the sweet, fragrant scent of in-season fall roses revitalizes the central nervous system, scientists at Chicago’s Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation explain, significantly increasing your pep in as little as five minutes.
Sleep soundly with a mug of lemon balm tea.
Tension leftover from a hectic day can leave you tossing and turning when it’s time to hit the hay. Your natural deep-sleep Rx: a comforting cup of lemon balm tea. This minty herb is packed with soothing compounds (citronellal and geranial) that help you doze off more quickly and clock an extra 25 minutes of sound slumber per night.
Write down to-do’s.
To quiet a busy mind, list the chores you need to check off the following day. A study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found doing so before bed breaks your worry cycle so you fall asleep nine minutes faster.
Create calm with a slice of apple pie.
Here’s another reason to stop by a farmers market: Savoring an apple when your nerves are jangled helps you feel 52 percent calmer in five minutes. Scientists at Chicago’s Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation say that a unique compound (malic acid) in this fall fruit triggers the release of mood-boosting endorphins.
Wear fuzzy socks.
Cozying up with something soft activates sensitive nerves in the skin that speed the production of the calming hormone oxytocin, Yale University researchers explain, helping you relax within 12 minutes.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.