Summer is normally the time to relax, but uncertainties these days have left many folks uneasy. Luckily, science proves simple indulgences soften anxiety.
Tip-toe through the tulips.
Fresh air really does lift your spirits! Cornell scientists found that a 10-minute “dose” of the great outdoors was all it took to slash participants’ stress levels. The reason? “Contact with nature flips a ‘cognitive switch,’ or way of thinking, that puts life in perspective by giving us a sense that we are part of something bigger,” says Michael Ungar, Ph.D., author of Change Your World: The Science of Resilience ($13.49, Amazon). Tip: Kick off your shoes. Chopra Center scientists found regularly walking barefoot quashed stress hormones, a mood boost that lasted a month.
Breathe a new way.
Taking deep breaths has many benefits, but new research suggests the trick doesn’t actually lessen anxiety. What does? Breathing in and out slowly through your nose. Not only does nose-breathing effortlessly boost your oxygen intake up to 20 percent, a recent Stanford study found that slowed breathing induces a state of almost instant tranquility.
“Research shows that it is possible to relax the nervous system ‘on demand,’” says Patrick McKeown, author of The Oxygen Advantage ($8.69, Amazon). “When we breathe through the nose, our breathing becomes deeper and slower,” tricking your mind into actually becoming calm. To do: Breathe in through the nose for a count of 4 and out for a count of 6.
Break the worry loop.
Anxious folks who turned to religious or spiritual beliefs to cope with difficulties had 36 percent higher odds of bouncing back and feeling great than folks who did not use spiritual coping, finds new University of Toronto research. Scientists suspect that turning to “belief in a higher power” calms the threat-sensing part of the brain called the amygdala, breaking worry loops in our minds within minutes.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.