Feeling stressed? You aren’t alone. Stress affects everyone in a different way, and studies have shown that high levels of stress can contribute to depression, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, asthma and many other conditions. While it is something you can’t get rid of permanently, here AsapSCIENCE presents seven simple tips backed by science to reduce stress right now.

7. Laugh Out Loud

People say laughter is the best medicine. Turns out, it’s also one of the best stress-relief medicines. When you laugh, oxygen intake in your body increases, and this in turn stimulates the release of chemicals known as endorphins. Endorphins interact with the opiate receptors in your brain that reduce perception of pain. Also, similar to drugs such as morphine and codeine, endorphins create a positive state of mind and self-confidence.

Studies have shown that even waiting to see a funny movie increases beta endorphin levels by 27% and decreases stress hormone levels in the bloodstream. Also, watching a hilarious movie reduces levels of the stress related hormone Chromogranin A (CgA) in your saliva.

Sources: Holistic Nursing PracticeJournal of Korean Academy Nursing

6. Make Out

Study suggests kissing decreases cortisol, the primary stress hormone, and increases oxytocin from the pituitary gland in the brain creating feelings of attachment, bonding, contentment and security. Well of course, forming a happy relationship with your partner is one of the most efficient ways to help reduce stress and anxiety. Also, it has been shown that those who kiss their partners regularly over six weeks have lower blood cholesterol level.

Source: Western Journal of Communication

5. Chew Gum

Chewing gum might help your breath, but a study at Rissho University in Tokyo, Japan also found that participants who chewed twice a day for two weeks increased their feelings of well-being. Other participants who chewed gum while being subjected to a stress inducing task also showed lower levels of cortisol in their saliva than those who didn’t have gum.

Chewing gum helps relieve stress and anxiety, not because of the ingredients in the gum, but simply from the act of chewing known as mastication. The process of mastication is directly related to increased activity in the cerebral area of the brain and relaxation.

Sources: Physiology & BehaviorClinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health

4. Spend Time in Nature

If you’re feeling sluggish, head for the trees. Studies found that time spent in nature or even a simple house plant can lower levels of cortisol, hence reducing stress. Also in 1982, the Japanese government started a Shinrin-yoku (a.k.a “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing”) campaign which encourages people to take a short, leisurely visit to a forest for health benefits.

In another study, researchers found that participants who just made a short visit to the forest had lower cortisol levels, heart rate, and blood pressure compared to those in the city. Even hospital patients who have a view of nature tend to have better pain tolerance and faster recovery rates compared to those who faced only a blank wall. Even looking at trees can give you the same benefit.

Sources: Shinrin-YokuPublic HealthAssociation of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs

3. Perform Rituals

Relaxation from tea may seem like a placebo, but it turns out that the anticipation of a ritual linked with relaxing emotions may very well be a self-fulfilling prophecy. In other words, if you’re expecting your favorite calming tea or relaxing scented oils would help you relax; your brain makes your situation seem more amenable and actually influences well-being. Of course, preparedness is a key prevention effort for stress. Having the belief that a certain action (like having tea or whatever) will help you reduce stress may actually help you reduce stress.

The amygdala in the brain plays a primary role in emotional control, processing memory and is directly connected to out olfactory system. Inhaling a candle scent, reminiscent of a happy childhood time – like warm apple pie – may very well help us relive those memories and create a better mood.

Sources: Neuroscience & Biobehavioral ReviewsPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin

2. Listen to Music

Music can have a profound effect on our minds and bodies. Studies have shown listening to music can also reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels in both healthy individuals and people with health problems. Also songs with 60 to 80 beats per minute but no lyrics have been shown to reduce stress even in patients who have undergone various types of surgeries. Moreover, listening to soothing music has been shown to decrease blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety levels in heart patients.

Sources: PLOS ONECochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

1. Get a Dog

Having a dog can affect health in many ways, and can be of great comfort, especially in hours of loneliness and pain. Studies have even shown that dog owners are less stressed out, and are more likely to lead active lives than those without one. Also, if you have trouble sleeping, share a bed with your pet.

Sources: Journal of Veterinary Behaviour, The Journals of Gerontology. Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences

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