Live Happy

Reduced Stress

Pamper Yourself!
By Cleveland Clinic Wellness Editors 
Published 4/13/2011 
Decrease text size Increase text size

8 ways to unwind, relax and enjoy life!

#1 Take time to sit quietly

Wish you meditated regularly? Put a cushion, a candle and a timer in a quiet area — with your space already set up, all you have to do is sit.

Research shows that meditating for 20 minutes four times a week can provide significant benefit to your mental and physical health, but finding that time on a regular basis isn’t exactly easy. To pave your way to a regular practice, pick a quiet part of your home and set up everything you need to meditate — a cushion or a set of folded blankets, a timer and perhaps a candle. Then, when you find yourself with a few extra minutes on your hands, you’ll only have to sit down to begin your practice. And once you’re sitting, you’ll be more likely to stay for a while.

#2 Make your own aromatherapy

Natural spirit lifter: Place oranges studded with whole cloves in a bowl in your living room, and tuck one in the cupholder of your car.

According to aromatherapy, the essential oils of citrus fruits are bliss in a bottle. To make your own citrus aromatherapy, place several whole cloves in the skin of an orange (you’ll release some of the aromatic oils of an orange peel by piercing it with the cloves). Then stack several of these oranges in a clear bowl and place them in your home or office where you’ll be able to smell the scent regularly. A bonus: The scent of cloves is considered to be warming.

#3 Drift off to sea

Stressed? Relax by resting a palm on the center of your breastbone, home of the acupressure point known as the Sea of Tranquillity.

When you feel your stress levels spiraling out of control, bring the soles of both feet to the floor, sit up tall and lay a palm on the center of your breastbone. This spot is home to the acupressure point known as the Sea of Tranquillity. According to traditional Chinese medicine, stimulating this point deepens your breathing, which calms the nerves and promotes the relaxation response. Stay here, breathing naturally, until you feel your inhales and exhales lengthen, then gently remove your hand. Stimulating this point can also help you fall back asleep when you wake up in the middle of the night: Simply lie on your back with one palm resting on the center of your breastbone and breathe regularly until you feel yourself start to drift back off.

#4 Expand your network of friends

Make time for making friends. Socializing stimulates the reward center of our brain. The more support we have, the better life feels.

If you can’t remember the last time you struck up a conversation with a stranger or mingled at a party, it’s time to kick your wallflower tendencies to the curb. People who have a large network of friends experience life as more rewarding and stimulating. Having a strong but small group of people to lean on yields greater overall satisfaction as well. If shyness keeps you from reaching out to others, consider joining a group, volunteering or taking a class, where you’ll share a common goal and interest.

#5 Practice smart splurges

Indulging in some retail therapy? To boost your mood, skip material objects and buy an experience, like dinner or a manicure instead.

Shopping for happiness? Steer clear of the mall. According to a recent study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, retail therapy may be able to cheer you up, but only if you’re spending your money on an experience rather than a product. Purchasing material things like a fabulous outfit or widescreen TV can make us second-guess our choice and lead to less satisfaction. However, buying something like a massage, an evening out with the family or a vacation tends to leave people happier in the end.

#6 Allow yourself a tasty treat

Conquer your cravings with dark chocolate. Research shows it can satisfy our sweet tooth better than milk chocolate can — and it’s more filling. 

Here’s a piece of news we can sink our teeth into: A small study at the University of Copenhagen found that dark chocolate was better than milk chocolate at satisfying a sweet tooth. Those who ate the dark confection reported feeling fuller for longer, ate fewer calories at their next meal and had fewer cravings afterward than those who ate the milk chocolate. Dark chocolate is loaded with heart-healthy antioxidants called flavanols that may help lower blood pressure. Some studies have shown an association with chocolate intake and reduced risks for heart disease and stroke. But that doesn’t mean chocolate is a health food that you can nosh on at will. Treat yourself to no more than a small square (about an ounce) of dark chocolate a day to satisfy your cravings and fill up on antioxidants.

#7 Stay in bed longer

How to look more attractive: Spend more time in bed. A new study shows people are rated better-looking when they are getting enough sleep.

Turns out, there really is such a thing as beauty rest. To look your most attractive, the best thing you can do is get a good night’s sleep. That’s according to a study published in the British Medical Journal, which found people were rated better-looking when they had received a full night’s sleep. Observers also ranked sleep-deprived volunteers as being less healthy and more tired looking. According to the study’s authors, people are programmed to pick up on exhaustion and may be less attracted to it, because of the health problems and lower life expectancy associated with long-term sleep deprivation. Besides being bad for your appearance, lack of sleep has been linked to a higher risk of hypertension, weight gain, diabetes and heart disease. Set aside plenty of time each night for rest. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, talk to your family doctor.

#8 Indulge in a massage

Work out your kinks and your stress with a massage. Rubdowns help lower stress hormones and may even boost the immune system.

Massages aren’t just good for muscle tension — they can help wipe out stress and anxiety too. Research suggests that rubdowns may elicit the relaxation response — a physical state of deep rest that releases tension in muscles, slows down breathing, and decreases heart rate and blood pressure. These physiological changes can help reduce the effects of stress on the body and change how we react emotionally to pressure. In other words, it can help take the edge off. Many massage therapy schools offer free or reduced-rate rubdowns so students can hone their skills. Look online or in the yellow pages for massage schools in your area.

Get Your Daily Tip
Start living healthier with our FREE daily wellness tips!
Stress Free Now
Experience more joy and less stress! Finally, a program that will truly change your life.

Tell Me More