Pressure and craziness of the holidays got you down? Check out these all-natural soothers that can help you tame tension — all while boosting health!
Mini meditation anxiety-proofs the brain.
Brief, 10-minute meditation breaks lower chronic stress and anxiety levels by 63 percent, reveal Spanish researchers, who credit the strategy with calming the brain region that helps you plan and multitask, so you stay Zen even in high-pressure situations.
Research also shows meditation spurs the release of a focus-enhancing compound (acetylcholine) that clears your head as well as if you’d taken a 90-minute nap.
Reading cuts stress.
Kick back with your favorite novel and University of Minnesota researchers say your stress levels can plummet by 68 percent in just six minutes! The reason? A brief book break fosters calming alpha brain waves, giving you a bigger dose of calm than you’d get from listening to classical music or going for a walk.
Research shows that daily reading sharpens recall and slows brain aging so effectively that it cuts the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 60 percent.
Apple aroma eases muscle tension.
Lighting an apple-scented candle slashes stress levels by 50 percent in two minutes, say experts at Chicago’s Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation. Thanks goes to the sweet aroma, which soothes the parasympathetic nervous system to slow heart rate and relax tense muscles.
What’s more, the aroma of apple is proven to stimulate the brain’s appetite control center, helping you trim your daily calorie intake by 25 percent. Simply light an apple-scented candle during meals.
Gentle rocking lowers cortisol.
Relaxing for 10 minutes in a rocking chair could help you feel 65 percent more peaceful for two hours, suggests a study in Aging Clinical and Experimental Research. That’s because rocking reduces cortisol release — and gently swaying from side to side works if you don’t have a rocking chair!
Swiss researchers also say rocking prompts electrical impulses in the brain that help cut the frequency and length of tension headaches by as much as 45 percent if you do it daily.
A toe-tickle soothes adrenal glands.
The tickly sensation of walking barefoot on plush carpet cuts tension and irritability by 55 percent in five minutes, Korean researchers report. Soft surfaces stimulate acupressure points in feet that cause the adrenals to lower stress hormone production.
A bath delivers 12 hours of calm.
The blissful sensation of slipping into hot water increases your brain’s production of the calming hormone oxytocin by 24 percent in two minutes, report researchers at Brown University. And soaking for 20 minutes can cut stress for up to 12 hours.
A hot bath balances blood sugar more effectively than the same amount of time spent bicycling, UK scientists say. How? When your temperature rises, the body releases proteins that heighten insulin sensitivity so you burn more sugar for fuel.
UCLA research suggests that walking barefoot on fuzzy surfaces every day can lead to a four-point drop in blood pressure, thanks to the dip in the production of artery-tightening stress hormones.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.