It's easy to feel cool, calm and collected when things are on the up and up - when we're killing it at work or school, getting those blissful eight hours of sleep each night, our relationships feel stellar, our path feels clear and our political climate feels (somewhat) predicatable.
But what about when we're coping with the tough stuff? Internal battles, relationship struggles and external pressures can combine to feel like the weight of the world is weighing down on our shoulders - making it hard to find our "cool."
One suggestion: tone down the stress and find levity with some playful calming techniques. Yep. A recent study found that being more playful can actually help you live longer.
Here are a few more scientifically proven methods to lighten things up. When the going gets tough, go with the lab coats and test tubes every time.
1. Tune In
Listening to music has a calming effect — but only certain tunes. No electronic, hard rock, punk or hip-hop. Those just rev you up more. Soothing songs that might already be on you playlist include:
• Coldplay’s “Strawberry Swing”
• “Watermark” by Enya
• Adele’s “Someone Like You”
One of the most serenity-inducing songs of all time is “Weightless” by Marconi Union. It was actually composed with input from sound therapists to lower heart rate, blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol. But if you’re a traditionalist and want stress relief unencumbered by the scientific process, try Mozart’s “Canzonetta Sull'aria.”
What makes you laugh? Cat videos on YouTube? Slapstick? Deadpan humor? Satire? Standup comedians? Whatever tickles your funny bone, use it to reduce stress. The physical act of laughing calms your body. It brings in more oxygen, relaxes muscles and boosts blood circulation, all good things to combat stress. Over time, laughter also enhances the immune system, reduces pain and eases clinical depression.
When your anxiety levels rise, turn to your favorite Kevin Hart movie, Weird Al album or Calvin and Hobbes collection. Find something to make you chuckle, and you’ll feel better before you know it. While you’re still grinning, share the joke with others and make their day, too.
3. Get Green
When you get a chance, thank a plant for adding oxygen and removing carbon dioxide from the air. But also give it a nod for reducing stressful feelings. Being around plants is calming, so introduce a few to your surroundings. Don’t go overboard. You don’t want to start worrying about having to water them all.
Greenery that’s especially beneficial indoors includes:
• Aloe plants • Philodendrons • Rubber trees • Snake plants • Spider plants
Not only do these green guys enrich your physical and mental space, they’re also easy to care for. You won’t be saddled with guilt for accidently killing your stress-reliever.
4. Engage in Some Monkey Business
When you’re stressed out, your blood pressure shoots up. You know the long-term effects of this: diuretics, anyone? Eating a healthy diet helps keep blood pressure under control, and a favorite snack of our simian friends is especially helpful. An ordinary banana can have extraordinary effects. The mineral potassium counters the pressure-raising effects of eating too much salt. Baked potatoes, orange juice and yogurt bring on the potassium, too.
5. Act Like a Kid
Ever get jealous of little kids? They have it easy, breezing through life, hitting the playground and skipping through parks.
Though you may no longer comfortably fit on a swing, you will find chewing gum reduces stress. Chewing – quietly of course, you don’t want to bother your coworkers – also helps you feel more alert makes it easier to multitask. Work your jaws, and you can address greeting cards, plan a party and watch your favorite seasonal video, all at the same time.