Making resolutions for the new year is a 4,000-year old tradition, so if you’re hoping to make 2014 the year you get healthier, fitter, or happier, you have about four millennia worth of company. To help you on your way, we’ll be posting 10 science-backed action steps for a popular resolution every day through January 12. Be sure to check back for hints and tips to kick off your best year yet!

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Reduce Stress

Feeling crazy stressed, super tense, and stretched too thin? You’re not alone. A whopping 70 percent of Americans experience physical or emotional symptoms of at some point. Nip stress in the bud, or at least reduce its effects, with these tips.

1. Meditate.

Quieting the mind has been shown to relieve stressMindfulness-based stress reduction, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and Zen meditation for depression, anxiety, pain, and psychological distress. Marchand WR. Journal of Psychiatric Practice. 2012 Jul;18(4):233-52.. And because it can be done so many different ways, from sitting to walking to chanting or even dancing, it’s one of the most versatile stress reduction techniques around.

2. Start LOLing.

Hearty laughter is more than fun; it’s also therapeutic, having been shown to have positive effects on relationships, physical health, stress response, and fatigueLaughter and depression: hypothesis of pathogenic and therapeutic correlation. Fonzi L, Matteucci G, Bersani G. Riv Psichiatr. 2010 Jan-Feb;45(1):1-6.A case of laughter therapy that helped improve advanced gastric cancer. Noji S, Takayanagi K. The Journal of the Japan Hospital Association. 2010 Jul;(29):59-64.Effects of laughter therapy on postpartum fatigue and stress responses of postpartum women. Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing. 2011 Jun;41(3):294-301.

3. Move your bod.

The rush of endorphins (your brain’s “feel-good transmitters”) that comes after vigorous exercise is also known as the runner’s high. Whether it manifests as calm or a feeling of euphoria, either one offers stress relief.

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4. Chill with Fido.

Become a Corgi-lover or a cat fan because spending quality time with a pet has been shown to activate oxytocin, a hormone that lowers stressPsychophysiological effects of human-animal interaction: theoretical issues and long-term interaction effects. Virués-Ortega J, Buela-Casal G. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 2006 Jan;194(1):52-7..

5. Get a massage.

Not only does a rub-down feel darn fantastic, it’s also a
proven way to reduce stressPhysiological responses to touch massage in healthy volunteers. Lindgren L, Rundgren S, Winsö O, et al. Autonomic Neuroscience, 2010 Dec 8;158(1-2):105-10..

6. Listen to music.

Get grooving because music chills us out.From music-beat to heart-beat: a journey in the complex interactions between music, brain and heart. Cervellin G, Lippi G. European Journal of Internal Medicine, 2011 Aug;22(4):371-4. Go for the classic(al) stuff; it’s been specifically shown to reduce anxiety, anger, and stress.Coping with stress: the effectiveness of different types of music. Labbé E, Schmidt N, Babin J, et al. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 2007 Dec;32(3-4):163-8..

7. Get in touch with your inner yogi.

Restorative yoga is all about stillness and being calm. Study participants who practiced it experienced positive changes, both for their mental health and their quality of life.Restorative yoga for women with ovarian or breast cancer: findings from a pilot study. Danhauer SC, Tooze JA, Farmer DF, et al. Society for Integrative Oncology, 2008 Spring;6(2):47-58..

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8. Get creative.

Grab some supplies and
start creating. In studies, art therapy (a program that involves creating art to explore feelings, reduce anxiety, improve self-esteem, and work through conflict) has been shown to reduce stressArt therapy may be beneficial for reducing stress–related behaviours in people with dementia–case report. Mimica N, Kalinić D. Psychiatria Danubina, 2011 Mar;23(1):125-8.. If you don’t have access to an art therapy provider, consider taking on some creativity-boosting habits.

9. Take five.

Make a habit of treating yourself to five minutes of relaxation a day, even if you have to schedule it in your calendar and set a reminder. If you have a few moments to look out the window or take a quick, mindful stroll around the block, you have time to de-stress.

10. Have sex or masturbate!

Good-feeling and good for you, sex and masturbation have been shown to make people less reactive to stressful situationsBlood pressure reactivity to stress is better for people who recently had penile-vaginal intercourse than for people who had other or no sexual activity. Brody S. Biological Psychology, 2006 Feb;71(2):214-22..

If you’ve resolved to beat stress in the new year, tell us what tips you’ll use to chill out in 2014. Let us know in the comments below or get in touch with us on Twitter.