Go to sleep. We have become a nation of sleep-deprived citizens. Taking a daily nap or getting into bed at 8 p.m. one night with a good book — and turning the light out an hour later — can do more for your mood and outlook on life than any number of bubble baths or massages.
Hum along. Music soothes more than the savage beast. Studies find music activates parts of the brain that produce happiness — the same parts activated by food or sex. It’s also relaxing. In one study older adults who listened to their choice of music during outpatient eye surgery had significantly lower heart rates, blood pressure, and cardiac workload (that is, their heart didn’t have to work as hard) as those who had silent surgery.
Declutter. It’s nearly impossible to meditate, breathe deeply, or simply relax when every surface is covered with papers and bills and magazines, your cabinets bulge, and you haven’t balanced your checkbook in six months. Plus, the repetitive nature of certain cleaning tasks — such as sweeping, wiping, and scrubbing — can be meditative in and of itself if you focus on what you’re doing.
Just say no. Eliminate activities that aren’t necessary and that you don’t enjoy. If there are enough people already to handle the church bazaar and you’re feeling stressed by the thought of running the committee for yet another year, step down and let someone else handle things.
Make a list. There’s nothing like writing down your tasks to help you organize your thoughts and calm your anxiety. Checking off each item provides a great sense of fulfillment.
Do one thing at a time. Edward Suarez, Ph.D., associate professor of medical psychology at Duke, found that people who multitask are more likely to have high blood pressure. Take that finding to heart. Instead of talking on the phone while you fold laundry or clean the kitchen, sit down in a comfortable chair and turn your entire attention over to the conversation. Instead of checking e-mail as you work on other projects, turn off your e-mail function until you finish the report you’re writing. This is similar to the concept of mindfulness.
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