You don’t have to spend a fortune to counteract the stressful effects of a busy lifestyle. Advertisers would have you believe that the only way to truly destress is to spend thousands on a vacation or buy the latest product that is supposed to streamline your life. In reality, the least expensive ways of relaxing are the best as you will be practicing real self-care and won’t have an enormous bill to add to your list of worries. Here are four ways to unwind that are completely free:
Walk in Nature
Take a long walk somewhere scenic. Walking in nature lowers cortisol levels and blood pressure and may even help people who suffer from depression. Researchers in London found that people who live in areas with a higher density of trees were less likely to require antidepressants. If you live in an area that’s lacking natural spaces, finding a nature trail or park to take a walk several times a week will improve your mood. To derive even more benefit from a nature walk, leave distracting electronic devices like phones and iPods at home and spend the time thinking about all the things you’re thankful for while taking in the beauty of nature.
Take a Bath
Give yourself a spa treatment at home. Instead of rushing through a shower, pull all your luxurious bath products out of the cupboard and have a nice long soak. Baths reduce stress levels, aid sleep and soothe muscle tension. Add some Epsom salts to restore magnesium levels which are decreased by stress.
Visualize a Peaceful Place
If you can’t get away for a walk, visualize a peaceful scene instead. Visualization has been shown to lower anxiety and lessen chronic pain. Patients who are taught to visualize need lower levels of pain medications than those who aren’t taught visualization techniques.
To begin, make yourself comfortable in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed, breath deeply and imagine yourself in a peaceful place that you enjoy. Imagine as many sensations from your scene as possible, like the scents, textures, and sounds that are present. If you have trouble imagining a peaceful scene on your own, there are several free resources online for guided visualization that will walk you through the process.
The gamma brain waves produced by laughter are similar to those produced by meditation, which increases clarity of mind. Laughter also inhibits cortisol production and triggers the release of several good chemicals, including endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine which cause feelings of relaxation and happiness.
Making an effort to focus on positive things increases happiness and reduces stress because the aspects of life you pay most attention to will have the most effect on your mental well-being. Instead of reading upsetting news stories and focusing on all the negative aspects of life, give yourself a break and read a humorous story, watch funny animal videos, or phone a friend who always makes you laugh.
Stress can never be avoided completely, but how we cope with it is up to us. Experiment with these ideas and come up with some of your own to reduce your levels of stress without spending a dime.