Ever feel so busy, that you forget you’re actually alive and how you feel? Well, here are 11 simple ways to relieve stress and feel good daily, while you’re still on your journey – be it a weight loss journey, a new career path, health journey or a very important work project. These things will reduce stress and remind you, it’s ok to actually enjoy the ride, even if you’re not where you want to be yet.
Have you ever had one of those days when you get so insanely overwhelmed with todo’s, that you forget you are actually alive? Or who you actually are?
I know, awesome description. Well, I had quite a few days like that lately. It’s like my whole life consists of doing doing doing. So much that I forget about little things like feeling good, experiencing new things, exploring…or, you know – living.
It’s times like this in life when many of us tend to ignore the simple, but important things in life. The basics. The little things that might not be on the agenda today, but make a whole lot of difference in every aspect of life. Things like for example: Do you feel good today? That, in my opinion, is a basic need.
We’re hard on ourselves about so many things. I saw this quote on Instagram the other day and have no idea whose it is, but it really described how I was feeling at that point.
Isn’t it amazing how people can just read thoughts?
Look, there’s nothing wrong with wanting more from life, but to do’s never end.
If we go through life just “pushing through” until we achieve everything we want, we might end up burnt out and unhappy whether we achieve those dreams or not. It’s a long journey.
Now, all this might sound like it’s coming out of an old-school HR department, but biologically speaking this is very plausible. Because chronic stress, like the one you experience when you’re pushing through all the time, is involved in the development of chronic inflammation in the body (1).
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Because even if you need to get your report done by tomorrow, you don’t actually need to suffer while you’re doing it.
You can unplug and recharge for a minute there. And you’re allowed to feel good while working on your to-do list.
The truth is: whatever you’re going through right now, you can either go through it feeling stressed or feeling well. This is completely your choice.
And in case you choose you want to feel better, this here is a collection of small things you can do daily to reduce stress and to feel good, no matter what’s happening. These are easy, small things that take almost no time or big effort.
Sounds kinda annoying, but if you can’t eat healthy all the time because you’re busy, invest either sometime in making your own smoothie or some money to buy one that’s actually healthy. Drinking even just one smoothie a day can make a difference in the way your body feels immediately. It’s like a huge shot of energy that goes straight to your brain. A smoothie with fruits and vegetables makes you happier, less stressed, smarter and more energetic even according to science. If you don’t have any ideas for a delicious smoothie recipe, start with this very easy recipe for a strawberry smoothie, that I’m sure you’ll love.
2. Finish one little thing you’ve been postponing
This doesn’t have to be a work thing. It could be just paying a bill or cleaning your desk. This thing, no matter how small and insignificant it might be, is hanging in there somewhere on your mind making you a little more stressed than you need to be. But since it doesn’t take much time or effort – just start and finish it.
Cleaning your desk takes max 10 min, I promise you. You’ll be surprised how relieved you can feel after you do this. The next day you do another thing you don’t feel like doing. And then you start feeling better and better. More importantly, you feel in control, which is a super important stress-reliever.
Whether you like exercising or not, it is perhaps the most powerful tool you have against stress and for your mental health. Moderate intensity exercise is linked to improved memory, lower rates of depression and Alzheimer’s disease. (research here)
All great, but I must say, I never really feel like exercising. Even while I am doing it, sometimes I just wanna go to sleep (obviously because I do it first thing in the morning). Here’s the thing: I exercise anyway. Every. Single. Day. And 5 minutes into it I start feeling great. I have more energy, am less cranky and have a more positive outlook on the world.
Now there will be some days when all you can and want to do is stretching. Do it. Don’t feel guilty about it. Don’t think that if you’re not doing a 1h long sweaty workout then it’s not worth it. If it makes your body feel good – do it. Your mind will thank you for that too.
In case you’ve missed it here’s a list of 16 of my favorite 10-minute workout videos. These videos are all free and there’s something for every “fitness” level and taste. As I said, I usually exercise in the morning, but you can do them anytime.
4. Create something
Okay, so this is also a huuuge stress reliever! Instead of sitting in front of the computer, consuming someone else’s work while your eyes are bleeding, you can create something on your own. Letting some creative energy out feels so good, it’s unbelievable.
Definitely, do something that is different from your work. Write, knit, paint, draw, take pictures, play some music, sing or just cook something – it doesn’t have to be perfect or to take a long time. Give yourself 10 minutes and you’ll see the benefit. And nobody needs to see what you’ve made if you don’t want to share it (although they might hear you sing, who cares). Do it for yourself.
5. Smell the flowers
Even if you’re super busy there’s no reason to stop appreciating the beauty and sweet aroma of flowers. In fact there are many reasons to do the exact opposite. Because whether you can take care of a flower or not, flowers have been used for thousands of years to relieve stress. And a few years ago a study showed that a certain odorant in flowers can reduce stress markers in blood (that’s in rats, but hey!). So whether you smell some flowers in the park or just get some flowers in your office or house – it will have a great benefit on your health.
6. Gratitude – 3 things
Every day when you wake up or maybe before you go to bed, say three things you are grateful for. It might be simple things like the smell of the roses, the feeling after a workout, the taste of your food, your family or your body that is functioning and going through all this with you. 3 things. This will help you realize that no matter how many things are going wrong, your situation is not all that bad. And you still have things to be grateful for. Gratitude makes you happier and more positive. Even in patients with chronic inflammatory conditions like arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease a study has shown that gratitude reduces the symptoms of depression – making life better, even if not everything is great.
You know what they say: Laughing is the best (and cheapest) medicine. It can reduce stress levels, boost immunity and make you feel good. So stop taking everything so seriously, look at the funny side of a situation, let go and laugh wholeheartedly. And laughing daily is easy – all you need to do is watch a funny movie, a funny youtube video or look for some funny quotes on Pinterest if you need some funny ideas. Life’s too short to be serious and super-focused all the time.
Music can make you happy, it can make you sad, it can make you aggressive and it can calm you down. Basically music can play with our emotions, anyway, it wants. We’re just puppets on strings.
But I read in one scientific paper that this is exactly the kind of music that can reduce the levels of stress hormone cortisol. More than minor music like for example Beethoven’s Fur Elise – this one actually makes you sad.
Another tip from that science paper: to increase happiness and all its biological markers like endorphin, serotonin, and dopamine listen to pleasant music.
What’s pleasant music?
Well, studies show it’s NOT techno. In fact, techno does all the opposite – raises cortisol levels and reduces endorphin levels. Listen to something light, cheerful or relaxing.
You can find the research here.
9. Be around animals
If you’ve read this post, then you already know petting a dog can improve your immunity. Even if that dog is not alive, but stuffed. I know – that’s sick. Well whether it’s a dog, cat or you’re feeding pigeons in the streets and people hate you for that (guess which one I do), interacting with animals can improve your blood pressure and reduce stress.
10. Go out for a walk in nature
Take some time for a walk in nature. By nature I mean obviously park, if you’re in the city. I aim for 30min, and I try to do it every day. Those minutes could be the most inspiring of your day. You will come up with ideas, find solutions to problems you’ve been trying to figure out for hours, maybe days in your office.
In today’s world we’re so disconnected from the one thing we actually are – nature. But whenever you go back to it, it won’t take long to relax and recharge. I even found some studies that support this. One of them showed how people who go more often for a walk in nature are less depressed and have lower rates of high blood pressure (see study here).
11. Do something nice for someone else
Even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing – be nice to others. Give someone a compliment, give your seat on a bus to a pregnant woman or help an elder person cross the street.
Whatever you decide to do, helping others makes us happy. And no matter how insignificant this act might seem to you, it will put you in better mood, because you just made someone else’s life better today. It’s really a win win.
Even science supports this, showing that kind people are happier and their happiness increases, when they count their acts of kindness throughout the week (see this study).
So do something nice for someone else every day.
And here’s the key in my opinion: expect nothing in return.
It doesn’t have to be anything big or anything that takes too much effort on your side.
Then at the end of the week – remember and count all these acts of kindness. How did it make you feel? Proud, better, happier? More grateful?
And that is it. 11 small things you can do today to reduce stress, feel happy and just enjoy life even if you have 123 to do’s on your list.
One of my biggest mistakes has always been saying: “Well when I’m ready with this, I will take care of myself. I will make my smoothie, I will do my exercises, I will listen to some music and call my friend.”
And this never happens. There’s always more to do. And that’s fine, there will always be more things to do and more dreams to follow. This is what life’s about – progress, movement. That’s what makes us truly happy.
But it’s important that amidst all of this goal pursuing, dream chasing and just living everyday life, we still remember we are alive NOW.
Not after we fulfill our dreams. Right now. Because nothing’s promised. So there’s really no sense in postponing feeling good for the future.
Do something today to make yourself feel better, even if you feel awful and you don’t feel like it and rather spend your time scrolling.
I challenge you to pick 3 (just 3) out of these 11 little things, put them on your daily to-do list and make sure you do them every day.