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5 Daily Habits That Can Reduce Stress and Anxiety

3. Go outside at lunchtime.

Key points

  • Consciously attending to ourselves for just a few minutes can make a bigger difference than we think.
  • Questioning your beliefs about what others think of you can help you see through unhelpful negative assumptions.
  • Staying close to your experience promotes mindful awareness, which cuts through unnecessary stress.
Stratford Productions/Adobe Stock
Source: Stratford Productions/Adobe Stock

Small, simple actions can make a big difference to our well-being when we do them consistently. Find greater peace each day with these five practices.

1. Tell Yourself Good Morning

Most mornings our minds are off and running before our bodies have even left the bed. This habitual disconnection from ourselves creates a background buzz of unease, which often persists the entire day. Conversely, coming back to ourselves is inherently calming.

Before you get out of bed in the morning, tune in to your body and breath. Take three slow breaths, feeling how it moves the body. Check in with yourself and see how you’re doing. You can return to this grounded mind-body union throughout the day.

2. Check Your Mind Reading

Thoughts about what others are thinking often drive our stress and anxiety, as we’re prone to imagine the worst:

  • Our partner is quiet and we assume they’re mad at us.
  • The audience looks sleepy and we think they hate our talk.
  • We blush and then believe everyone thinks we’re stupid and awkward.

In cognitive-behavioral therapy, this thought pattern is called a “cognitive distortion” because most of the time others are thinking better of us than we fear, if they’re thinking of us at all.

Pick one time each day to notice when you’re mind reading, and ask yourself if it’s possible that the other person’s thoughts are more benign.

3. Go Outside at Lunchtime

Eat outside, take a short walk with a friend or co-worker, sit and watch the clouds—anything to spend a few minutes outdoors. Leave your phone inside and take in your surroundings, including things close and things far away. The fresh air and change of perspective will boost your spirits and reduce stress for longer than you might expect—at least until the end of the workday, as research has shown (Sianoja et al., 2018). If lunchtime isn’t feasible, choose another time that works for you.

4. Feel Water

Most of us touch water many times a day but rarely do we really feel it. Paying attention to the sensations of touching water is a common part of mindfulness practices because it brings us into the moment with greater awareness.

Choose one wet activity to really pay attention to: being in the bath or shower, washing your hands, doing the dishes, bathing your child. Feel the water as if you’ve never felt it before.

5. Celebrate Your Wins

Our minds are good at recalling our losses and disappointments, while our joys and victories are easily forgotten. As a result, it can seem like our days are mostly bad.

Before you go to bed at night, write down three things that went well. Be specific—for example, “Made a great eggplant Parmesan” rather than “Made a nice dinner”—so the memories are as vivid as possible. Pay special attention to wins where you clearly played a role, which strengthens your sense of self-efficacy.

Facebook/LinkedIn image: Dasha Petrenko/Shutterstock

References

Sianoja, M., Syrek, C. J., de Bloom, J., Korpela, K., & Kinnunen, U. (2018). Enhancing daily well-being at work through lunchtime park walks and relaxation exercises: Recovery experiences as mediators. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 23, 428-442. doi:10.1037/ocp0000083

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