Navigated to null
Skip To Main

Stress Buster Add-On Guide

Techniques like breathwork and meditation are far from the only ways you can get the health benefits of activating your body’s parasympathetic nervous system. Activities that pass the mindfulness muster are those that help you slow your breathing, your heart rate, and your mind by keeping you focused on the present moment. Here are five science-backed approaches that we love.

Write it all down

While traditional meditation and breathwork tend to ask you to clear your mind of thoughts, journaling has you writing down whatever you’re thinking. Because you can’t write about more than one thing at a time, this has the same effect of helping to quiet the chatter of multiple thoughts that can trigger the stress response. In fact, studies show that journaling on just about any topic can help reduce symptoms of stress

You don’t need to write pages and pages, either. Ten minutes of writing when you wake up or when you go to bed can be more than sufficient. If you’re having trouble knowing where to start, answering a simple question—like what stood out to you the most about your day or three things you’re grateful for—can be helpful. If you’re finding yourself really enjoying the process, AllSwell Creative is a great resource for building your practice.

Be Grateful

Gratitude practices have been in the news a lot in recent years, as research on their benefits keeps building. Like journaling, they work because they keep your mind in one lane of thought. The fact that they focus your attention on something positive appears to amplify their good effects. To get started, take some time each day to write down three things that you appreciate. They can be anything—people, things that happened to you that day, things you read or saw, or ideas you feel strongly about. In addition to the traditional pen-to-paper approach, you can try an app, like Three Good Things (Apple/Android).

Curate a Playlist

Studies have shown that music can be an extremely effective stressbuster. That’s because when we listen to music, we have a natural tendency to synch our breathing and movements to the beat of the song, and when that beat is slow and relaxing, it can slow your breathing, heart rate, and brainwaves. 

For some help getting a playlist started, a British study set out to find the top 10 most relaxing songs based on science. "Weightless," by Manchester Band Marconi Union topped the list, scoring so well (slowing heart rate by 35%) that the researchers cautioned people not to drive when listening. Less hazardous options included Watermark by Enya, Someone Like You from Adele, and Mozart’s Canzonetta Sull'aria. For an app that does the work for you, we love Spiritune (Apple/Android), which draws on research to curate playlists that deliver real results.

Get Outside

Studies show that being near trees and even more so, water, can reduce stress hormones—the effect is so pronounced that even photographs or sound recordings of natural environments can have some effect. Just how dramatic can the effects be? Studies show that as little as five minutes spent in nature can have a positive effect on your mood. One easy way to work some nature—if you’re not doing so already—is to tie it to one of your after-meal walks from your Level 1 exercise habit.

Practice Yoga

Yoga puts your body through a series of movements that help you regulate your breath and focus your mind through attention, stretching, and strength. The belief is that in addition to the kind of regulating you do through meditation, the act of holding poses and stretching and flexing muscles while you’re regulating your breath, heart rate, and mind will actually train your body to better tap into the parasympathetic nervous system in stressful situations. While all yoga will impart some of these benefits, if mindfulness is your primary goal, steer clear of classes that emphasize fitness and toward those that focus on overall benefits. Pocket Yoga ($3/one-time purchase, Apple/Android) and Glo ($18/month, Apple/Android) are two apps we love for inspiration.