Find Your Flow
Ever become so absorbed in a hobby that you lose track of time? That's a good thing! Whether you knit, write sci fi, garden, or work on your car, you should spend time on things that keep your full interest. When you're “in the zone,” your mind doesn't churn, you feel more sure of yourself, and you aren't as afraid of taking risks. Make time to do what you love, and you'll also give your life more meaning.
Stare at any screen for hours and you'll miss what's going on IRL. Make it a priority to fully connect with your loved ones -- in person. This also allows your brain to slow down so you can better focus. It makes you calmer and lifts your mood. It may take (a lot of) practice to put your phone and laptop away, but try to do so more often -- and especially when you're with family and friends.
Nix Negative Friendships
“Toxic” people can leave you drained and less sure of yourself. After spending time with them, it's easy to feel frustrated. If you have a friendship with someone like that, it's time to rethink it. We all need true friends in our lives. Look for ones who offer support and comfort and make you feel happy.
Get a Massage
It can do more than ease sore muscles and help manage pain. Massage also helps when you're stressed, anxious, or depressed (though you may still need more help if you have a mental health condition). Studies show that massage can even lower your heart rate and blood pressure. You don't have to go to a spa. Massage schools and community health fairs offer low-cost options.
No matter your age or where you live, being outdoors can help you feel more calm and balanced. Studies show that time spent in nature also lessens pain, improves your focus, and helps you better connect with others. Can't get out as much as you like? Sit next to a window, look at nature photos, or buy a plant. These will help you feel grounded, too.
Get More Shut-Eye
Going to bed early can feel like a splurge when you have so much to do. It's not! Your body and brain need plenty of sleep to be at their best. That shut-eye you get helps you to think clearly, be alert, and handle stress. It also helps manage your immune system, heart, hormones, and weight. Aim for 7-8 hours each night.
If you tend to space out or feel “stuck” when you're stressed, getting active can get you back in the zone. Turn up your favorite playlist and dance in your living room, swim laps, take a brisk walk around the block. … Rhythmic movements get you out of your head and into the present moment so you're ready for the next challenge.
Walk dogs at a local shelter, pick up trash in a park, bring a meal to a sick neighbor. When you donate time and energy to others -- be it another person or a cause you believe in -- you forge a stronger link to the world. Helping others also gives your body and brain a good workout, boosts your self-esteem, and helps you build a social support system. Bonus: The more you volunteer, the happier you may feel.
Seek Out Happy People
You can “catch” others' emotions just like you would a cold. So what vibes are the people around you spreading? Where you can choose to, try to surround yourself with people who have a cheerful, positive outlook on life, even while they face their challenges. “Happy” is one of the best emotions to absorb. And then you, in turn, can pass it on to someone else.
Plan a Getaway
Next time you have days off from work, head out of town. It doesn't have to be somewhere far-flung or fancy. The best trips are the ones that are most relaxed. Can't travel right now? Some research shows that you may get a mood boost by simply planning your trip. It's fun to have something to look forward to, like which beach to visit or what shows to book.
Tap Into Thankfulness
Stop for a moment and take stock of what you're grateful for. It helps you notice that even when some things are hard, there's still good in the world and some of it has come your way. (It may also distract you from other, less pleasant feelings like envy.) Try this: Think of someone who's helped you, in a large or small way, and write them a thank-you note. Even if you never send it, you'll still get a positive mental boost.
Jot It in a Journal
Put your thoughts and feelings on paper, and you may find them easier to deal with. A journal can help you see which of your worries and fears aren't such a big deal, give you a chance to work through problems, and break the habit of negative self-talk. Keep a paper and pen handy, and try to write something every day, or type it into your phone. Remember, your journal is just for you, so let your true feelings flow.
Your home won't feel as cozy as it should if it's filled with too much stuff. (And it's not just Marie Kondo who thinks so.) Clutter makes us less happy about where we live, as well as how we feel about ourselves. It can even prevent you from getting a good night's sleep. Little by little, chip away at what you don't need or want anymore.
Feed Your Spirit
People who tend to their spiritual side are less apt to worry and feel sad. For some, that means prayer and worship services. For others, it has nothing to do with religion. You may simply meditate every morning. Either way, the result can be that you're better able to take on stress.
Seek Help When You Need It
When a big problem hits, don't pretend nothing's wrong. Speak to a counselor in private, or check out a support group. It helps you get a different view of your situation so you can make your best choices. Although your problem probably won't vanish right away, get it off your chest. You'll feel recharged by taking charge -- with help from a pro.