Sure, meditation chills you out, alleviates pain, improves your mood, plus helps you think clearer and sleep better. But it's not for everyone. If sitting quietly with your eyes closed just isn't your thing, here are 14 other ways you can feel calmer—starting right now.
1. Make a list.
"People often stress themselves out by having so much on the line, feeling it all needs to be done right now but having no clue where to start," Ronald Breazeale, PhD, author of Duct Tape Isn't Strong Enough: Survival Skills for the 21st Century, says.
Make any overwhelming agenda seem instantly more manageable by writing out everything you think you have to do, he suggests. Then prioritize the things you can actually get accomplished. Having a concrete to-do list helps us stick to the task(s) at hand and grounds us in some sense of direction.
2. Do someone else a favor.
Helping out a friend or family member—say, by carrying groceries, giving them a ride, or offering an ear when they're freaking out—has been shown to reduce stress levels and might even lengthen your lifespan. How? By enhancing our social connections, which research shows is an enormous shield against stress. Also, offering someone else assistance helps distract you from whatever's making you feel so cray.
3. Tell fewer lies.
You've probably experienced firsthand how stressful it can be to keep a secret (or remember whom you've told which lie to and what the details you made up may have been). In 2012, psychologists invited over 100 adults to report how good they felt about their health and relationships in addition to how many lies they told for 10 weeks in a row. Subjects who lied the least had the lowest levels of tension, and rated the quality of their health and relationships higher than those who copped to more frequent truth fudging.
If you're one to mislead others on a regular basis, try being a bit more honest this week and see how much better you feel.
4. Take a walk. (Preferably outside.)
Sedentary employees in one study who left their desks for a 30-minute walk during their lunch breaks returned to their jobs less stressed and more enthused about life. Even if they walked at a leisurely pace.
Other studies suggest our moods get an even bigger boost from walking if we do so near nature. Next time you're overwhelmed at the office, tell your boss you need to take a personal call and head toward some trees—or just hit the pavement.
Take yourself less seriously and you'll be a much happier person, says Larry Kubiak, PhD, director of psychological services at Tallahassee Memorial Behavioral Health Center. Not only can laughter take the edge off stress and anxiety, some evidence suggests it may even improve our immunity. Even anticipating a laugh has been shown to lower levels of stress hormones. Cue up your favorite comedy special. Doctor's orders!
6. Have an actual conversation with someone.
Social connectedness—the in-person kind, not the number of friends you have on Facebook—helps make life feel more manageable. No matter how many demands, expectations, or mistakes threaten to frazzle us.
7. Get a pet.
Numerous studies on human-animal interaction suggest that having a pet you love helps keep your stress levels to a minimum. (Trips to the vet and expensive dog food notwithstanding.)
8. Unleash your inner artist. "Drawing, writing, painting, and other creative activities are great ways to channel stress," Breazeale says. They help shift our focus to something outside the anxiety inside our own heads while pumping some fun and pleasure into an otherwise hectic life. (Hence why psychologists created art therapy.)
9. Forgive someone. (Yourself included.)
Holding grudges increases tension and may heighten how vulnerable you feel by reinforcing the belief you're a victim, Kubiak says. Climbing out of angst-ridden ruts starts by forgiving someone who's wronged you—or even yourself. If seeing (or speaking to) the person toward whom you feel resentment isn't feasible, try writing a letter explaining how you feel and acknowledging what you've learned from the horrible experience. (Note: You do not need to send it to reap the stress-lowering effects of forgiveness.)
10. Brew tea.
This one's a little easier. Heat up a mug of your favorite tea. Regular consumption of the stuff has been shown to help people bounce back from stress swiftly and feel more relaxed.
Rapid and constant communication flusters us when we're trying to focus while pressures to respond ASAP ratchet up stress. Try taking a few more tech breaks during your day—or pausing to consider whether you really have to reply to all incoming digital missives the moment they ping you—and watch how much your mood improves.
P.S.: Unplugging more often can also make you more productive.
12. Resist the urge to vent.
You might think itemizing every single woe in your life over wine with bae is a helpful way to lower your stress levels. But studies show venting riles us up further and can loop us into a depressing spiral of rumination.
Try, instead, to be more assertive when communicating your emotions, Kubiak suggests. Translation: Describe them, label them, allow yourself to feel them without letting them be the reason you reach for a drink, binge eat, or lash out at a stranger.
13. Hug someone.
Embracing or being embraced by a loved one dials down our stress levels and may, according to some evidence, even protect us from getting sick. Cuddle with someone this evening to avoid catching the cough going around your office—or everyone else's pre-deadline panic.
14. Challenge your own beliefs.
"We create a lot of the stress we feel on a regular basis by the kinds of things we tell ourselves," Breazeale says. Especially absolutist assumptions about how we should look, feel, or behave in the world. (Think: "I'm a failure if I'm not perfect." "I'll never graduate if I fail this test." Or, "If someone rejects me it means I'm a bad person.")
These black-and-white beliefs increase our anxiety the greater we cling to them. They can also keep us from taking on challenges that might help us cultivate more trust in our own abilities.
Pay attention to the rigid standards you set for yourself or the core beliefs you endorse about your character, Breazeale advises. Consider which ones are holding you back, or entrapping you in anxiety or fear. Then see how many alternative conclusions you can come up with to upend them —and lessen their negative influence on your emotional health.
Example: Maybe you've never asked for a raise or followed up with a romantic prospect because you're convinced being rejected would destroy you. But if you can consider the fact that being told "no" isn't going to kill you—or that you may get a "yes"—you'll be a lot less debilitated by the prospect of putting yourself out there.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.