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9 Ways to Add A Little Zen To Your Day

Looking for a little instant relaxation? These nine no-fail stress-busters will put a little zen into your day.

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Dance

Learning how to bust a move can alter your mental state for the better, according to researchers at South Korea’s Kyungpook National University. Forty-minute sessions of hip-hop dancing were more effective at improving mood and reducing stress than a combination of weight training, jogging, and flexibility exercise.

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Find the Funny

Researchers at Osaka University in Japan recently found that watching a funny movie was more effective at decreasing mental stress than viewing beautiful landscapes. Pop a comedy into the DVD or try laughter yoga (laughteryoga.org). Or make your own funny first-aid kit: Put cartoons, silly photos, and your favourite jokes in a file folder or on your computer, and look at them when you need a boost.

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Try a Yoga Pose

As little as 10 minutes in Shava-asana, the relaxation pose used at the end of a yoga session, slashes stress-induced blood pressure by 31 percent, according to a study in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. Lie on your back on the floor with your legs, extended, arms at your sides, palms facing up. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Consciously relax any tense body parts. Maintain the pose for five to 15 minutes.

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Avoid “Frenemies”

Turning to a caring friend when you need a sympathetic ear can ease the amount of stress you’re feeling. On the other hand, discussing an unpleasant experience with an unsupportive friend can negatively impact your blood pressure and heart health, say psychologists at Brigham Young University. How can you spot a frenemy? If you feel pressure to be friends or have mixed feelings about a person, that’s a red flag.

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Keep a Clear Space

Disorganized spaces make you feel tense, so spend two minutes organizing your desk before you leave at the end of the day, suggests Marcia Ramsland, author of Simplify Your Space: Create Order & Reduce Stress. So you won’t worry about forgetting what you’re working on if you file it all away, jot down the first three things you need to do when you return.

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Put Your Phone to Bed

 

How you deal with messages in your inbox can make all the difference in your stress levels. Research in Scotland concluded that constantly checking email boosts stress, with women feeling more pressure to reply promptly. Designate a few times during the day to read and reply to your messages. After work, banish your smartphone to your briefcase where you won’t be tempted to pick it up every time it calls.

 

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Take a Meditation Break

 

Try this five-minute exercise routine daily for five days: 1 Bring a gentle awareness to your breathing, gradually making it slower and fuller. 2 Breathe through your nose and imagine you’re breathing in energy. 3 Breathe out (also through your nose), imagining that exhaling helps your body relax and let go. According to researchers, this integrative body-mind meditation was more effective than relaxing body exercises for improving stress control and lowering anxiety.

 

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Photo: Thinkstock

Make Your Morning Commute More Fun

Listening to the music of your choice while commuting instead of what’s on the radio may lower stress levels, says York University psychology professor David Wiesenthal, who studies driver stress. Finding ways to relax while commuting is important since traffic boosts tension, anger, and blood pressure levels. However, ditch the relaxation CDs: In another study, sounds of babbling brooks and chirping birds actually worsened anxiety in people with already high levels of stress.

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Change Your Arguing Style

Being the strong silent type, instead of speaking up, can be harmful to your health, according to a study in Psychosomatic Medicine. University of Utah researchers found that a warm arguing style by either spouse actually lowers the risk of heart disease. They suggest trying to say several positive things for every negative comment you make.