By Jessica Migala
Here’s a fact you may not be aware of: Everyone experiences some amount of stress on a daily basis. A little bit of stress is actually a good thing; it can provide drive and motivation to get stuff done. Chronic stress, on the other hand, has serious health consequences, from headaches to digestive issues and even heart disease. If a two-week yoga retreat isn’t in the cards just now, don’t worry — here are five easy ways to reduce stress right now.
1. Bust a move.
Recreational dancers can experience an energy and mood surge right after getting their groove on, according to a small study in the European Journal of Sport Science. Even Nietzsche said, “We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.” So, go ahead: Turn on your favorite song and pretend your bedroom is the hottest club in town.
2. Watch a cat video.
It may be hard to believe, but real science suggests cats on YouTube create calm. In an Indiana University study, researchers found that people reported more positive emotions and increased energy after watching cat videos.
3. Give someone a hug.
Stress affects every part of the body—including your immune system. One way to stay healthy: Hugs. They provide stress-buffering social support that can prevent a virus from taking hold in your system, according to a study published in Psychological Science. So grab your significant other and give ‘em a squeeze.
If your mom told you to take a deep breath when you were wound up as a kid, guess what? She was right. Again. Taking shallow breaths when you’re stressed limits the amount of oxygen that circulates to your lower lungs, which can make you feel tense and anxious. Taking a deep enough breath so that your lungs fill and your belly expands can slow your heartbeat and help stabilize your blood pressure. In fact, the Navy SEALs teach a method called Combat Tactical Breathing, in which you breathe in for 4 counts, hold it for 4 counts, then exhale for 4 counts.
5. Be kind.
Hold the door open for someone. Give a stranger a compliment. Buy coffee for the person in line behind you. Performing random acts of kindness can help reduce stress, according to research from UCLA and Yale. Kindness always wins.