It is no secret that stress wreaks havoc on the body.
High levels of chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, just to name a few of stress’ negative health effects.
While some stress is inevitable in all of our lives, you must effectively manage it if you want to live well.
Here are several other proven ways to reduce stress and increase your well-being:
Work fewer than 40 hours per week
Follow the example set in Denmark, where people work hard but rarely put in more than 37 hours a week. Denmark often ranks as the happiest country in the world, earning the top spot on the World Happiness Report in three of the past six years (and finishing number two and three in the other three years).
Take up to 6 weeks of vacation time per year
At the very least, use all of your vacation time per year and keep negotiating for more until you’re getting 6 weeks which is the optimal amount for happiness.
Shorten your commute
Research has shown that there is a direct link between commute time and well-being — People with the longest commutes have the lowest overall satisfaction with life. In fact, the daily car commute is the number 2 thing Americans hate the most on a day-to-day basis (behind only housework), and cutting out a one-hour commute has been shown to produce the happiness equivalent of a $40,000 raise.
The research shows that the very best commute you can have is a 15-minute walk each way. If that isn’t possible, at least limit your commute to no more than 30 minutes, ideally with some physical activity (walking or biking) built in along the way.
Unplug after work hours
I personally go offline for 12 hours each day — from about 8pm — 8am (this window can shift up or back by 30 minutes on any given day). I also try to avoid email and social media for one full day each weekend.
Keeping this schedule enables me to ‘down shift’ and prioritize my family and my health. I have found that balancing my online and offline time helps me to achieve balance in my life overall.
Meditation improves physical health, including lowering blood pressure, boosting the immune system, and increasing our ability to cope with stress.
And meditation has been shown to bolster our minds — actually changing the brain in ways that lead to reduced levels of anxiety and depression, improved attention and concentration, better self-control, and greater overall psychological well-being.
Meditation is not complicated. Just sit in a quiet place (start with 5–10 minutes) and focus on your breath. When your mind wanders — and it will wander — just bring your attention back to focus on your breath and the physical sensations. Do that repeatedly during your meditation session — just observing your breath without trying to control or analyze it. That’s it. This habit alone can change your life over the long haul.
Getting outside and connecting with nature is a powerful way to clear your mind and reduce stress. Increasing your time outside (which could be as simple as taking a walk) will likely do wonders for your mood and outlook on life.
Add a daily dose of humor
Tell a joke, read the comics, watch a funny TV show, or go to a Comedy club. In fact, The simple act of smiling reduces stress and increases happiness, even if you’re faking or forcing the smile.
I also love to do yoga, listen to music, and play with my kids to reduce stress. Stress management can be unique to every individual, but the key is that you have your own go-to methods. That might mean getting a massage, taking a warm bath, drinking soothing tea, or simply hugging a loved one.
Focus on applying the above stress-management techniques, along with your own tactics, in order to manage the stress in your life.
If you have other highly effective ways to reduce stress, please let me know in the comments below!