You can go to an expensive spa for peace of mind. Or you can use some tips from relaxation experts to bring calm back home. There is no need to spend money in pursuit of a stress-free life.
We spoke to two wellness experts from Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona, about simple things you can do every day to relieve stress and improve your mental health. Staying alert and balanced, living in the moment, and avoiding triggers are just some of the techniques they suggested.
Jes Holsworth is a Spiritual Life Coach, Yoga, Meditation, and Breathing Coach. Caroline Vick teaches practical meditation and how to integrate the seven chakras into practice.
Here are 10 ways to grow a stress-free life without spending a dime.
1. Instilling gratitude for mental health
With all that is going on around us and troubling us, whether it is personal or on a larger societal scale, it is important to remember the good things.
“When we enter into a negative headspace, it makes our world feel small. But when you are in a void of gratitude, it gives you a sense of connectedness, which is a powerful human emotion,” Hollsworth said.
Remember the physical things you might take for granted: your heart is pounding and your legs are letting you walk, for example. The same is true of your surroundings: your toilet flushes and you have running water. These are things we should be thankful for, too.
Holzworth said finding simple ways to focus on the positive is a form of stress relief that “will make your heart happy.” “It has a physical and psychological effect on your whole being.”
2. Live in the moment through mindfulness
Mindfulness is being aware of your surroundings in order to get as close to relieving your stress as possible. Thinking about all you have to do and how little time you have to do it doesn’t do much except cause stress and possibly raise your blood pressure. The same is true of obsessing over the past, which is something you cannot change.
So doing little things to stay in the moment can help with mental health and relieve stress levels.
And imagine what? It’s not about adding anything to your to-do list. “It’s just about bringing your full presence into everything you do, wherever you are, and how you feel,” Holzworth said.
“Spraying in a few seconds of being fully present throughout the day will help you gradually increase your ability to feel more of your emotions and therefore feel more energetic.”
3. Work on careful, conscious practices in your life
Little things can bring us comfort and joy – if we pay attention to them. Both practitioners encourage what they call “micro-practices of mindfulness,” or the practice of paying attention to the things we do every day.
So what does that really mean? Both suggested coffee as an example, something many of us use to start our day.
You can turn this simple morning routine into a careful, thoughtful practice, Vick said, by “spending some time focusing on gratitude rather than a mindless routine we all get into.”
- Note the aroma of ground coffee.
- Hear the sound of fresh coffee poured into your cup.
- Feel the warmth on your hands as you hold the mug.
- Inhale the vapor and aroma of the fresh drink as you bring it to your lips.
- Enjoy the taste and warmth of coffee in your mouth and throat.
This short period of mindfulness can put you back in control and reduce stress. It can be adapted to any simple activity.
“It’s really about opening yourself up to the little things like the taste of your coffee. It’s not just about the big things, but about the little things that bring us comfort and joy,” Hollsworth said. “(It might be) the touch of your cat’s fur, the sound of purring.”
Both suggest looking for short moments throughout the day in which you can incorporate mindfulness. Warm the towels when they come out of the dryer. The sensation of warm water covering you while you shower. Even a rewarding iteration of foldable clothing.
“Anything can be done with care,” Vicki said.
“Be in the moment,” Holsworth said. “Life is a blessing and it should be treated as such and honored.”
4. Embrace Mobility
Fike said that even your commute to work, school, or wherever you go can be a time of mindfulness rather than madness.
How can your commute reduce stress? Here are two ways:
- Listen to something you enjoy to reduce driving fatigue.
- When you stop at a stop sign or stop sign, take a look around. Notice things you might not have seen before, like a store, restaurant, or even a pretty tree. “Some people pretend that Buddha winks at them when they get a red light,” Vicki said.
It’s all about getting yourself back, Vick said, “to something more enjoyable rather than something unpleasant.”
Think of these moments as a reminder. “A reminder not to hold back, a reminder to be careful, a reminder not to take the red light personally. They are all reminders to slow down.”
5. Pay attention to your senses
“Anything that engages your senses will heighten alertness and bring you back to the present moment,” Holzworth said.
It could be the sight of a beautiful sunrise or sunset, the smell of flowers, the sound of the ocean or the taste of something delicious.
“Literally how often do you inhale your food? Instead, slow down and chew it. When you chew your food well and carefully, it’s surprising how different it tastes,” Vicki said. “When you eat anyway, why don’t you do it attentively?”
6. Reducing stress with laughter
Why does the sound of a baby’s giggle instantly make us happy?
First of all, because we noticed him. “It’s an awakening moment,” Holsworth said.
Then, because we usually laugh too. “So we laugh a moment waking.”
She said laughter is a break from the part of your brain that analyzes and plans. It is a way to engage the part of your mind that is intuition, creativity and insight. “When we laugh, we let our guard down a little. It is a complete relief. Laughter is good for our health.”
If laughter can help, consider what a good belly laugh can do to lower blood pressure and relieve stress?
7. Breathe to relieve
You need to breathe to survive, but breathing can reduce and relieve stress as well.
Hollsworth explained that there is a sympathetic and parasympathetic part of the nervous system. Both control the involuntary functions of your body. The sympathetic nervous system helps your body deal with stress – think “fight or flight” reactions. The parasympathetic system controls the body’s functions while at rest – think “rest and digestion.”
“Unfortunately, I would say the majority of our population, especially right now, is sympathetic dominators,” Holzworth said. “These people exist in this world of responding to fight or flight in a state of tension.”
This means that in order to live a stress-free life, we all need more parasympathetic responses in our lives, or moments when we rest, rejuvenate, rest, and recover.
This is where your breath comes in.
“Your breath is a master regulator. Taking a few deep breaths will stimulate the vagus nerve and send a signal to your brain that says relax and calm down,” she said. “Just close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, I guarantee that whoever does that will feel better.”
8. Find your own way to meditate
Meditation means different things to different people. Fike said she didn’t call silent meditation at first, so she’s adopted guided meditations to help reduce stress.
Mindfulness and meditation go together, but they are not the same thing. Put simply, mindfulness is about being aware, and it can fit into many parts of your day. Meditation is often an activity for a certain period of time.
There are many apps and YouTube videos to teach you the basics, guide you through short meditations, and introduce other meditation exercises.
Vicki said that as you try it out, it’s important that you find a sound that resonates with you and that you love to listen to. If you don’t like the sound, you won’t pay attention to what they say.
Almost all guided meditations will involve focusing on the breath and reminding you of your physical body, such as feeling with your toes and the top of your head.
There are also walking meditations and meditations on the simple tasks you do routinely.
Vicki said you can meditate anywhere your feet are, like moving from the couch to the bathroom.
“What you focus on is how your feet move, how your feet feel when they contact the ground, and how all of your bones, tendons, and muscles work together as you put one foot down and raise the other up.
“It’s just a break to focus on something you don’t normally do.”
9. Detox your electronics
Phones and other electronic devices are our constant companions, but leaving them even for a few minutes can be a way to focus on the present and remove triggers that may cause stress.
Fike recommends not letting your devices tempt you, especially when you’re having a conversation with someone else. Most things do not need an immediate response.
Your blood pressure and stress hormones will thank you if you put the phone off for a while.
10. Don’t stress about de-stressing
Both Fike and Holzworth said that trying to de-stress is not about changing behaviors or adding all kinds of things to your already busy day. It’s about incorporating the things you already do to help reduce stress.
Fike uses its own mindfulness and meditation practices as an example. These practices can show how life literally slows down and you can combat stress.
“I am not sitting in the lotus position,” she said, “I meditate for an hour in silence on the top of the mountain.” “I am a real human with real problems and challenges in real life. I take my real life experience and give it to people who also live real lives.”
If you think that a stress-free life means upending your way of being, you will feel confused. If you think that a stress-free life means upending your way of being, you will feel confused. Get in the habit of looking for stressors that you create on your own.
“It’s just about bringing more awareness of your existence and how you interact, not just with yourself, but with the rest of the world,” Holzworth said.
Tiffany Sherman is a freelance reporter based in Florida with over 25 years of experience writing on finances, health, travel, and other topics.