Are you drowning in oceans of to-do lists, frustrating interruptions and low energy?
Research shows that creative activities can relieve stress, increase feelings of happiness and potentially even boost your immune system.
Get out in the mud
Ever wonder why you feel good when you garden, weed or toil out in the yard? Researchers from the University of Bristol think the answer is bacteria. Soil contains the friendly bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae, which has been linked with the metabolism of serotonin in the brain.
Since a lack of serotonin is connected to depression, scientists hypothesize that this bacterium may improve mood, ease stress and maintain a strong immune system. Landscaping, sowing seeds and nurturing flowers or homegrown veggies are creative ways to unwind and improve your mood.
Get a little crafty
You don’t have to paint perfect sunsets or sew detailed quilts to enjoy the benefits of art therapy. “The actual process of making art can alleviate emotional stress and anxiety by creating a physiological response of relaxation,” writes Cathy Malchiodi in The Art Therapy Sourcebook.
Creative activity increases serotonin in your brain, which improves mood. When you’re not attached to the end result (such as a perfectly knit sweater), crafting can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and it can trigger feelings of calm and peace.
Declutter your bedroom and closet
“Clutter creates stress and, in extreme cases, depression,” says eco-organizer Candita Clayton, author of Clean Your Home Healthy. “It’s difficult to relax when you’re surrounded by laundry, work or reading materials because you subconsciously feel like you have things to do.”
To declutter, evaluate your space and eliminate what doesn’t bring pleasure. Donate clothing, decorations or household items to charity. Rework your space until you feel happy and relaxed.
Get really honest
“The number-one stress reduction exercise I recommend is called ‘Tell Them How You Really Feel!’” says life coach Paula Holland De Long. “Pretend that the source of your stress is with you, and express the truth. Be as loud, rude and mean as you can.”
Our buried, denied emotions build negative energy in our bodies, which can be toxic. “When we acknowledge our emotions by telling the truth, we release tension and feel relieved,” says De Long. “Space for positive energy is opened up.”
“Fish or cut bait”
“Deep down, most of us know what we need to do about stressful situations,” says communications professional Christine Hohlbaum. “But we procrastinate. We ignore our stressors, which can lead to paralysis. This creates even more stress.”
She recommends what she calls “fishing or cutting bait”: dealing with the cause of your stress or eliminating it altogether. And don’t get caught up in finding the perfect solution to your problems. “Simply moving forward puts the ball in motion,” says Hohlbaum. “This leads to more action, which will ultimately solve the problem.”