Stress is your body’s natural response to perceived danger, including those insane work deadlines or public speaking (ugh). Stress may seem par for the course these days, but its ability to raise your heart rate and blood pressure is a good reason to try to squash it.
One effective way to combat the constant onslaught of stress is meditation, a practice that encourages you to slow down and find relaxation through mindfulness. (Learn more about meditation for stress relief here.) By keeping your blood pressure down, meditation can also lower your risk of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.
But sitting cross-legged on the floor and ommm-ing your way out of stress isn’t everyone’s cup of lavender tea, so here are five alternative ways to find mindfulness in your daily life.
Art: Even sketching stick figures on a napkin can pull your mind back to the present instead of worrying about tomorrow’s performance review. In a 2016 study, mindfulness-based art therapy decreased depression and anxiety among breast cancer patients and improved their quality of life significantly. Try coloring mandalas, which are intricate, circular designs that require a lot of concentration—but not necessarily a ton of artistic skill. (Learn one woman’s story of using art therapy to treat her depression here.)
Dance: Getting a workout from dancing can give you feel-good endorphins, but that’s not all. In a 2015 study, researchers found that combining dance and mindfulness helped participants improve their “emotional and spiritual well-being,” feelings of acceptance, and “application of mindfulness techniques and strategies to real-world living.”
Tai chi: Earning the nickname “moving meditation,” this graceful, flowing activity from China was originally a martial art for self-defense, using a small amount of energy to counteract a stronger opponent. Today, it’s primarily used as a calming exercise. One 2005 study in Journal of Pediatric Health Care found that a five-week tai chi program reduced stress and improved concentration and calmness in middle school-aged boys and girls.
Yoga: This exercise is all about connecting with your spiritual self. One 2014 study identified yoga as an ideal practice for pregnant mothers, showing that the breathing and meditation techniques relaxed the moms-to-be and prepared their mental focus for childbirth. (Here is a 10-minute yoga routine to bust stress and anxiety.)
Gardening: Researchers call this one “horticultural therapy,” and it has long been used in nursing homes and assisted living centers to provide spiritual well-being among senior residents. A study at Uppsala University in Sweden found that gardening alleviated stress, improved life satisfaction, and promoted healing among patients with brain damage.