No time to de-stress? Think again. Kathleen Hall, Ph.D., found of the Stress Institute, based in Clarkesville, Georgia, and author of "A Life in Balance" says you can lower your stress level all but instantly with these on the spot mood boosters:
- Snack on chips and salsa -- Research has found that eating spicy foods especially chili peppers release mood-boosting endorphins. The more fiery, the better. So keep a jar of extra-hot salsa on hand for anti-stress snacking.
- Sing out -- Belting your favorite tunes is more beneficial than simply listening to them. Choir members got a 240 percent increase in immunoglobulin A (a disease fighting protein) during performances, found a recent study at the University of California at Irvine. Warning: Suffering through a song you dis-like actually spikes your stress level.
- Laugh -- Laughter even forced laughter lowers cortisol and blood pressure instantly, according to a study from the University of Maryland Medical Center, in Baltimore. "Researchers found that artery diameter increases 22 percent during laughter even when you're faking it," says Dr. Hall. "The physical act itself creates the de-stressing effect." So keep a comedy CD in your car or put your funniest friend on speed dial and, when all else fails, force yourself to chuckle.
- Be grateful -- Jot down a list of your blessings. Studies at UCLA show that it's physiologically impossible to be grateful and stressed out at the same time. "Exercising gratitude daily results in higher levels of alertness and enthusiasm," says Dr. Hall.
- Meet with friends -- Making eye contact and conversation with someone you care about causes the same kinds of positive physiological changes that a massage does, found a 2005 study from UCLA. So pop into a friend's office or have coffee with a pal: "Your body will produce oxytocin (a happiness hormone) literally on the spot," says Dr. Hall.
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