Laugh hard and often
The old adage that laughter is the best medicine rings true if you're looking for a stress cure.
A study conducted at Loma Linda University in 2001 found that participants who viewed a funny video experienced a decrease in the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine. They also had an increase in endorphins, which are neurotransmitters that boost mood and relieve depression, and
in human growth hormone, which boosts the immune system.
Laughter doesn't just help us deal with stress or emotional pain it helps us handle physical pain as well. In September, researchers at the University of Oxford in England found that laughter raises our tolerance for pain by stimulating a release of endorphins.
Plan "worry time"
Heavy duty worriers may benefit from carving out a specific chunk of time to think about what is worrying or bothering them, according to a Penn State University study published in July.
Scheduling worrying into a 30-minute block of time each day is beneficial because people may not be able to stop worrying altogether, but they can postpone and limit when they worry, according to the researchers. This allows them to better control their fretful habit and focus on other ideally, more positive things during the rest of their day.
Complaining about what's stressing you out may seem like a good idea, but a study published in July showed that unloading about your problems to a friend may not always be helpful.
The study, which was conducted by researchers from the University of Kent in England, found that when people with traits of perfectionism faced daily setbacks, venting made them feel worse . These study participants felt less satisfied with their circumstances than before they talked to a friend about what was stressing them out.
"Venting is not an effective strategy for anyone trying to cope with daily stress, whether they have perfectionistic tendencies or not," social psychologist Brad J. Bushman, who teaches at Ohio State University and has researched aggression and coping, told MyHealthNewsDaily. "Research clearly shows that venting increases rather than decreases stress."
Instead, try one or all of the three strategies the study found to help people cope with setbacks; acceptance, humor and positive reframing, which means looking for something good in an otherwise stressful situation.
Get a massage
Getting a massage not only helps you relax and ease muscle tension, it may also impact your hormone levels in a positive way, according to a 2010 study.
Researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles found that after receiving a 45-minute massage, participants had decreased levels of cortisol , a stress hormone, and vasopressin, a hormone believed to play a role in aggressive behavior.
Keeping a journal can lessen stress in several ways, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). When you're feeling frazzled, writing down your feelings makes you feel more in control, and may help you better analyze the situation. It can even give you a new perceptive or ways to address the problem.
And by looking over past journal entries, you may begin to see a pattern of what stresses you out, according to the NIH. You can then decide what needs to change to prevent those stress triggers from affecting you in the future.
Hug it out
Oxytocin, which is also known as the "cuddle hormone," is involved in social bonding, but can also help to lower stress levels. Produced in the brain's hypothalamus, oxytocin is then transferred to the pituitary gland, which releases the hormone into the bloodstream.
Several animal studies have shown that the hormone relieves stress and anxiety in social settings. In a 2007 study, researchers separated prairie voles, which are Midwestern rodents, from their siblings. The isolated prairie voles exhibited signs of anxiety, stress and depression, but these symptoms abated after they were injected with oxytocin.
The body naturally produces oxytocin during sex, childbirth and breastfeeding. But the "love hormone" can also be released during simple physical contact, such as a friendly hug. Even playing with your dog can boost oxytocin levels, according to a 2009 study published in the journal Hormones and Behavior.