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7 Science-Backed Ways You Can Reduce Stress Today

7 Science-Backed Ways You Can Reduce Stress Today

We all experience stress in our lives. Some of us experience stress once in awhile, while others face it on a daily basis.

Whether you’re one of the few people who perform better under stress or not, the side effects of stress are clear. Stress has been shown to increase the risk of disease or illness, lead to premature aging, and weaken your immune system.

Here’s a helpful diagram of how chronic stress works and how it can act as a negative feedback loop in our brain.

stresschart2

    If you’re worried about the level of stress you experience, you’re not alone. Over 54 percent of Americans feel an urgent need to reduce stress levels on a daily basis.

    The good news is that there are science-backed ways that have been proven to reduce stress, starting today.

    1. Practice Your Power Poses

    One of the most popular TED Talks to date is called Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” by social psychologist Amy Cuddy.

    Cuddy’s research reveals that adopting the body language associated with dominance for just 120 seconds is enough to create a 20-percent increase in testosterone and a 25-percent decrease in the stress hormone cortisol. In other words, your posture can make a significant difference in your mood, emotions, and more importantly, reduce stress levels.

    “If you feel like you shouldn’t be somewhere: Fake it. Do it not until you make it—but until you become it.” — Amy Cuddy

    Cuddy makes a distinguishable contrast by presenting the difference between a “High Power” pose and a “Low Power” pose. In the image below, notice how relaxed and comfortable the people in the top row look (and feel) versus the bottom.

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    body-language-power-poses

      The reason why we bring up Cuddy’s research is that most of us are stuck in a “Low Power” pose throughout the day (i.e. typing on our computer, in meetings), which inevitably enhances our stress levels and reduces our energy levels.

      Try to take regular breaks during your work, and put yourself in one of the power poses above for 2-3 minutes. You’ll be surprised at the level of impact this has on your mood and stress levels. As we shared in our post on productivity, you can try using the Pomodoro timer to work in 25-minute, intensive segments to force yourself to take breaks.

      What would be even better is to experiment working while standing up. A 2012 study found that if the average American reduced his or her sitting time to three hours per day, life expectancy would climb by two years.

      If you’ve never worked while standing up, you can refer to this photo as a starting guide.

      standing-desk-benefits

        2. Laugh More

        Laughing each day keeps the doctor away.

        According to the Mayo Clinic:

        “Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.”

        This is probably why comedic videos are by far the most popular videos online, because laughter releases dopamine in our brains, encouraging us to seek more of this sensation.

        jimmy-fallon-donald-trump-obama

          What’s even more interesting is that we don’t necessarily have to watch or witness anything funny to gain the benefits of reducing stress, as the anticipation alone can boost endorphins in our brains.

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          3. Practice Gratitude

          Gratitude can sometimes be placed in the same category as spiritualization or positive psychology, which is not often associated with science-backed research. This is probably because throughout history, philosophers and religious leaders have extolled gratitude as a virtue integral to health and well-being without any scientific research backings.

          But this has changed, according to Robert Emmons, a psychologist professor at the University of California Davis, who says that “Research on gratitude is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress.”

          The main reason for this is that it’s very difficult to experience the feelings of fear and gratitude at the same time, since we’re naturally more optimistic when we’re grateful for what we have.

          In another research performed at the University of Utah, researchers compared the immune systems of healthy, first-year law students under stress. By midterm season, students characterized as optimistic (based on survey responses) maintained higher numbers of blood cells that protect the immune system compared with their more pessimistic classmates.

          A helpful tool I’ve been using personally is the five-minute journal, which helps you practice daily gratitude by answering specific questions about your day and the day ahead of you.

          Screen shot 2014-01-23 at 1.54.35 PM

            4. Get Moving (Even For 7 Minutes)

            If you’ve been sitting down all day (like I have), then this is a tip to seriously consider.

            Exercise has been proven to improve our mental health, decrease risk of diseases, and improve our quality of sleep, which is a key factor to reducing stress.

            0228sleepeffects1

              The problem for most of us, which applies to learning a language just as much as exercise, is finding the time in your schedule to do it. Luckily, you can start by spending just seven minutes in your day.

              The science-based 7-minute workout is hard, but short enough to fit it into your schedule. These simple exercises do not require any weights, which makes it possible for you to do at home, at your office, or outside.

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                5. Develop A Growth Mindset

                One of my favorite books on personal development and growth is Mindset by Carol Dweck, a social psychology professor at Stanford University with over twenty years of dedicated research in the field of psychology.

                “For twenty years, my research has shown that the view you adopt of yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.” – Carol Dweck

                In her book, Dweck talks about the two different types of mindsets that an individual has, which is the fixed or growth mindset. Which mindset you choose to practice can have a significant impact on your optimism, levels of stress, and how you make important decisions in your life.

                Dweck describes the difference between the two mindsets:

                “A fixed mindset comes from the belief that your qualities are carved in stone – who you are is who you are, period. Characteristics such as intelligence, personality, and creativity are fixed traits, rather than something that can be developed.

                A growth mindset comes from the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through effort. Yes, people differ greatly – in aptitude, talents, interests, or temperaments – but everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”

                dweck_mindset

                  The point here is that no matter what situation you face, you can choose to believe that this is the beginning of better days ahead of you, or the start of the worst days ahead of you.

                  6. Use Stress As Fuel

                  The scientific research on the growth mindset shows the level of impact our mindset has on reducing stress levels. To take this on another level, you can shift your entire perspective about what stress means to you.

                  If you think about it, experiencing stress often means you’re pushing yourself to grow out of our comfort zone, because you have a deeper meaning that goes beyond your current emotions. While no one wants to have more stress in their lives, how we perceive the stress that enters our lives is crucial, according to health psychologist Kelly McGonigal.

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                  In the 2012 paper “Improving Acute Stress Responses: The Power of Reappraisal,” published by scientists at Harvard’s department of psychology, research shows that treating common stress responses as a positive might even be good for the heart.

                  7. Learn Something New

                  The last tip we have to reduce stress is to spend your time learning something new that interests you, whether it’s a new skill, a new language, a new industry, etc.

                  Have you ever watched a documentary, read an article, or participated in a fascinating conversation that got your brain fired up, even though you felt stressed or tired just moments before?

                  Recent research shows that finding 20-30 minutes a day to do something you’re interested in can be one of the best ways to reduce stress and increase your levels of happiness. These findings share that “interest” doesn’t just keep you going despite fatigue, it actually replenishes your energy. And then that replenished energy flows into whatever you do next.

                  It also recommends that you keep these two points in mind:

                  First, interesting is not the same thing as pleasant, fun, or relaxing (though they’re not mutually exclusive). Taking a lunch break might be relaxing, and if the food is good it will probably be pleasant, but unless you are eating at the hot new molecular gastronomy restaurant, it probably won’t be interesting. So it won’t replenish your energy.

                  Second, interesting does not have to mean effortless. The same studies that showed that interest replenished energy showed that it did so even when the interesting task was difficult and required effort. So, you actually don’t have to “take it easy” to refill your tank.

                  In conclusion, finding things that interest you while challenging you mentally is the way to go if you want to reduce stress levels.

                  Next Steps

                  Share with us below what you’ve tried or are doing today to reduce stress levels in your life, and let us know which one you resonated with the most!

                  Also, if you enjoyed this post, you’ll want to check out the 17 Best Productivity Apps That Will Boost Your Productivity and Happiness and this Complete Guide to Reprogramming Your Mind to Form Good Habits.

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                  Last Updated on June 13, 2019

                  15 Best Entrepreneurs Books to Start Reading Now to Be Successful

                  15 Best Entrepreneurs Books to Start Reading Now to Be Successful

                  Knowledge is power, and you’re going to need a lot of it if you’re going to be able to steer your business to success.

                  Without further ado, let’s take a look at the 15 best entrepreneurs books to get inspirations about success and grow your business.

                  1. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

                    This book has been dubbed the Granddaddy of All Motivational Literature, and it was actually the first book that gave a prescription of what it takes to be a winner.

                    Napoleon Hill draws from the stories of millionaires like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and Thomas Edison to illustrate the principles he put forth.

                    Get the book here!

                    2. The Lean Startup by Eric Reis

                      A lot of startups end up failing, but many of these failures are actually avoidable. The Lean Startup provides a different approach that is now being adopted all over the world and changing the way that companies are developed and products are being launched.

                      In The Lean Startup, Eric Reis describes what is required for a company to penetrate the fog of uncertainty in order to discover a path to a sustainable and successful business.

                      Get the book here!

                      3. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

                        In a revised edition of the 150,000-copy bestseller, The E-Myth, Michael Gerber refutes some of the myths that surround starting your own business and shows just how commonplace assumptions can end up getting in the way of being able to run a successful business.

                        Gerber succeeds in walking the reader through the steps that occur in the life of a business, from infancy, through the pains of growing as an adolescent, to the perspective of the mature entrepreneur.

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                        Get the book here!

                        4. Rework by Jason Fried

                          Most of the business books that you get today will give you the same advice: draft a business plan, study the competition, look for investors, and all that.

                          However, Rework shows you a more effective, easier and faster means of succeeding when running a business. By reading it, you’ll be able to know why some plans are harmful, why you don’t really need to get investors, and why you’re better of shutting out your competition.

                          Get the book here!

                          5. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

                            This is one of the most successful motivational books in history, selling well over 15 million copies since it was released in 1936. The book is timeless, and it appeals to businesses, self-help startups, and general readers.

                            Carnegie believes that a lot of successes come from an ability to communicate rather than having brilliant insights. In his book, he teaches how to value others and make them feel appreciated and loved.

                            Get the book here!

                            6. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

                              Through this amazing book, Malcolm Gladwell is able to take the reader on an intellectual journey through the world of ‘outliers’. He asks the question of what truly differentiates high-achievers.

                              His answer to this question is that we tend to pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and less attention to where they are actually from.

                              Get the book here!

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                              7. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki

                                This is the best personal finance book ever written. It tells the story of Kiyosaki and his two fathers; his real father, and that of his best friend (his rich dad), as well as how the two men helped him shape his opinions on money and investing.

                                It refutes the myth that you need to earn high to become rich, and it distinguishes between working for money and having money work for you.

                                Get the book here!

                                8. The Ascent of Money: The Financial History of the World by Niall Ferguson

                                  Niall Ferguson, in this book, follows the money to tell the story behind the evolution of the word’s financial system, from the beginning way back in ancient Mesopotamia to the latest occurrences in what he had dubbed Planet Finance.

                                  Fergusson also reveals financial history as the backstory behind our very own history, with an argument that the evolution of debt and credit is as significant as the history of technological innovation and the rise of civilization.

                                  Get the book here!

                                  9. Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis

                                    Michael Lewis landed a job at Salomon Brothers after getting out of the London School of Economics and Princeton within three years, he had risen to the rank of bond salesman, making millions for the firm and cashing out steadily.

                                    Liar’s Poker is the amalgamation of these years — a look behind the scenes at one of the most turbulent times in American business. His book is Lewis’s account of an era where greed and gluttony were the order of the day.

                                    Get the book here!

                                    10. Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Michael H. Pink

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                                      A lot of people see money as the best motivator. Michael pink says it’s a mistake.

                                      In this provocative book, he asserts that the secret to high performance anywhere is the need to direct our lives, to learn and create, and to do better by our world and ourselves.

                                      Get the book here!

                                      11. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

                                        Outdated methods don’t work in today’s world. In this book, Allen shares some awesome methods for stress-free performance that he has shared with thousands of people all over the world.

                                        His premise? That productivity is proportional to your ability to relax.

                                        Get the book here!

                                        12. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

                                          In this book, Stephen Covey presents a holistic approach for overcoming both professional and personal issues. With insights and anecdotes, Covey presents a way to live with integrity fairness, service and dignity.

                                          Get the book here!

                                          13. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferriss

                                            In this book, Ferriss dishes on the tips he has learned from studying the New Rich, a subculture of people who did away with the deferred life plan and mastered time and mobility to developed luxury lifestyles for themselves.

                                            If you’re looking to make your way in this revolutionary new world, this here is your compass.

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                                            Get the book here!

                                            14. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh

                                              The CEO of Zappos shows how a unique kind of corporate identity can help deliver a huge difference in the way results are being achieved — by creating a company that values and delivers happiness.

                                              Get the book here!

                                              15. Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way by Richard Branson

                                                From Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Records and V2 to Virgin Cola, Virgin Megastores and a wide array of other companies, Richard Branson is the rockstar billionaire that a lot of us want to be.

                                                Branson, however, did business by following a simple philosophy:

                                                “Oh, screw it, let’s do it”

                                                Losing My Virginity is an unusual, borderline outrageous autobiography of one of the greatest business geniuses in the world. Branson and his friends named their business “Virgin” because that was what they were — virgins at the game.

                                                Since then, he’s written his success rules, creating a global business that has no headquarters, no management structure no corporate identity as it were.

                                                Get the book here!

                                                More Inspirations for Entrepreneurs

                                                Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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