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Reduce Stress and Increase Your Mental Well-Being in Just One Hour a Day

relaxing couple

If you are a human being who lives on planet Earth, you know what it means to deal with stress. Prolonged exposure to the kind of persistent mental stress most people experience on a regular basis can manifest itself in a variety of physical and mental illnesses.

Even if you aren’t experiencing a major trauma in your life, you are still living in a fast-paced, chaotic environment where you are faced with competing priorities and constant distractions that sap your focus and attention. It’s the curse of the modern world: We have more opportunity than ever before to do anything and everything, yet all those choices are overwhelming.

Finding easy ways to combat the daily stress that comes from living in a frenetic world should be a top priority for everyone, but you probably think you don’t have time in your day to do anything about your stress.

The good news is that you can combat the effects of daily stress and improve your well-being in just one hour a day. You can even do it on your lunch hour.

Not taking a lunch hour? You probably should be. But if you absolutely can’t spare a whole hour at once, you can do still do these things throughout your day without making a major time commitment.

Here are four things you can start doing right now that will improve your mental well-being and help you thrive in even the most stressful situations:

1. Meditate for 5 minutes

Meditation can quiet an overactive mind. Even just a few minutes of meditation can help calm the mind all day long. Use a guided meditation app or just sit in a comfortable spot and focus on breathing. If that’s too difficult, pick a mantra to repeat slowly in your head. Repeat a sentence that makes you feel calm. It could be something as simple as this: “I’m learning how to relax my mind.” If you worry you might fall asleep, be sure you keep your eyes open. Focus on looking out a window if you can. If you are at your desk, focus on a picture of something that brings you joy.  

2. Read for 15 minutes

Almost 20 percent of American adults didn’t read a single book in a year, yet research indicates that reading for pleasure can have multiple benefits, including building compassion, critical thinking, social awareness, and mental well-being. Pick a book to read just for the fun of it. Incorporate 15 minutes of sustained reading into your day and notice your brain’s ability to focus growing as each day goes by.

3. Walk outside for 20 minutes

Going outside every day provides strong physical and mental health boosts. Even if you can’t find a way to spend 20 minutes in a forest, take a break outside for a swift walk. Not only will you squeeze in a little exercise, you’ll return feeling more focused and more creative. If you can’t spare 20 minutes at a time, schedule two 10-minute breaks and power-walk around the block or just take a couple turns around your office. 

​​​​​4. Take a nap for 20 minutes

Thirty percent of Americans don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis. The good news for anyone burning the candle at both ends is that a power nap can provide a quick pick-me-up. You don’t even need a bed. Find a quiet place (preferably where you can’t be seen--nobody likes an audience when sleeping) and close your eyes. If you are sleep-deprived, you’ll fall asleep sitting up in a matter of minutes. Be sure to set an alarm. Napping any longer than 20 minutes and you’ll be dragging the rest of the day.

Bonus: If you aren’t sleep-deprived, you probably won’t fall asleep. Use your extra 20 minutes to do something that makes you happy. Send an email to a friend. Read your favorite gossip magazine. Enjoy a cup of coffee and a chat with a friend.


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