Trying to relax may be one of the hardest things I could do. My mind is always overflowing with thoughts. Some nonsense and some creative. I’m always looking for things to do, to keep busy. I’m always anxious about nothing and everything at the same time. But with the holidays are coming, it would be the perfect time to relax. But visiting family and friends you haven’t seen for years can be anything but. So what can you do to relax this Christmas? Let’s have a look at what the science says.
1 | Get A Massage
According to a study published in the awkwardly named Science Translational Medicine, Swedish massage is able to reduce inflammation. In 2012, researchers found that massage reduced inflammation around muscle tissues, helping them to recover faster than they could otherwise.
Another study, this time published in Health magazine, showed that massage could improve sleep. According to the scientists, massage has a positive effect on so-called delta waves in the brain, the kind of waves that are most strongly associated with deep REM sleep.
2 | Get A Pet
Next time you think your dog is stressing you out, think again. It turns out that domestic animals, like dogs and cats, actually have a direct effect on blood pressure. Scientists have found that people who live with pets, rather like people who live with other people, have lower blood pressure than those who don’t. Strange, but true.
3 | Switch Off Your Phone
Researchers writing in the British Psychological Society journal found that people who compulsively check their inboxes every five minutes are a lot more stressed than those that don’t. They also discovered that phone alerts were a significant stressor. It’s a good idea, therefore, to limit the amount of time you have alerts on your phone for things like emails and updates to the day time. Give yourself the evening off.
4 | Chew Gum
As a kid, you were always told that chewing gum was a bad habit and bad for the environment. But it turns out that it’s actually rather good for your psychological well being. Scientists have found that chewing gum has two benefits. First, it increases your ability to concentrate on certain tasks, like cooking the Christmas dinner. And second, it reduces stress levels by suppressing the body’s release of the stress hormone, cortisol, as measured by the amount of the stuff in the saliva.
5 | Eat Chocolate
Anna Magee is the author of The De-Stress Diet. The purpose of the diet is to get people off their emotional rollercoaster and back down to Earth. Most of what she recommends is par for the course, except, of course, her advice to eat more chocolate – something we’d all like to do more anyway. Of course, the chocolate she’s talking about is dark chocolate; the darker, the better. Eating chocolate, she says, causes the body to release its “happy chemicals” making you feel better almost the instant it touches your tongue.
6 | Create Your Own Mental Triggers
Spontaneous relaxation is a subject that has been researched extensively by Josh Waitzkin, a Tai Chi grandmaster. He says that it’s possible to achieve a state of calm before doing something really strenuous, like having the whole family over for Christmas. He suggests having a routine that puts you in the mood to do something difficult, like listening to music.