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6 Small Ways to Put More Peace in Your Day

You don’t need to completely overhaul your life to find more calm.

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Not only can the daily grind be a lot to deal with, but the current state of the world is enough to leave even the calmest of people craving a little more Zen in their day. Short of setting up your own meditation studio or fleeing to an uninhabited white-sand beach somewhere, one of the best ways to reduce your stress and feel happier is to exercise, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. That doesn’t have to mean signing up for a boot camp class or registering for a half marathon; you can start incorporating these small activities throughout the day—and enjoying your newfound calm.

Practice a Quick Yoga Flow

If you have time for it, a quick yoga flow can help. A scientific review of 35 trials observing the effects of yoga on anxiety and stress suggests that there could be a decrease in stress and/or anxiety symptoms after participating in a yoga regimen. A good habit to get into would be starting your morning with sun salutations, an easy flow that doesn’t require too much exertion but will get your blood flowing.

Stretch

You don’t need a whole yoga class to find some inner peace. Stretching regularly and relaxing tense muscles can help relieve stress. Next time you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, try moving the muscles on your face, rolling out your neck, or opening up your chest for 30 seconds or so.

Find Time to Walk Every Day

Force yourself into a daily walking habit, because it’ll pay off even when you aren’t in the mood. In a few separate experiments, researchers found that walking without a purpose leads to a positive affect (aka a good mood), and that walking even if you’re not interested in moving can override negative emotions like dread or boredom. Swap your drive to a nearby errand for a walk, or take your dog around the neighborhood instead of out in the yard.

Take That Walk Through Nature—or Make a Virtual One

Maximize the benefits of your daily walk by making at least part of it through a green space. Studies have found positive associations with spending time in nature, including helping with stress relief, decreased anxiety, well-being, and mindfulness. Can’t get outside? Another study found that even looking at photos of trees could help lower stress levels.

Break a Sweat

Exercise can do a lot to reduce burnout. In one four-week study of 49 previously inactive volunteers, participants reported greater feelings of well-being and decreasing feelings of stress and emotional exhaustion based off a subjective questionnaire. If you can’t spend an hour at the gym every time you work out, don’t worry—the American College of Sports Medicine says that just one continuous exercise session coupled with multiple shorter sessions (of at least 10 minutes) over the course of a day is good too.

Silently Meditate Twice a Day

Meditating isn’t active, per se, but any yoga instructor would argue meditation is a key part of being active—and lowering stress levels. In an eight-week trial including 178 adults, researchers found that participants who practiced “mental silence,” in which they focused on the present to achieve “thoughtless awareness,” significantly improved their stress levels (particularly when it came to work) compared to a group who used a relaxation technique and a control group. Download a meditation app and set your alarm to remember to practice. If you can fit it in twice a day, try once mid-morning and once at that 3 p.m. slump.

Find other great health and wellness stories at MarthaStewart.com/Strive.