GPS FOR THE SOUL
06/22/2013 11:04 am ET | Updated Jul 02, 2015

These Summertime Activities Will Zap Your Stress In No Time

Summer may be one of the busiest times of the year with vacations and holiday weekends, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a little room for relaxation. What better way to take advantage of the warmer climate than escaping the indoors? There are many health advantages to spending more time outside. In fact, simply having access to a green space can help you to de-stress considerably.

Below, we’ve rounded up a few ways to unwind in the great outdoors. They’re the perfect activities for when things start to get a little bit hectic. Give one of them a try the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed -- you can thank yourself later.

  • Eat a slice of watermelon.
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    Move over, chocolate. Although the sweet treat is known for potentially containing stress-reducing properties, there may be a healthier option. A 2014 study from Florida State University found that snacking on watermelon could help lower blood pressure in overweight individuals. Watermelon also contains lycopene, which could possibly decrease stress.
  • Walk in the park.
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    Taking a 30-minute stroll through the park can shift your mind into a state of zen. Recent research in the U.K. found that walking through green spaces can help put the brain into a state of meditation.

    Taking a walk can also boost your mood by lowering stress and depression as well as by improving well-being.
  • Try some outdoor yoga.
    Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
    Yoga can be an effective stress reliever, and you can make your practice even more relaxing during the summer by moving outside. Bring your mat to a park on a quiet morning and practice these stress-busting yoga moves, or find a local "Yoga in the Park" class.
  • Take the dog out.
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    In addition to enjoying the tension-busting advantages of walking in nature, spending time with a pet can also help ease anxiety and calm the mind. A 2002 SUNY Buffalo study found that conducting difficult tasks becomes less stressful when a pet is present.

    "While the idea of a pet as social support may appear to some as a peculiar notion, our participants' responses to stress, combined with their descriptions of the meaning of pets in their lives, suggest to us that social support can indeed cross species," wrote lead author Karen Allen in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.
  • Explore a new bike path.
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    Biking is good for the mind and the body, especially outside on a sunny day. Physical activity -- cardio exercise in particular -- can boost self-confidence and improve symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Not to mention there's the added mood-boosting benefits of being outdoors. Time to get those wheels spinning.
  • Do some outdoor meditation.
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    Mindfulness meditation has been shown to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol -- and spending time in nature can also decrease anxiety.

    Find a quiet spot outdoors and try this "Sounds and Thoughts" meditation from Mindfulness author Danny Penman. The guided meditation can help you to calm your mind by shifting attention to the ambient sounds around you.
  • Go on a day trip.
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    It may be wiser to invest in experiences over material objects since they tend to make us happier. Cornell University psychology professor Thomas Gilovich found that when we buy new things, we are only excited about them for a short amount of time because we adapt to their novelty so quickly. Alternatively, he argues that experiences represent our true identities better than our personal items do.

    So next time you are tempted to buy that new apple watch, consider a relaxing river kayak or if you're feeling adventurous, or perhaps an exhilarating bungee jump instead.
  • Try your hand at gardening.
    Alamy
    Gardening can be a form of meditation that allows you to spend time in nature while immersing yourself in a calming activity. One study from the Netherlands found that gardening can decrease cortisol levels and boost mood among people who had just completed a stressful task. Even 30 minutes of leisurely reading didn't provide the same stress-relieving benefits, Health.com reported.
  • Take a dip in the ocean (or pool).
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    Like cycling, there are many emotional benefits that come with swimming, because it releases endorphins. Swimming could also directly decrease anxiety and depression, according to sports psychologist Aimee C. Kimball. It can also help boost self-confidence, because learning to swim is a way of overcoming a challenge.

    If you're able to go to the beach, there are benefits associated with sand and waves. The beach environment in general was found to make people happier than an urban environment. Many people find waves to be a calming rhythmic sound, and they're even believed to be able to induce a meditative state, according to research conducted by Philippe Goldin, a Stanford University neuroscientist. A trip to the beach can have many health benefits for your body as well, including the way sand exfoliates your feet.


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