5 Surprising Things That Keep You Calm (Even If You Don't Know It)

07/15/2014 07:03 am ET | Updated Jul 15, 2014
Iakov Kalinin via Getty Images

We all know meditating, going outdoors and doing yoga are incredibly useful ways to stave off stressful emotions, but sometimes we need to get creative when it comes to boosting our mood. The truth is, the secret to finding some zen may be closer (and easier) than you think. If you're looking for a way to cultivate some calm, check out some of the surprising ways to banish your blues below. Soon you'll be feeling relaxed and ready to take on the stress of your day (yoga mats and trees optional).

Go back to your roots.
welcome home

They say home is where the heart is -- but it can also be where the zen is. There's nothing quite like the comforts of the old and familiar. Going home can bring back memories of Saturday morning cartoons and holidays with the family -- and that source of nostalgia doesn't just induce positive emotions, it reminds us of the value of the little moments. As author Elizabeth Wagele explains, by recalling those memories, we can banish the stressful feelings we try to fight on a daily basis. "Indulging in nostalgia is different from reminiscing and can counteract loneliness, boredom, and anxiety and inspire optimism," she wrote in a Psychology Today blog. "[E]xperience is a prized possession that no one can take away."

Let out a heavy sigh.
breathing

If life is weighing you down, sometimes letting it all out through your breath is the only way to lift yourself up. When we focus on our breath, we have the power to calm our nervous system so we can get ourselves back to balance. But if you're looking for a way to ignite your inner zen -- and fast -- you can quickly reset your body and mind through deep sighs. Talk about an easy, feel-good way to power through tension.

Visit your local cafe.
coffee

While that 3 p.m. caffeine habit may not be the best idea for your sleep, inhaling the heavy, warm aroma of the drink can be smart. Next time you're feeling a little frustrated, head over to the nearest cafe (or coffee pot). In a small study on rats, researchers found that the smell of coffee reduced stress levels. Forget about stopping to smell the roses -- we'll be stopping to smell the latte.

Paint your thoughts blue.
blue scene

If you're a little overwhelmed or high-strung, try visualizing (or surrounding yourself with) the color blue. Color psychology associates the hue with a sense of calm, and some research has found that exposure to blue light can help relieve stress. Need a little help? Try picturing one of these relaxing scenes.

If all else fails: When nothing goes right, go left.
left turn

Sometimes all it takes to traverse the peaks and valleys of life is a simple shift in perspective. When Plan A doesn't work, there's always a Plan B (or a C or a D) -- and as author and coach Lisa Manterfield explains, reframing how we approach overwhelming situations can do wonders for our ability to get back on track. "Sometimes, we get so caught up in chasing our dreams that we lose track of what it was we really wanted in the first place," she wrote in a Psychology Today blog. "Sometimes, a shift in perspective can be enough to show us that the things we thought we could never have were there for us all along."

This GPS Guide is part of a series of posts designed to bring you back to balance when you're feeling off course.

GPS Guides are our way of showing you what has relieved others' stress in the hopes that you will be able to identify solutions that work for you. We all have de-stressing "secret weapons" that we pull out in times of tension or anxiety, whether they be photos that relax us or make us smile, songs that bring us back to our heart, quotes or poems that create a feeling of harmony or meditative exercises that help us find a sense of silence and calm. We encourage you to visit our other GPS Guides here, and share with us your own personal tips for finding peace, balance and tranquility.

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