Life has been particularly stressful.
Between a pandemic, political upheaval, social unrest, and natural disasters, it seems the world is spinning out of control.
Some of the relaxing activities you’ve done in the past may not be options for you now given the state of things.
Life feels fraught with uncertainty and many are experiencing a sudden loss of work, income, physical health, and mental well-being.
You may wonder, “How can I destress myself instantly so I don’t feel so constantly overwhelmed?”
Given all of the scary and unsettling headlines and world events, is it even possible to find things to do to relax and find inner peace?
Although these times have been particularly challenging, there is one thing we all have control of — how we react and respond to the challenges before us.
One of the best ways to respond to stressful times is by engaging in activities to destress.
Taking the time to step back and recharge gives you the mental and emotional energy to cope with overwhelming and difficult events.
During hectic or stressful times, the best thing you can do for yourself is to practice self-care and show compassion to yourself.
Our list below offers you a variety of fun relaxing things to do in your own home or outside.
29 Relaxing Things to Do at Home and Outside:
1. Read a book.
Reading is always my go-to form of relaxation. For me, the book should be a novel that allows me to escape rather than something requiring my concentration, or that makes me think about work.
Right now, I’m reading Shantaram, which is one of the most beautiful, engaging books I’ve read in a long time.
2. Take a hike.
Do you live somewhere near the mountains with beautiful places to hike?
Even if you don’t live near the mountains, you can always find a park or nearby forest where you can take a solitary hike in nature.
Rigorous exercise can definitely recharge you, but I find the slower pace of hiking allows for more contemplation and appreciation of the beauty around me.
When I hike, I feel like a weight has been lifted and a sense of peace replaces it.
3. Practice meditation.
Meditation doesn’t have to be lengthy and complicated. Even if you set aside ten minutes a day, simply quieting your mind and focusing on your breathing helps you relax and reduce stress.
The physical, emotional, and mental benefits of meditation are numerous, and once you begin the practice, you’ll see how it quiets your mind from the incessant chatter even during times when you aren’t meditating.
4. Write something.
There are so many stress-reducing benefits of writing, whether you start writing your first book, your personal manifesto, or you simply write in a journal.
Writing allows you to release all of the ideas, concerns, and feelings you might have bottled up inside.
It also puts you in a state of “flow” where you lose track of time because you’re so engaged in what you’re doing. The flow state is similar to being in a meditative state.
5. Listen to music.
When you need to recharge, listen to relaxing music on Spotify or Pandora. It’s perfect when you just want to feel calm and peaceful.
There have been a lot of studies confirming that music has a beneficial effect on many physical functions, such as slowing the pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the levels of stress hormones.
6. Get a massage from a family member.
Aside from the fact that it feels so wonderful, massage is really good for you. A recent study conducted by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center found that a single session of deep tissue massage causes several biological changes.
Study volunteers showed significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as increases in white blood cells that are part of the immune system.
Massage activates the body on an internal level to respond and correct the physiological imbalance caused by our stressful lives.
7. Play an instrument.
I recently bought a stick dulcimer, which is a dulcimer that looks like a tiny guitar. It’s really easy to play, even for someone with no experience, and it has the most beautiful sound.
When I feel stressed out with work or just tired, it is so relaxing to pick out a tune on the dulcimer.
Again, it puts you in that state of flow where you feel transported and disconnected from time. Practicing any instrument can offer this same feeling.
8. Practice yoga.
Yoga is an active meditation, a mind-body practice combining physical poses, controlled breathing, and relaxation.
It has been shown to reduce stress, lower blood pressure and lower your heart rate.
You don’t have to go to a yoga studio to practice it. You can find a variety of free YouTube videos will simple yoga poses to help you get started.
9. Paint or draw.
Creative endeavors only work as stress-reducers if you don’t place judgment on what you’re doing. Give yourself permission to paint or draw freely, just for the fun of it.
If a blank page feels too intimidating, get an adult coloring book and some colored pens or pencils. Coloring, especially coloring mandalas, is a stress-relieving activity that relaxes the fear center in your brain.
10. People watch.
Go to a local coffee shop or cafe, grab a latte or cup of tea, and sit outside to watch the world go by — without working on your computer or looking at your phone.
You can also enjoy watching people by sitting on a bench at a local park. Or bring your own chair and your headphones to listen to music.
11. Take a bath.
Fill the tub with warm water and scented bath salts. Light some candles and play some relaxing music.
Slide down in the tub, close your eyes, and let all of your daily stress float away.
12. Try knitting.
Once you learn how to knit, knitting can be as relaxing as meditation. You can simply zone out and allow muscle memory to do the work.
The rhythmic motions and focus required put you in a trance state and distract you from your worries and negative thoughts.
13. Cuddle an animal.
Whether you have your own pet or you go to a pet store, holding and cuddling an animal is amazingly calming.
Studies show petting an animal can increase levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol.
14. Watch a movie.
Watching a movie by yourself can be mindless and therapeutic. You are in a dark room without distractions or other people to talk to, focused entirely on a make-believe story.
I find that uplifting, funny, or romantic movies are better during hectic times rather than action movies or thrillers.
15. Do a mindfulness task.
Hand wash the dishes. Organize a drawer. Fold the laundry. Wash the car. All of these require little mental effort, but they keep your hands busy.
While you are doing these tasks, try to focus on what you are doing rather than allowing your mind to wander.
Enjoy every element of the experience, no matter how small or rote they may be.
You will feel present, productive, and relaxed at the same time.
16. Reflect on positive events.
Take 10-15 minutes to sit and reflect on happy events in your life or to count your blessings.
This kind of positive reflection has been shown to improve overall feelings of happiness and contentment.
It’s one of the 12 elements of happiness, according to Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, a happiness researcher who wrote the book, The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want.
17. Drink tea.
In my book, Peace of Mindfulness: Everyday Rituals to Conquer Anxiety and Claim Unlimited Inner Peace
, I discuss the ritual of preparing and drinking tea mindfully.
Buddhist monk and author, Thich Nhat Hanh, suggests that drinking tea can be a meditation itself when you do it mindfully.
You pay full attention to selecting your cup, boiling the water, pouring the water over the tea, watching the water become infused with the tea, sipping the tea slowly, and washing your cup.
18. Eat slowly.
When you’re stressed and rushed, eating well is one of the first things to go. We eat too quickly, grab fast food, eat too many snacks, or skip meals.
Instead, plan for one meal a day where you choose and prepare healthy foods, and you eat them slowly, appreciatively, and mindfully.
19. Take a catnap.
A short, restorative nap for about 15 minutes or so can be just enough to re-energize you for the rest of the day.
Set a timer so you don’t fall to deeply asleep, which can make you groggy.
Just turn off all distractions, close your eyes, and allow yourself to drift into a relaxed sleep for a few minutes.
20. Swing on a swing.
I have a friend who loves to swing on her kids’ swing set when she needs to think or process something going on in her life.
The rhythmic motion of the swing and the pumping movement of your arms and legs puts you in a meditative state. If it’s too cold to do this outside, try a rocking chair instead.
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21. Make soup.
Soup is comfort food, and the process of preparing food is very comforting.
Chopping vegetables, stirring the soup, watching it bubble, and smelling the fragrant aroma of soup cooking is a joyful and relaxing process.
22. Speak affirmations.
Affirmations are positive statements related to an intention, mindset, or goal you want to adopt. You speak them in the present tense to reinforce your aim to make them happen.
As you speak affirmations, you are solidifying the positive frame of mind you need to achieve what you want are stating. The activity gives you some sense of control over outcomes in your life when the world seems so uncertain.
23. Practice visualization.
Like speaking affirmations, practicing visualization can reinforce your efforts toward an outcome or goal. Your mental efforts with visualization support your real and physical efforts.
Sit quietly with your eyes closed, and visualize every aspect of what you will do to achieve the outcome. See yourself taking these actions successfully and ultimately reaching the final goal.
24. Color in an adult coloring book.
Adult coloring books have become the latest stress-relieving tool that helps us take our minds off of our problems and worries.
As you focus on coloring the intricate designs and staying within the lines, you become immersed in the activity and feel calm but energized.
There are so many beautiful adult coloring books to choose from based on your interests and goals with coloring.
25. Look through old photos.
It can be relaxing and fun to take a trip down memory lane and look at old photos or videos of yourself, family, and friends through the years.
Just be sure you aren’t grieving the loss of a loved one or in a particularly sentimental frame of mind. The point of this activity is to lift you up and relax you — not make you sad.
26. Watch the stars.
Weather permitting, grab a blanket and spread it out in the darkest part of your yard. Lie down on your back and gaze at the night sky. Look at the stars and the moon.
Listen to the outdoor sounds of crickets, owls, and other night creatures. Pay attention to the smells and sensations of the evening.
27. Listen to a calming podcast.
There are hundreds of podcasts with calming music, mindfulness activities, guided meditations, and nature sounds, in addition to relaxing story and interview formats that are informative and light.
28. Take a digital break.
Think of how much stress your devices bring into your life on a daily basis. Sure, they are your lifeline to the world, but they also drain and de-energize you.
Turn off your smartphone, shut down your computer or tablet, and unplug the television. Spend your day the old-fashioned way — doing something or doing nothing at all.
29. Make love.
If you have a spouse or romantic partner, prioritize physical intimacy to reinforce your bond and to relax.
If your lives are especially busy and stressful, plan ahead for a love-making date. Find someone to watch your kids. Come home from work early. Remove any possible distractions.
Then light candles, put on some music, shower together, and enjoy a slow and satisfying sexual encounter. What could be more relaxing?
What are the most relaxing things to do for you?
If you’ve read this far, you’re looking for ways to reduce stress and find some peace in this crazy time. Have you found what you’re looking for? We sure hope so.
You may not be sure exactly what will work for you, but commit to trying one or two of these activities this week. Pay attention to how you feel before, during, and after the activity.
Give your stress levels a ranking from 1 (not stressed at all) to 10 (extremely stressed) to see how the activity impacts you.
Remember, you can’t always control what’s happening in the world around you, but you can respond in ways that promote peace of mind and calm.