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Science-Based Ways to Feel Calmer

Learn what calmness is and ways that you can simply and effectively achieve calmness in your life.



In a recent study, researchers spoke with 103 people who had received treatment or support for depression and analyzed their responses for keywords describing feelings of calmness (Weiss et al., 2021). Notably, of the 29 words identified as being related to calmness, only five were traits or feelings that described the presence of calmness. The five words that were related to feeling calm included:

  • At ease

  • Mellow

  • Patient

  • Peaceful

  • Relaxed

Exercises to Induce Calm

There are a number of exercises and techniques that can be used to increase calmness and decrease tension, anxiety, and stress (Norelli et al., 2021). Some exercises may include:

  • Listening to Music - Listening to music can reduce both physical and psychological stress and increase calmness (de Witte et al., 2022). At a physiological level, listening to music can decrease stress hormone levels, lower heart rate, and decrease blood pressure. At a psychological level, listening to music can decrease negative emotions like worry, anxiety, nervousness, and restlessness. Lastly, at a neural level, listening to music may promote the release of calming neurochemicals including endorphins and oxytocin.

  • Drawing - Drawing, like other forms of artistic expression including coloring, sculpting, painting, and collage-making may help to reduce feelings of worry and anxiety and increase feelings of calmness (Abbing et al., 2018). Drawing and other forms of artistic expression may allow you to access and express feelings and thoughts that may be difficult to access and express verbally (Morris, 2014).

  • Intentional Deep Breathing - Controlling your breath and ensuring that your inhalations and exhalations take the same amount of time may help you regulate your physiological stress responses. In box-breathing, you visualize a box or a square with sides of equal length. Each side of the box represents one of the stages of breathing. Thus, in box-breathing, you breathe in through your nose to a count of 4, hold the air in your lungs for a count of 4, breath out for a count of 4, and then hold your breath for a count of 4. These steps are repeated for any period of time between 1 to 20 minutes and may help you increase your calmness.

  • Guided Imagery - Visualizing a calm, tranquil setting may help to promote calmness by providing a distraction from intrusive thoughts. In order to practice guided imagery, first make yourself comfortable, then visualize a tranquil setting, either one that you have personally experienced, or one that you imagine. Imagine the setting as experienced by all of your senses including sight, sound, smell, taste, and feel. Sustain the visualization for as long as you need or are able. Concentrate on keeping your breathing slow and deep and on how being in that environment brings calmness.

  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation - By tensing and then relaxing the muscles of your body, focusing on the feeling of release that comes with un-tensing, you may be able to reduce anxiety and increase calmness.

There are others thing we can do to stimulate calmness. Things that stimulate calmness may include:

  • Taking a warm bath

  • Mindfulness meditation (Vijayaraghavan & Chandran, 2019)

  • Journaling

  • Yoga

  • Taking a walk

  • Getting a massage

  • Breathing fresh air

  • Drinking calming tea

  • Usinf essential oils (Walsh, 2020)

In Sum

Calmness is both the absence of feelings of worry, stress, anxiety, fear, and panic as well as the presence of peace, relaxation, patience, and ease. It is psychological as well as physical: when you feel calm not only do you feel emotionally and mentally relaxed, but your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate are also probably relatively low. Although life events may cause you to lose your calmness at times, regaining a sense of calmness is possible. As we have reviewed in this article, you may be able to achieve calmness by listening to music, playing games, creating art, trying out some calming exercises, or trying out some calming essential oils.

References

  • ​Abbing, A., Ponstein, A., van Hooren, S., de Sonneville, L., Swaab, H., & Baars, E. (2018). The effectiveness of art therapy for anxiety in adults: A systematic review of randomised and non-randomised controlled trials. PloS one, 13(12), e0208716.

  • de Witte, M., Pinho, A. D. S., Stams, G. J., Moonen, X., Bos, A. E., & van Hooren, S. (2022). Music therapy for stress reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Health Psychology Review, 16(1), 134-159.

  • Morris, F. J. (2014). Should art be integrated into cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders?. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 41(4), 343-352.

  • Norelli, S. K., Long, A., & Krepps, J. M. (2021). Relaxation techniques. In StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing.

  • Vijayaraghavan, N., & Chandran, M. (2019). Effect of meditation on psychological well-being. The International Journal of Indian Psychology, 7(2).

  • Walsh, C. (2020). What the nose knows. The Harvard Gazette, 2, 27.

  • Weiss, C., Meehan, S. R., Brown, T. M., Gupta, C., Mørup, M. F., Thase, M. E., ... & Ismail, Z. (2021). Effects of adjunctive brexpiprazole on calmness and life engagement in major depressive disorder: post hoc analysis of patient-reported outcomes from clinical trial exit interviews. Journal of Patient-Reported Outcomes, 5(1), 1-11.

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