5 Science-Backed Ways to Add Calm to Your Life

A nature walks helps to calm the soul

In a world that emphasizes eating right and exercising, it’s easy to forget about the importance of managing stress and courting a sense of calm. According to the American Psychological Association, in 2017, 3 out of 4 Americans experienced at least one symptom related to stress over a 30-day period. Those numbers are likely higher since the pandemic and social isolation wreaked havoc with collective mental health.

There’s another reason to cultivate calm. Experts point out that 80% of chronic health issues are related to stress. If we can tackle stress and find solutions that work for stress management, it can lower disease burden and improve quality of life. Stress management is an aspect of wellness that the wellness community doesn’t emphasize enough.

Unfortunately, the world is unpredictable and chaotic – pandemics, career struggles, unpredictable weather, and the list of things to worry about grows ever longer. But mindset and habits play a key role in how calm and relaxed you feel. Let’s look at some ways to cultivate calm in your own life using simple strategies that are backed by science.

Slow Your Breathing

Are you conscious of your breathing? If you were, you would likely discover you’re breathing too quickly and shallowly. In contrast, studies show that diaphragmatic breathing, using your diaphragm, a dome shaped muscle beneath your lungs, to breathe slowly and in a controlled manner, helps alleviate stress, has a calming effect. It can even give your cognitive function a boost.

In contrast to taking fast, superficial breaths, slow, deep breathing turns on your parasympathetic nervous system, the portion that slows your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure, and helps you feel calmer. Slow, controlled breathing is an approach that works quickly too. Five minutes of slow, controlled breathing can help reboot and reset your nervous system, so you feel calmer and more centered.

Here’s how to do diaphragmatic breathing:

  • Sit in a comfortable chair with your body relaxed.
  • Place one hand on your rib cage and the other on the top of your chest.
  • Breathe in through your nose as you feel your stomach expand against your lower hand.
  • Exhale through pursed lips as you feel your stomach move inward.
  • Use your upper hand to ensure your chest doesn’t move when you breathe in and out, only your stomach.

You can use this approach to breathing whenever you feel tense or anxious.

Tune Out

Do you feel like you’re bombarded with messages, many of them negative, all day every day? You may not even realize how many negative messages hit your conscious or subconscious, from news sources and social media. Nor are you likely aware of the impact they have on your mind and body.

It’s challenging to tune them all out! Even if you can’t silence them entirely, you can create more balance. To do this, replace some of the negative messages you’re bombarded with and that destroy calm with relaxing and uplifting stimuli. For example, rather than listen to the news on your smartphone while preparing dinner, play relaxing music in the background. Look for sites that share upbeat news and give yourself a much-needed break from negativity. Don’t always have mainstream news blaring in the background. It’ll get to you after while!

Reduce Clutter

Clutter in your home and workplace is another enemy of calm. A calm space is an organized space. When everything is in its place, it quiets the mind, while visual clutter is a distraction that intrudes and demands your attention. Rather than enjoy other things, your mind drifts toward what you should do to clear the clutter.

Keep your desk organized too, as a messy desk creates mental confusion. When you’re surrounded by clutter, it’s hard to concentrate on the task at hand and focus on what matters most. Make sure your supplies are easy to find so that you don’t waste time looking for what you need. Remove distracting objects from your desk too. The one exception might be something that makes you feel calm, like a beautiful house plant, or photos of your loved ones or pets.

Be Present

“If you are depressed, you are living in the past, if you are anxious, you are living in the future, if you are at peace, you are living in the present.”

— Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu is right. How many mental health issues arise from not living in the movement? The key to being present is to practice mindfulness and use all your senses to focus on the present moment. The goal of mindfulness is to help you live your life more fully and be more aware of what goes on around you. By focusing on the present moment, you crowd out worries and other distractions that cause anxiety and destroy calm.

Mindfulness takes practice. Start by sitting quietly and accepting the thoughts and feelings that come to you without judging them or trying to chase them away. Remember, the only moment you have is now. Acknowledge that, and you’ll be one step closer to cultivating calm.

Rediscover Nature

Don’t forget about the calming benefits of nature exposure. Exercise, even walking, releases endorphins and triggers other biochemical changes that relax the mind and body. Plus, walking is a repetitive motion that distracts from worry. That too can be beneficial for calming your mind and body. Through walking and other forms of movement, you engage your mind in repetitive activity that soothes your mind. Plus, you get the added benefits of being in nature – sunshine, a calming environment, and vitamin D too.

The Bottom Line

Creating calm is one of the most powerful things you can do to lower your stress level and improve your mental health. Being mentally calm and in a good place can positively impact your physical health too. Put these tips into practice regularly and you’ll notice your stress level diminish.


  • “Study shows how slow breathing induces tranquility | News ….” 30 Mar. 2017, /med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2017/03/study-discovers-how-slow-breathing-induces-tranquility.html.
  • Ma X, Yue ZQ, Gong ZQ, Zhang H, Duan NY, Shi YT, Wei GX, Li YF. The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults. Front Psychol. 2017 Jun 6;8:874. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00874. PMID: 28626434; PMCID: PMC5455070.
  • “5 Steps for Being Present | Psychology Today.” 14 Jun. 2011, psychologytoday.com/us/blog/enlightened-living/201106/5-steps-being-present.
  • “By the numbers: Our stressed-out nation.” https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/12/numbers.
  • “The Proven Health Benefits of Positive News—and How to Deal With the ….” 09 Sept. 2018, https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/proven-health-benefits-of-positive-news/.

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