15 Healthy Indulgences Under $15

A quick self-massage can take your stress down a notch or two.

Try Your Hand at Massage

A quick self-massage can take your stress down a notch or two. (It may also give your immune system a boost.) Stand against a wall and place a tennis ball between your shoulder blades. Gently bend your knees to give yourself a back rub. For a neck massage, clasp your hands behind your head and make small, deep circles with your thumbs. To release tension in your face, try rubbing your forehead and jaw with your fingers.

Fresh-cut blooms, whether from the store or your yard, can instantly put you at ease.

Go for Flower Power

Fresh-cut blooms, whether from the store or your yard, can instantly put you at ease. This may be because of their beauty or because flowers often share a strong link with happy events. Choose flowers that are a color and scent you enjoy, and place them somewhere in your home where you'll see them often.

If you feel tense, it might be time to invest in a houseplant.

Get Your Hands Dirty

If you feel tense, it might be time to invest in a houseplant. When you plant and take care of one, you'll probably feel more relaxed than if you spent the same time on your computer or phone. Houseplants offer a calming connection that even has the power to soothe your nervous system and help lower your blood pressure.

It’s great to connect to others, but smartphones, tablets, and laptops make it hard to ever get a break.

Take a Tech Time-Out

It's great to connect to others, but smartphones, tablets, and laptops make it hard to ever get a break. If you find yourself online a lot, you may start to feel stressed and like you don't have enough time. To relax and recharge, unplug, even for a short while. Put all screens away, even for an hour. Use that time to be present IRL instead.

Sip a cup of black or green tea to relax.

Tap Into Tea

Sip a cup of black or green tea to relax. It sounds too simple to be true, but studies show that doing so can help reduce tension and improve your outlook. Exactly why isn't clear, although tea's smell, taste, warmth, and active ingredients seem to play a part. Some herb teas, like chamomile, can also help reduce your anxiety.

The warmth of the water gently widens your blood vessels and improves blood flow throughout your body, which helps you relax.

Dip Into a Warm Bath

The warmth of the water gently widens your blood vessels and improves blood flow throughout your body, which helps you relax. One study found that people who bathe on a regular basis feel less stressed and tired and even smile more. Tip: Bathe right before bed and the rise and fall of your body temperature can also help you fall asleep. Moisturize when you get out of the tub.

Sometimes, you don’t need to do more to relax; you need to do less.

Focus on What Matters Most

Sometimes, you don't need to do more to relax; you need to do less. If you feel pushed and pulled many different ways, make a list of the things you care about the most. Then, simply say “No, thanks” to events and activities you don't have time or interest in. If you're not used to turning down requests, this may feel hard at first. But you'll likely find that you can unwind in the extra time and mental space it gives you.

It’s one of the fastest ways to start to unwind. As little as 20 minutes in nature (even your yard or a city park) can help distract you from negative thoughts.

Get Outside

It's one of the fastest ways to start to unwind. As little as 20 minutes in nature (even your yard or a city park) can help distract you from negative thoughts. The calming sounds you hear may also lower your blood pressure. You don't need to climb a mountain to feel more relaxed. Sit or stroll in any outdoor setting you enjoy. If that can't happen right now, look at nature photos you love.

Relaxing music has a direct effect on your nervous system.

De-Stress With Music

Relaxing music has a direct effect on your nervous system. It slows your heart rate and breathing, lowers your blood pressure, and signals your muscles to soften. When you need to mentally let go, your best bet is to choose music you love. Can't decide? Opt for classical, folk, or jazz songs. They have a rhythm between 60 to 80 beats per minute that helps your body calm down.

Put a few drops of a scented oil into a diffuser or a spray bottle filled with water.

Soothe Yourself With Scent

Lavender, vanilla, and jasmine are a few options to send a smell-based “Chill out” message to your body's nervous system. Put a few drops of a scented oil into a diffuser or a spray bottle filled with water. (If you have pets, check with your vet first, since some oils are toxic to animals.) You can also look for lotions and candles made with a scent you like.

A support system of friends and family is proven to help you better handle stress and lift your mood.

Connect With Your People

A support system of friends and family is proven to help you better handle stress and lift your mood. Make time to call, text, or email someone who makes you feel good. You can fill them in on how you're doing and also get out of your head by listening to what's going on in their life.

A short midday snooze can help lower tension and boost your mood.

Indulge in a Nap

A short midday snooze can help lower tension and boost your mood. If you often sleep less than 7 hours at night or your energy lags right after lunch, a good nap may be just what you need. Find a quiet, dark place to close your eyes for 20 minutes and you'll wake refreshed and more alert. (Nap longer than that and you may wake up groggy.)

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REFERENCES:

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  • American Council on Exercise: "Can Exercise Reduce Your Risk of Catching a Cold?"
  • American Psychological Association: "Exercise Fuels the Brain's Stress Buffers."
  • Case Western Reserve University: "Active Minds: Supporting Mental Health on Campus."
  • Cleveland Clinic: "Exercise and Your Health," "Heart-Health Benefits of Chocolate Unveiled."
  • George Washington University Medical Center: "Stress Busting Foods."
  • Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute Letter: "Humor, Laughter, and Those Aha Moments."
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  • National Intitutes of Health: "Black Tea."
  • National Sleep Foundation: "How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?"
  • New York University Langone Medical Center: "What are the Possible Health Benefits of Chocolate?"
  • North Carolina State University: "The Magic of Friendship."
  • Ohio State University: "A Little Music With Exercise Boosts Brain Power, Study Suggests."
  • PR Newswire: "U.S. Census Bureau Daily Feature for December 16."
  • Sedgwick County Health Department: "Why Is Stretching Important?"
  • State Government of Victoria: "Kissing and Your Health."
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  • USDA: "Why Is It Important to Eat Fruit?"
  • US Department of Health and Human Services: "Dark Chocolate May Harbor Benefits for the Heart."
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  • University of Georgia: "Sleep Rocks! Get More of It!"
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  • University of Wisconsin-Madison: "Stretching Exercises."
  • Washington University Sleep Medicine Center: "How Much Sleep Do I Need?"
  • Yale Scientificie Magazine: "Aromatherapy: Exploring Olfaction."
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