When you think about some of the best ways to reduce stress, things such as mindful breathing, exercise, and meditation may come to mind. But maybe those haven’t worked for you, and, instead, you’ve found yourself wondering: How can I reduce my stress?
I’ve found that some of the best ways to deal with stress are by engaging in fun activities you actually enjoy!
Why? Well, when you focus on doing things you actually like to do—and look forward to doing—you’re more likely to keep doing them! And when you continue to engage in fun activities that lower stress, you’ll gain even more benefits. Now, how’s that for some stress management techniques?
The Health Benefits of Having Fun
Several studies have shown that laughter actually helps to better cope with stress.
One groundbreaking study showed that people who laugh frequently experience fewer negative emotions—even when they were presented with heightened stressful situations.  As a result, therapeutic programs built around the goal of inducing laughter are even being offered as ways to deal with stress, depression, and anxiety.
What’s more, studies have shown that when you participate in activities you enjoy, you actually lower your risk for certain serious diseases!
In a 2011 study, researchers found that when seniors engaged in hobbies for at least one hour each day, they had a lower risk of dementia than those who participated for 30 minutes or less each day. 
The activities recorded in the study include: reading books, magazines, and newspapers; and engaging in hobbies such as board games, crafts, crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, musical instruments, and card games.
So, while it’s important to eat well and live a healthy lifestyle, it’s equally important to find enjoyment in your daily life. What are good outlets for stress? Here are some of the best ways to reduce stress while having fun.
Have Fun! 5 Best Ways to Reduce Stress
If you’re wondering how to handle stress, read on for these fun tips to reduce stress. Follow these steps to deal with stress and feel yourself breathe a sigh of relief!
1. Get outside. The simple act of walking outdoors may do more for your stress levels than anything else! A 2019 study showed that spending just 20 to 30 minutes outside at least three times per week can decrease your cortisol (the stress hormone) at a rate of over 21 percent per hour.
Amazingly, the researchers saw no marked differences based on what people were doing outside. So, whether you enjoy a leisurely stroll, riding your bicycle, doing yoga, or even just sitting outside, the simple act of getting outdoors can be one of the best ways you can reduce your stress naturally.
2. Belt out a tune. You don’t have to be a contestant on The Voice to reap the benefits of this all-natural stress reliever. New research is showing that singing should be considered physical exercise.
While it isn’t likely to burn as many calories as going for a run, the breathwork involved in singing your favorite tunes actually works out the major muscle groups in your upper body, which has been shown to benefit both your lungs and heart. In fact, this breathwork is so similar to that of yoga, the benefits of singing a song are almost identical to those of a yoga routine! 
Moreover, singing has been shown to be a great way to lower stress because it causes your body to release endorphins and oxytocin (your “feel-good” hormones). It’s also been shown to reduce cortisol and even increase life expectancy! So the next time you’re feeling anxious, grab your friends and head out to a karaoke bar or belt out your favorite song the next time you’re in the shower.
3. Get into the groove. There’s no doubt about it: Dancing is one of my favorite ways to relieve stress and get in some heart-healthy exercise! And studies show that simply moving your body to the beat can help relieve stress fast!
In a 2013 study, researchers conducted experiments where participants could choose from the following activities: listen to music, exercise on a stationary bike, or dance for five minutes. In addition to displaying better problem-solving skills, the dancers experienced higher mood levels. 
The researchers noted that dancing seems to release more endorphins than other aerobic movements and even stimulates an emotional release not found in other forms of exercise. It was also more successful at reducing cortisol levels.
Personally, I like to take hip-hop classes because they’re fun, upbeat, and get my heart pumping. But any kind of dancing you are drawn to will give you the stress relief you’re seeking.
4. Watch a funny movie. Is there anything more enjoyable than sitting down and losing yourself in a comedy? And while it’s fun, it’s also a great way to improve your overall health, making it one of the best ways to relieve stress.
Laughing while watching comedies has been shown to not only reduce cortisol but also boost your heart health. Researchers at the University of Maryland found that laughing while watching a funny movie caused participants’ blood vessels to dilate by 22 percent, resulting in lower blood pressure and feelings of relaxation. 
So the next time you’re feeling stress, head to the theater, or pop in your all-time favorite comedy. Sit back and enjoy yourself, knowing you’re relieving your stress while also boosting your heart health!
5. Spend time with a pet. One of my absolute favorite things to do is spend time with my pets. They bring so much joy to my life, and I just can’t get enough of them. In fact, I take my French bulldog, Piglet (affectionately called Piggy), to my office, and patients light up when they see her. And there’s a great reason why!
Studies have shown that petting a beloved pet or even just having one close by relieves stress and lowers cortisol in both adults and children. [6,7] But there’s no need to fret if you don’t have a pet of your own. You can visit a friend with a pet or even the local shelter to spend some quality time with a pet in need.
Key Takeaways about Fun Ways to Reduce Stress
- Engaging in a fun, stress-reducing activity increases the likelihood you’ll stick with it.
- Science shows that both laughing and engaging in fun hobbies for 30 minutes each day lowers the stress hormone cortisol.
- Find something you enjoy and carve out some time a few days each week to have some fun and relieve stress to achieve better health!