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11 Scientifically Proven Tips for Relaxing

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Constantly feeling stressed? You’re not alone. According to the American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America survey, the percentage of Americans who reported that they dealt with at least one symptom of stress in the prior month increased from 71 percent in August 2016 to 80 percent in January 2017. Luckily, science is here to help. Here are 11 proven ways to help you relax.

1. CHEW GUM.

Strange as it may seem, chewing gum—not to mention the fun of popping bubbles—has been shown to improve reported mood as well as lower cortisol levels.

2. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PLANTS.

Immersing yourself in nature can make you feel happier, and even just a little exposure can help you relax. One study at Washington State University found that entering a room with plants can lower your blood pressure and increase your productivity. Plus, plants increase oxygen, helping you breathe easier.

3. MOW THE LAWN.

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A chemical released by a mowed lawn (think of that fresh-cut grass smell) causes people feel happy and relaxed, according to research. Another benefit? Getting a chore out of the way—and off your mind.

4. LISTEN TO CLASSICAL MUSIC.

Music can brighten up your day, but it turns out there’s also a physiological impact to listening to music: One study found that listening to classical music lowered participants' blood pressure, slowed their heart rates, and reduced levels of stress hormones.

5. PUCKER UP.

Sometimes feeling weak in the knees isn’t a bad thing. Kissing releases oxytocin, a chemical that reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

6. REDUCE YOUR SCREEN TIME, ESPECIALLY BEFORE BEDTIME.

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Spend the majority of your day sitting in front of a screen only to go home and stare at another screen (or two)? That artificial light can mess with your melatonin production and alter your circadian rhythms, which can impact your sleep. Young adults in particular are likely to be affected. Studies have shown that teenagers who use their phones late at night are more likely to be depressed.

7. DRINK TEA.

Scientists at the City University of London found that a single cup of tea reduces stress rates by as much as 25 percent. And certain types of herbal tea, like green tea, contain L-theanine, which has also been shown to reduce stress.

8. PUT YOUR HEAD IN A PAPER BAG.

It’s become a bit of a joke, but it turns out breathing into a paper bag will actually make you calmer—research suggests that since when people feel anxious they often breathe too quickly, their bodies build up an overflow of oxygen. Breathing into a bag for half a dozen breaths increases the amount of carbon dioxide in your body and helps you feel better.

9. GRAB SOME CHOCOLATE.

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It’s not your imagination. You do feel better after eating chocolate. Harry Potter got it right—even eating just 40 grams, the size of a regular Hershey’s bar, lowers your amount of stress hormones (and keeps the dementors away).

10. IF LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS, MAKE LEMONADE.

If chocolate isn’t your thing, try citrus. Scientists have found that vitamin C helps regulate cortisol and prevent blood pressure from spiking.

11. SQUEEZE OUT A BELLY LAUGH.

Turns out that Grumpy Cat can help keep your crabbiness at bay. Watching funny videos—and laughing—physically helps you relax by releasing endorphins, the brain chemicals known for their happy fuzzy effect.

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History
The Queen of Code: Remembering Grace Hopper
By Lynn Gilbert, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Grace Hopper was a computing pioneer. She coined the term "computer bug" after finding a moth stuck inside Harvard's Mark II computer in 1947 (which in turn led to the term "debug," meaning solving problems in computer code). She did the foundational work that led to the COBOL programming language, used in mission-critical computing systems for decades (including today). She worked in World War II using very early computers to help end the war. When she retired from the U.S. Navy at age 79, she was the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the service. Hopper, who was born on this day in 1906, is a hero of computing and a brilliant role model, but not many people know her story.

In this short documentary from FiveThirtyEight, directed by Gillian Jacobs, we learned about Grace Hopper from several biographers, archival photographs, and footage of her speaking in her later years. If you've never heard of Grace Hopper, or you're even vaguely interested in the history of computing or women in computing, this is a must-watch:

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science
Why Are Glaciers Blue?
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The bright azure blue sported by many glaciers is one of nature's most stunning hues. But how does it happen, when the snow we see is usually white? As Joe Hanson of It's Okay to Be Smart explains in the video below, the snow and ice we see mostly looks white, cloudy, or clear because all of the visible light striking its surface is reflected back to us. But glaciers have a totally different structure—their many layers of tightly compressed snow means light has to travel much further, and is scattered many times throughout the depths. As the light bounces around, the light at the red and yellow end of the spectrum gets absorbed thanks to the vibrations of the water molecules inside the ice, leaving only blue and green light behind. For the details of exactly why that happens, check out Hanson's trip to Alaska's beautiful (and endangered) Mendenhall Glacier below.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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