How to De-Stress and Be Happy

January’s nearly over, and for many of us, we may have quickly realized that while a new year feels fresh and new and time for some change, sometimes that just feels impossible. The burdens and stresses of 2012 didn’t just evaporate into thin air, but there is a chance that we can do something to change it in the new year.

Did you know that doing jigsaw puzzles helps encourage the happy hormone dopamine, which regulates mood and affects concentration? Not just puzzles, but simply focusing more on your hobbies and interests, can be rewarding and soothing in itself. The task of starting and completing a project, like jigsaw puzzles or other crafts and activities, can help keep your brain focused and motivated.

Here are 7 great tips to help you manage stress levels and have a happy new year:

  1. We all know that exercising regularly helps us combat stress. But sometimes it seems like finding the time or energy to exercise is a stress in itself. Start slow. Make baby steps. Ten minutes every other day—and then work up. Do exercises you like, instead of forcing yourself to do something you hate. Even just stretching is good for the brain.
  2. In the same vein, start making some conscious decisions to eat healthier. Water instead of soda. Pour less cereal than you can eat. Go for the fruit first when you want to snack.I find that the more healthy things I opt for, the more I start craving healthy things.
  3. Make time for your hobbies. Doing something that you want to do—and not attaching guilt to it—can be a nice way to relax. Sometimes I prolong bedtime by 20 minutes just to fit in some reading.
  4. Smile! We do naturally when we’re happy, but we can also start to trick our brains into tranquility the same way.
  5. Assess your issues. What’s making you feel stressed? What would you assign it on a scale from 1-10? Sometimes taking a step back and analyzing our issues makes us realize that we’re going to end up okay, that we’ve survived worse, and that we can accomplish what we need in order to relax.
  6. Write about it—releasing pent up feelings will help you let go of some of that tension, it’s private, and if you find there’s something you actually need to say to someone else that’s concerning your stress levels, you can do it in a more composed, thoughtful way now.
  7. Go for a walk, or stare outside at something beautiful and let your mind wander.

Check out this article from Reader’s Digest for even more tips to reduce stress.

Now, of course, here are some of our lovely puzzles that can put you in a tranquil state of mind.

Puzzle of a lighthouse on a rock cliff by the sea.

Dawn’s Early Light by Buffalo Games. 500 pieces.

An image of Hatley Park is on this puzzle and it features a red tree, a bridge, and a river.

Hatley Park by Springbok. 1000 pieces.

An image of a quaint lakeside town with mountains in the background.

Lakeside Afternoon by Buffalo Games. 500 pieces.

A giant field of poppy flowers.

Poppies – Sierra Club by Pomegranate. 1000 pieces.

This is a puzzle featuring an image of a bear being surrounded and embraced by hundreds of butterflies.

Robert Bissell – The Embrace by Pomegranate. 1000 pieces.

A lone fisherman rides in his boat against a blood orange sky.

The Fishermen by Clementoni. 1000 pieces.

A forest stream in fall is illuminated by the yellow and red leaves.

Forest Stream by Euro Graphics. 1000 pieces.

Hot air balloons illuminate the sky of a quaint town.

Balloon Glow by SunsOut. 6000 pieces.

Trees cover the path in this autumn fairytale.

Forever Autumn by Educa. 2000 pieces.