Nine Ways to Lower Your Cortisol Levels

In stressful situations, your body responds by releasing cortisol. When its levels in your blood are extremely high, it can affect your health. In this article, we give you some advice to lower it.
Nine Ways to Lower Your Cortisol Levels

Last update: 26 January, 2022

Your cortisol levels vary from one situation to another. In fact, they often depend on the degree of perceived threat. This substance is produced by the adrenal glands when you perceive danger. At normal levels, it’s totally adaptive. However, when it’s produced in excess, it’s harmful to your body.

Because excess stress is a problem for your mental health and personal development, you might wonder what you can do to lower your cortisol levels. In this article, we’ll review some suggested methods.

1. Artistic expression

Using art to create something new can help lower your cortisol levels. In 2016, Kaimal and Muniz conducted a quasi-experimental study that examined the impact of the creation of visual art on the cortisol levels of 39 healthy adults. The results of the research suggested that artistic creation resulted in a statistically significant reduction in these levels.

As a matter of fact, 75 percent of the participants in the experiment had reduced levels of cortisol after the experience.

2. Listening to music

Listening to music you like for an hour can also help lower your cortisol levels. Along these lines, an investigation into the effects of music on cortisol was conducted. In this study, researchers studied the response of the adrenal cortex to a stressful factor in 34 patients. In fact, the participants were told they were to have surgery the following day.

Cortisol analysis was performed in three groups. Group one was the control group. They weren’t awaiting surgery. Group two were awaiting surgery and listened to music for one hour. While group three were awaiting surgery but didn’t listen to music.

In groups two and three, a 50 percent increase in cortisol was found after the participants were told about their impending surgery. However, listening to music resulted in a marked reduction in cortisol levels. In addition, after one hour the relative decrease in group two was similar to that observed in the control (non-surgical) group (Miluk-Kolasa et al., 2009).

Woman listening to music

3. Guided Imagery

Another strategy that can help you reduce your cortisol or stress levels is guided imagery (Jallo et al., 2014). To do this, you imagine yourself in your ‘happy place’. Just think of a place where you feel calm and peaceful.

Close your eyes for a minute and imagine yourself walking around in your calm refuge. Think of all the sensory experiences you’d experience and allow yourself to feel that you’re really there. After several minutes, open your eyes and return to the present moment, to the here and now.

4. Progressive muscle relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is an excellent strategy for reducing cortisol (Novais et al., 2016; Dolbier and Rush, 2012). All you have to do is relax all the muscles in your body, group by group. To practice, you can start with a few deep breaths. Then, contract and relax each muscle group, starting with your forehead, and working your way down to your toes.

With time and constant practice, you’ll learn to recognize tension in your muscles. Therefore, you’ll be able to relax more easily. Every time you carry out this exercise, imagine that a feeling of relaxation runs through your entire body.

5. Diaphragmatic breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing can help you lower your stress levels. In fact, in 2017, Ma et al. conducted a study that aimed to investigate the effect of diaphragmatic breathing on attention, negative affect, and stress. The study found that diaphragmatic breathing can improve all three.

Slow breathing is also known to promote optimal sympathovagal balance and enhance autonomic reactivity to physical and mental stress (Russo et al., 2017). Furthermore, slow breathing allows you to relax and shift the focus of your attention from the stressful stimulus to the entry and exit of air from your nostrils.

6. Exercise

Exercise helps lower your cortisol levels. Indeed, studies show that people who are more physically active report less stress and lower levels of depression (Norris et al., 1992). It’s also known that exercise has positive effects on your selection of coping strategies in the face of stress. Exercise also reduces the intensity of stress (Azizi, 2011).

7. Hugging

Hugging a loved one can help you reduce stress. That’s because, when you give a hug, your body releases oxytocin, the hormone associated with love and happiness. These pleasant states help lower the cortisol levels in your body.

As a matter of fact, many of the positive effects caused during social interaction, such as well-being, stress reduction, and even health promotion, are related to the release of oxytocin (Uvnäs-Moberg et al., 2015).

8. Gratitude

Being grateful is an effective strategy for lowering cortisol levels. Furthermore, gratitude, in general, is known to directly foster social support and protect people from stress and depression (Wood et al., 2008).

To promote gratitude in your life, you can identify several things you feel grateful for. For example, write a gratitude journal every day, count your blessings, or write a thank you letter to a friend, family member, God, or the universe, etc.

heart shaped leaf

9. Carry out enjoyable activities

Leisure activities can be a way of relieving stress. Find an activity that allows you to relax and clear your mind of all worries. You might want to do them with a friend. After all, remember that when you interact with the people you love, and especially when you hug them, you release oxytocin.

Create time in your working hours to relax. Finding a moment to unwind in the midst of stressful periods will make you feel better. Then, you’ll be able to perform better in whatever task you’re carrying out at work. Indeed, free time can make your work time more efficient.

Finally, we should state that cortisol isn’t bad in itself. It isn’t your enemy. As a matter of fact, this glucocorticoid, normally known as the stress hormone, under normal conditions, and in moderate amounts, isn’t harmful. Moreover, it has important functions for your body. Problems only occur when it’s excessive in both intensity and frequency.

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