This month, we’ve been diving deeper into the relationship between consumerism, “stuff” and stress. We like to think that we’ve made some progress with showing how “retail therapy” isn’t actually therapy at all and is in fact more likely to make you feel stressed continually than to make you feel better. We certainly hope we’ve started to show how most material objects can’t actually improve your mental, emotional or physical health. But what we haven’t done a lot of is to give you viable alternatives for reducing stress that don’t revolve around your credit cards and a purchase of an item you likely won’t remember you have in a couple of years. So today, in the interest of proactivity, we’re presenting our favorite ten ideas for reducing stress without shopping.

Idea Number One: Physical Activity is Always a Stress Buster

There’s a reason why experts talk about the benefits of physical activity on reducing stress levels when they encourage you to adopt a mild or moderate exercise regimen for physical health reasons. Few things reset the body better than physical exercise. For some, that means running ten miles a day, but that’s certainly not necessary to get the stress reducing benefits of physical activity. Just take a thirty minute walk or go dancing. Anything that gets you moving. You’ll reduce stress without buying things and improve your physical health at the same time.

Idea Number Two: Meditation Isn’t as Hard as It Might Sound

Not everybody should spend more time in their own head! However, for a great many people getting away from the constant noise clutter of modern life and finding a quiet, balanced and entirely stress-free series of moments can make a huge difference. We don’t pretend that training your brain to meditate isn’t hard. In a world of social-media short attention spans and constant stimulation it can be very hard. But it’s worth it to reduce stress. We love QuietKit, a free tool with guided meditations for beginners.

Idea Number Three: Get Your Hands Dirty

Part of what creates our stress levels and our relationship between stress and “stuff” is our separation from nature and natural cycles. What can solve this? Any type of gardening or nature experience. Yes, obviously creating a small garden plot and tending to it will be a stress reliever, but even caring for a houseplant has been shown to reduce stress (and often leads to even more growing of green things.) Not sure where to start? These houseplants purify the air, these make your medicine cabinet more organic and these edibles are easy to grow indoors.

Idea Number Four: Nurture an Animal

You don’t need to adopt or foster an animal to get the stress relieving benefits of nurturing one (though there are plenty of animals out there who would love to find their furever home with you).  Volunteer at your local animal shelter to play with, walk or cuddle the animals still waiting to find a home there. You’ll get a stress reducer and an animal in need will get some much needed love.

Idea Number Five: Nurture a Baby

It’s not just animals who are waiting for their future home and need nurturing and snuggling. Most major hospitals are always in need of volunteers to snuggle, cuddle and hold infants who have been abandoned. Not only will your stress level decrease, but you’ll be helping a tiny human to build the neuro-wiring to form important emotional connections later in life.

Idea Number Six: Get Lucky

You certainly didn’t think we’d make it through a list about ways to reduce stress sans buying “stuff” without mentioning sex, did you? Just keep it safe and responsible out there!

Idea Number Seven:  The Spa Awaits

The very reason that a spa was created was to help you to reduce stress. Indulge and treat yourself. In actuality, it’s less of a luxury and more of an investment in your own personal health. On a budget? We have tips on how to get a great massage while on a budget or how to make your own luxury facial mask at home.

Idea Number Eight: Journal or Create

The way to get stress out of your system is to get it … out. You can only let go of the things that are causing you stress if you express them – even if you’re expressing them into the ether. What’s your outlet? Is it more straightforward like journaling or is it more creative like artwork? It doesn’t matter if your manner of emotional and mental release is right brain or left brain, it simply matters that you use it to get the causes of stress and turmoil out of an inner dialogue loop and into the world at large.

Idea Number Nine: Increase Your Time Outside

We promise you, just fifteen minutes outside at lunch away from your desk will decrease your stress level. It seems like such a simple fix, but between the Vitamin D, the fresh air and willingness to just step away from the rat race of the day, study after study has shown that your stress level will plummet down with just a tiny bit of outdoor dedicated time per day.

Idea Number Ten: Reduce Your Social Media Exposure

This one is more about taking things away than it is about an activity that you can do to reduce stress, but it may also be the most effective solution on this list. Go on a media diet that’s aimed at reducing your exposure to social media. Research after research has shown how social media usage increases stress levels. So put down the smartphone. Log off. Be with you instead of digitally with you. You’ll see stress decrease, and you won’t even have to buy anything.

Did we miss a way that you can relieve stress without heading to the mall? Tell us about it on the social media channels below.

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Photo Credit: Erik Schepers via Flickr