- Nearly half of Americans report feeling more stressed during the holiday season
- Chewing gum and humming have been shown to quickly reduce stress levels
- READ MORE: Do YOU stress eat? Study uncovers what happens in the brain
With the holiday season in full swing, cooking a feast, wrapping gifts, and hosting family can be stressful.
Recent surveys have suggested that nearly half of Americans are more stressed at this time of year than at any other point.
However, experts have highlighted two surprising habits that can curb feelings of anxiety and stress almost instantly.
Chewing gum and humming trigger the release of relaxation hormones in the brain, according to a recent report by mental health experts at Cornell University.
The holidays are known for causing stress and anxiety – but experts say next time you feel like screaming, hum or chew and you’ll feel instantly calm
Writing in Psychology Today, the scientists outlined the growing body of evidence that shows these tricks can induce feelings of calm.
For instance, one study published in the journal Stress & Health found that nursing students who chewed gum for at least 30 minutes a day for seven to 19 days had less depression, anxiety, and stress than those who didn’t chew gum.
And a 2022 review of eight studies in the journal Frontiers in Oral Health concluded that chewing gum was ‘an inexpensive, well-tolerated, safe, and effective way to relieve anxiety.’
As for humming, a systemic review in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine suggested that it reduces heart rate and blood pressure, which alleviates stress.
And a small 2023 study published in Cureus found that humming for at least 15 minutes lowered stress more than physical activity and sleep in adults ages 18 to 60.
Both of these strategies are said to stimulate the vagus nerve, the main nerve in the parasympathetic nervous system – which tells us when there’s a threat, and when to relax.
It’s responsible for digestion, heart rate, breathing, heart function, and reflexes like coughing, sneezing, swallowing, and vomiting.
Stimulating the vagus nerve turns off the body’s fight-or-flight reflex by releasing brain hormones called oxytocin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), according to studies.
This can even happen within just a few minutes of opening a stick of gum or humming along to holiday tunes.
One study also found that mastication – the act of chewing – increases oxygen levels in the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s ‘personality center,’ and the hippocampus, which manages stress hormones like norepinephrine and cortisol.
However, avoid munching on gum for more than a few minutes a day.
Dr Khaled Kasem, chief orthodontist and co-founder of Impress in Barcelona, previously told DailyMail.com that you should limit chewing to no more than 15 minutes a day to avoid jaw pain and tooth decay.