Why they matter: Meditation is pretty magical. Studies show it can actually physically change your brain to make you more open to happiness; the practice has been found to increase gray-matter concentration in areas related to wellbeing. But of course, meditation isn’t easy. A good way to start is by building meditative moments into your day.
How to create them: You don’t have to sit on a cushion in a quiet place. You can grab a few minutes wherever you are-on the bus, waiting in line at the bank-and simply notice what’s going on with each of your five senses while you slow down your breathing.
As you develop this habit, you can use it to calm your mind and body as needed. In the rush of daily life, we experience a “constant pulse of energy and a sense of urgency,” says Dunn, which activates the fight-or-flight response. Your shoulders are tense; your heart is pounding. “As soon as you become aware of that sensation, take some slow, deep breaths.” If you can extend your exhale (say, breathe in for four counts and out for six), even better, she adds, because that’ll help trigger the opposite of fight-or-flight: the parasympathetic nervous system’s rest-and-digest response.