Playing an instrument can reduce stress

Familiar melodies and gentle music can reduce the level of the stress hormone cortisol.

Stress is a part of many people's daily lives. A recent survey from the American Psychological Association found that 44 percent of Americans feel their stress levels have increased over the past five years. Children also are struggling, with almost a one-third reporting that they have experienced a health symptom associated with stress, such as stomach aches, trouble sleeping and headaches.

Calming activities that can tone down the body's stress responses are great ways to alleviate stress. Summertime is an ideal time of the year to embrace relaxing activities because the hustle and bustle of everyday life tends to slow down during the summer, when kids are out of school and vacations are on the docket. These hobbies and other interests can help tame stress by promoting calm.

Listen to and/or play music

Music can be energizing or calming, depending on which music you choose. Researchers at Stanford University found that rhythmic music may have therapeutic effects for treating a range of neurological conditions, as it stimulates the brain and can perhaps change how it functions. Familiar melodies and gentle music can reduce the level of the stress hormone cortisol.

Gardening

Gardening lets a person tend to living things while getting some fresh air. Both the sunlight and the activity itself can be soothing and have a positive effect on mood. A study from the Journal of Health Psychology found that gardening, like listening to music, lowers cortisol levels.

Grab a good book

Taking the time to unwind and read can help ease tension in the muscles, lower one's heart rate and induce calm. Research from the consultancy Mindlab International at the University of Sussex found reading reduced stress levels by 68 percent.

Start painting or crafting

Engaging in a creative hobby sharpens the mind and improves focus. You may also want to try focusing emotions onto the canvas to help release tension. A 2014 study published in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy found that 81.5 percent of respondents with depression reported feeling happy after knitting.

Take a dance class

A form of art and music, dancing can promote well-being through exercise and expansion of creative ability. It also can be good for the mind. A study from Swedish researchers that was published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine found that a dancing intervention program, twice weekly for eight months, helped teenage girls struggling with stress, anxiety, depression, and other problems.

Many relaxing activities can tame stress, and these activities can be perfect for lazy summer days.