Written by Lauren Cook for amNewYork

Stressed? Who isn’t, really.

Money, job performance, health and relationships: these are some of the leading causes of stress in the United States, but that feeling doesn’t need to define your day.

In fact, stress is considered a natural and necessary part of the balance of life, according to Dr. Daniel Kirsch, neurobiologist and president of The American Institute of Stress.

“People should become aware of the concept of stress. It’s not a mental health diagnosis. Stress is a normal pattern in life and we can learn to control it,” Kirsch said. “To live a happy life, you need to be aware that your body is programmed like this, and take measures to deal with it.”

Even simple acts like going for a walk, eating a nutritious meal or taking a warm bath can help people reduce stress.

Certain images can also have a calming effect, though Kirsch added that what someone finds relaxing is a matter of individual preference. While some may find natural or architectural fractals stress-inducing, there is research that suggests certain types of these patterns can reduce stress.

“People really see things differently,” Kirsch said. “People can pick whatever they like in terms of what relaxes them. It’s whatever affects them.”

In honor of National Stress Awareness Day Tuesday, take a deep, calming breath and scroll through these relaxing pictures.

Natural greenspaces

Sunrise in Redwood National Park
Photo Credit: Getty Images/GREG HADEL

There is research that suggests that looking at a lush green, natural landscape can help you relax, but if you really want to up your stress management game, go take a walk in the park.

The color blue

Abstract smooth blur gradient background
Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/malija

Whether you’re looking up at the sky, gazing out over a beautiful lake or staring at your computer screen, the color blue can have a calming effect, studies have shown.

Cute images

Beagles in a basket
Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/jarun011

This may come as no surprise, but pictures of adorable baby animals also can help people relax. Cute images typically make people smile, which Kirsch said is good for managing stress.

Kittens are cute, too

Persian kittens on a cat tower
Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/anurakpong

Here are some adorable kittens too, because why not?

We can’t leave out baby wild animals

Best friends: a bunny and a duckling
Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Photographer and Illustrator

They’re just so cute! OK, moving on.

Natural fractals

Spiral aloe vera with water drops
Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Sabine Hortebusch

Research suggests that certain kinds of fractals that occur in nature – the inside of a sea shell or a spiral aloe vera plant, for example – can soothe the mind.

Patterns in architecture

The dome of the Pantheon in Rome, Italy.
Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/e55evu

The same concept can be applied to patterns found in man-made structures, like the dome of the Pantheon in Rome.


An ocean view
Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Phaelnogueira

Ever notice that most people who live near the beach seem more relaxed? Seascapes can offer a trifecta of calm by bringing together a serene natural environment, calming blue colors and waves that create fractal patterns.

A puppy living its best life at the beach

The dog days of summer: A 6-week-old Golden
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Charles Mann

We’ll leave you with a photo that will hopefully pull double duty when it comes to reducing some stress, but at the very least make you smile.