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This Year, Consider Giving Presence Instead Of Presents

During the holiday season, many of us feel pressure to find our loved ones the “perfect” gift. Why? Because gift-giving has long been considered a prime way to express love. However, recent research suggests that gestures don’t need to be large or have a hefty price tag to feel meaningful. The study, published this summer in The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, suggests that small acts of kindness, not grand overtures, make people feel most loved and supported.

“Our research found that micro-moments of positivity, like a kind word, cuddling with a child, or receiving compassion make people feel most loved,” says Dr. Zita Oravecz, a professor in human development and family studies at Pennsylvania State University and one of the study’s researchers.

In the study, 495 men and women between the ages of 18 and 93 completed a questionnaire evaluating 60 possible ways that people can feel love. Each question began with, “Most people feel loved when…” The scenarios included situations like spending time with friends, receiving gifts, and spending time in nature. The survey also included negative interactions, like being controlled and criticized by others. Oravecz says the findings highlight the psychological benefits that intimate relationships can offer. In fact, study participants ranked human interaction as a more significant expression of love than receiving material items, like presents. Connecting with others was also rated more highly than getting positive feedback on the internet, indicating that people derive the most support from personal human contact. In fact, other studies suggest more time on social media leads to increased feelings of isolation. Yet despite the findings that spending time with friends and family makes us feel good, during hectic times like the holidays, these social interactions can feel burdensome instead of fulfilling. Fatigued from an overload of shopping, spending, and travel, most Americans describe this time of year as stressful instead of magical. In fact, a telephone survey conducted by the American Psychological Association showed that compared to other times of the year, 44 percent of women and 31 percent of men (out of 786 individuals polled) feel more stress during the holidays. In addition, 51 percent of women and 42 percent of men said purchasing and giving gifts added to their distress.

Esther Lui for NPR

Small acts of kindness are what make us feel loved.
 

Any kind of stress can strain relationships and cause us to withdraw from others, but small stressors can be just as trying as larger burdens. A 2015 research study found that daily hassles like working, running errands, and money troubles negatively impact romantic unions, causing people to feel less satisfied and more alone in their relationships. When we’re anxious and fatigued, it can also be more challenging to see someone else’s point of view, which might explain why family feuds seem more likely to arise during the holidays. While prioritizing one’s self-care during the months of November and December may be difficult, adopting a mindset of being present in the moment may help lessen the stress of the season.

“During the holidays, anxiety rises, making it harder to remain present with ourselves and others. However, the power of spending time with another person is a gift we can give at any moment,” says Dr. Carla Naumburg, a mindfulness coach and social worker in Newton, Mass.

While we may associate presence with mindfulness meditation, we don’t need to be Zen masters to create a calmer holiday. Naumburg says we can cultivate presence by cutting back on social media (which helps limit distractions), getting plenty of rest, and taking a pause (and remembering to breathe).

“For everyone, breathing is a small but powerful act that can keep us connected to ourselves by shifting our awareness to the present moment,” she says.

According to The American Institute of Stress, focused breathing elicits the body’s “relaxation response,” slowing one’s heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and helping muscles relax. This physical process aids in repairing an overactive nervous system, helping us to enter a calmer physical and emotional state. Although it can be challenging to forgo doing extra errands during the holidays, Naumburg suggests balancing party planning and online shopping with moments of human connection. Activities like reading to a child, meeting a friend for a walk, or taking a moment to call a family member, are ways to express love and care and can keep us emotionally grounded. While the idea of offering loved ones the gift of our time may pale in comparison to giving them a lavish present, recent empathy research shows shared human experiences can tighten social bonds. Oravecz and her colleagues also found that despite personality differences, most people agree on what makes us feel loved — the presence of our loved ones.

Juli Fraga is a psychologist and writer in San Francisco. You can find her on Twitter @dr_fraga.
December 9, 2017    JULI FRAGA
 
source: www.npr.org
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3 Ways To Practice Living In The Now

If you haven’t read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, you’re missing out. This philosophic and somewhat spiritual book is a game-changer, which is probably why it spent years on the New York Times bestseller list and sold more than 3 million copies in North America alone.

I won’t give away too much here, but the general thesis of the book is that in order to achieve enlightenment, one really has to learn how to live in the now. It sounds simplistic, but Tolle elaborates on the idea to explain how far-reaching the consequences of future- and past-focused thinking actually are.

Whether you’ve read the book or not, you’re probably familiar with the concept of living in the now. It’s heralded as a solution to many of life’s problems, and yet for most of us, being entirely present is an immensely difficult task. If you’re struggling to live in the now, here are five tips for refocusing your thinking and re-immersing yourself in what IS, rather than what has been or what will be.

Focus on Your Breathing

It’s been said over and over again, but focusing on your breathing is a fantastic way to get into the present moment. When you focus intently on your inhales and exhales, you develop an awareness of your body that helps you to feel more rooted in exactly where your body is at this particular point in time. I could get into all the metaphorical reasons that breath is so central to yoga and other spiritual pursuits, but that’d be another article entirely. For now, suffice to say that training your mind to focus on the breath can be absolutely beneficial.

Some techniques to try include breathing up and down the spine (that is, focusing your mental energy along the spine as you inhale and then exhale), inhaling and exhaling in a deliberate, rhythmic manner, and noticing the way air comes into your body cool and leaves it warm.

Get Into Your Body

Have you ever noticed that when you’re forced to focus on a difficult physical task, such as moving a large piece of furniture or racing with a friend, your mind zooms in on the task at hand? This is because these adrenaline-pumping states force us into the now. One can hardly ruminate on past loves while she is focusing all of her attention on staying afloat when her canoe turns over.

Obviously, you don’t want to create dangerous situations for yourself, but difficult physical tasks that require all of your attention are a fabulous resource for jolting you into the now. Pick a favorite type of exercise and, as long as you’re physically able, take it to the next level. This is why yoga and mindfulness are so interrelated. The goal of yoga is to take you into the present moment, where you’re forced to focus on balancing and maintaining your form, and out of the caverns of your mind.

Watch Your Mind

It goes without saying that meditation is closely bound to living in the now. However, it can be very difficult for some people to achieve productive meditation. If you struggle with clearing your mind, try this little trick: Start to look at meditation not as clearing your mind, but watching your mind.

By this, I mean you should learn to observe your thoughts. Sit and meditate as if watching yourself from just above your head (your crown chakra, if you’re into that kind of thing). Learn to observe your brain no matter what happens. If a thought drifts in, take note of it and recognize it immediately. Then consciously let it go.

This extends into your daily life as well. Watch your mind in such a way that each time an angry or toxic thought enters your mind, you can immediately acknowledge it and dismiss it. Over time, this ability will result in healthier relationships, a better self-image, more realistic thinking and a generally more enlightened way of being.

By: Maggie McCracken       March 25, 2017
 
Follow Maggie at @MaggieBlogs
 
source: www.care2.com


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13 Incredibly Smart Tips To Be Happier From Mental Health Experts

Genius tips from people whose job it is to make you feel better.

It’s pretty safe to assume that you want to be happy, because…well, who doesn’t? But how to actually make that happen is a little more elusive. BuzzFeed Life talked to a bunch of experts to get their best tips.

Of course, everyone brings their own set of experiences to the table and some people might be living with mental illnesses like depression or anxiety that make things more complicated. But hopefully you might be able to find a few pieces of advice here that can help life feel a little easier.
Heads up: Responses were edited for length.

1. Realize that happiness doesn’t mean having everything you want and being problem-free all the time.

“We cannot control everything that happens to us in life, but we can choose how we respond. When we respond with an attitude of ‘Why is this happening to me?’ and adopt a victim mentality, we suffer. When we choose to respond with an attitude of ‘Why is this happening for me and what can I learn?’ then we feel a lot more empowered, which impacts our mental state positively.

The biggest misconception about happiness is that we can outsource it — that something external is going to make us happy. Happiness is NOT a constant state. As humans we experience and grow through a variety of emotions. The expectation that we should be happy all the time will leave anyone with an expectation hangover. What we can be is grateful.”

—Christine Hassler, empowerment coach and author of Expectation Hangover: Overcoming Disappointment in Work, Love, and Life

2. Cut “should” from your vocabulary, because it basically guarantees whatever you think “should” happen, won’t.

“When we use the word ‘should,’ it’s like this big, judgmental finger wagging at yourself. ‘I should work out more, I should be happier, I should be more grateful.’ It causes us to feel guilt and shame. It depletes our happiness. It causes us to engage in behaviors that are completely against what we want.
Instead, replace ‘should’ with ‘I would like.’ For example, ‘I’d like to lose weight, because I want to have more energy and be a role model.’ That is more motivational, it’s more based on passion rather than the fear and judgment of ourselves that prevents us from being the people that we want to be.”

—Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love

3. Remember that your negative thoughts are not true. They’re just thoughts.

“Sadly, many people make the mistake of believing the negative things that their ‘inner voice’ tells them, often without even being aware of their right to question whether these things are accurate! When it comes to mental health care, many people still think you will need to spend years exploring your childhood or past in order to get better. That’s simply not the case nowadays. Catch, challenge, and change negative thoughts.”

—Simon Rego, Psy.D., director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York

4. Start your day by reminding yourself one positive thing about your life.

“This can be a small observation like enjoying beautiful weather or something more profound like recognizing you have achieved one step towards a life goal (working in the industry you always dreamt of, have a best friend who you are grateful for, etc). We tend to hold onto negatives a lot stronger than positives so this can be a small way to give yourself a moment to check in with the ‘happier’ thoughts and realities.”

—Jess Allen, LMSW, ACT, NYC-based cognitive behavioral therapist

5. Anyone can benefit from therapy, so consider making an appointment for a checkup.

“There is a stereotype that many people have about the unique person who chooses to see a therapist. ‘They must be an emotional wreck,’ or ‘they can’t take care of their own problems,’ or ‘they must be crazy.’ That last one is probably the most popular and worst misconception of them all!
It takes a lot of insight and emotional awareness to realize that you want to enlist the services of a trained mental health therapist to get the right help you need. Yes, there are some clients who seek therapy when they are at the absolute lowest emotional point in their lives, but there are also just as many who simply want to become emotionally healthier people to enhance their work and intimate relationships. No problem is too small or large when you come to see one of us. It’s all welcomed because our job is to meet you where you are at in life, not where we or anyone else thinks you should be.”

—Gabriela Parra, LCSW, California-based counselor

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6. Don’t think about your work responsibilities at home, and vice versa.

“Be present when present, which requires dropping the guilt. Guilt has no benefits for anyone. When you are at work, stay focused, when you are home, give [it] your undivided attention. Doing your best in each place will keep you sane and feeling good about your output.”

—Samantha Ettus, work-life balance expert

7. Stop checking your smartphone randomly. Instead, give yourself specific times to catch up on social media and email.

“Most people would be happier (and less stressed) if they checked their phone less. A study of college students at Kent State University found that people who check their phones frequently tend to experience higher levels of distress during their leisure time (when they intend to relax!).
Instead of willing ourselves to just check less often, we can configure our devices and work time so that we are tempted less often. The goal is to check email, social media, and messages on your phone just a few times a day — intentionally, not impulsively. Our devices are thus returned to their status as tools we use strategically — not slot machines that randomly demand our energy and attention.”

—Christine Carter, Ph.D., happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and author of The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work

8. Make keeping up with your friendships a priority.

“People think that when work or school or family responsibilities get busy, then hanging out with your friends becomes a luxury that has to be cut. It’s often the first thing to go, even if people are still going to the gym or binge-watching whatever’s new on Netflix. In reality, making sure to spend time with your friends has enormous mental health benefits, and keeps your stress level in check. It’s a great coping mechanism and a necessity for your health that should not be cut when things get tough — on the contrary, you need it more then than ever.”

—Andrea Bonior, Ph.D, clinical psychologist

9. Actually take the time to plan short-term pleasure AND long-term goals — aka actively make your life what you want it to be.

Actually take the time to plan short-term pleasure AND long-term goals — aka actively make your life what you want it to be.

“A lot of people rush around without devoting a few minutes each week to reflecting and strategizing. We may all recognize we’ve periodically contemplated signing up to volunteer at Big Brother Big Sister, then totally forget. Or we mean to switch jobs and then procrastinate, [then] we’re facing our second year in a position we planned to quickly exit.
As Greg McKeown notes in his book, Essentialism, ‘When we don’t purposefully and deliberately choose where to focus our energies and times, other people — our bosses, our colleagues, our clients, and even our families — will choose for us, and before long we’ll have lost sight of everything that is meaningful and important.’
Spend time each week planning ahead — plan activities you may enjoy in the moment and also think bigger, considering what you want long term.”

—Jennifer Taitz, Psy.D., clinical psychologist

10. Treat yourself with compassion and lots of love.

“People believe that self-care is selfish, so they avoid doing things that are actually necessities. Self-love, self-care, and self-fulfillment. It’s a lot of self, because happiness starts from within. Self-love includes eliminating negative self-talk and accepting yourself, flaws and all. Self-care means setting boundaries and taking time to refill your energy. Self-fulfillment is all about living your values and having authentic relationships.”

—Rachel DeAlto, communications and relationship expert

11. Don’t forget that your physical health has an impact on your mental health, too.

“Some physical things you can do to create a habit of happiness:
—Honor your circadian rhythm by waking shortly after sunrise and going to sleep a few hours after sunset. Not only do we need seven to nine hours of sleep in order to be happy, but our brain functions better by sharing the rhythm of the sun.
—Incorporate play into your life: Some easy ways to this are when you exercise, do something that makes you laugh, like a dance class, jumping on a trampoline, or playing a group sport.
—Meditate. This can be as simple as an app [like] Headspace.”

—Jennifer Jones, Ph.D., clinical psychologist

12. Several times throughout your day, take a deep breath and tell yourself that everything is OK. Eventually, your brain will get the memo.

“The bills may be piling up with you having no idea of how they are going to get paid. Your mother may have Alzheimer’s, and dealing with that is wearing you out. You may be starting to wonder if there really is someone out there for you. BUT in this moment, your heart is beating, you’re breathing, and you have food in your tummy and a roof over your head. Underneath all the circumstances, desires, and wants, you’re OK. While fixing dinner, walking through the grocery store, driving to work, or reading emails, come into the present moment and remind your brain, ‘I’m all right, right now.’
Over time with repetition, learning to come into the present and calming your brain and body will actually change the neural pathways in your brain — a scientific truth called neuroplasticity — so that this becomes the norm for you.”

—Debbie Hampton, founder of The Best Brain Possible and author of Beat Depression and Anxiety By Changing Your Brain

13. Make a conscious effort to take care of your mental health the same way you would your physical health.

“Too many people neglect to make their mental health a priority! And so it gets forgotten about and put in the ‘too-hard’ or ‘too-busy.’ But just like physical health, mental health really should be considered non-negotiable because without it, we have nothing else.
If I had to limit the key ingredients to happiness and good mental health to just a few I’d say good quality relationships and connectedness, good physical health and well-being, living a life with meaning and purpose, loving oneself and others, and having a sense of hope and optimism for the future.”

—Timothy Sharp, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of 100 Ways To Happiness: A Guide for Busy People.

Jul. 9, 2015     Anna Borges     BuzzFeed Staff
 


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How to Avoid Getting Sick When Everyone Around You Already Is

It happens every year. The holidays approach, the weather cools, and just as the season really begin to get busy, you begin to feel sick. We all know the feeling: fatigue, headache, sore throat, low energy. Why does the winter seem to be married to illness?

The answer, according to Dr. Anthony Lyon with the Ash Center in New York, is a combination of overtiring our bodies at the exact time we ask them to battle the cold weather. And when you add the element of enclosure—more people are cooped up together in the winter months, germs spreading as the heat blasts—well, it’s a sure recipe for sickness.

So how can you protect yourself when everyone at the office is catching the flu? The trick isn’t to avoid the ill, but to focus on priming your body to fight off any pending sickness that may be sneezed your way.

In addition to eating well (come on, leafy greens!) and avid hand-washing, Dr. Lyon offers tips for staying well, even when you seem to be the only one.

Breathe better. Lyon suggests you battle exhaustion—a leading cause of illness—by improving the way you breathe. Lyon notes that improper breathing can impact the 5 main reasons why you feel tired: sleep disruption; overwhelming stress or anxiety; gastrointestinal upset and suboptimal digestion; immune system dysregulation; and chronic neck and low back pain.

So how can you breathe better?

“When asked to take a deep breath, most people bow out their chest, lift their shoulders to their ears and breathe in a  very vertical manner,” says Lyon. “This is the style we have adopted after years of reacting to challenging situations, including physical or emotional trauma. But, by breathing like this, you are actually perpetuating a sense of fear and unrest by sending a signal to your brain that you are in ‘flight or fight’ mode. Instead, expand your abdomen when you inhale and make it look like a pregnant belly, which engages your diaphragm, and dissipates turmoil by telling your vagus nerve that all is fine and it is okay to rest, relax and digest.” Lyon explains that when you can rest, relax and digest, you give your body the best chance to restore and recover, and protect itself from germy invaders.

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Move your muscles. Lyon promotes movement as a surefire way to stay healthy. And while any physical activity is great for keeping your systems moving, Lyon says that weight training to build stronger muscles can help ward off winter illness. “We are only starting to learn all of the health benefits that strong muscle confers, including its role as an endocrine gland,” says Lyon. “Muscles secrete proteins, hormones and other vitally important messenger molecules that send signals to direct essential activities elsewhere. Keep your muscle happy so your immune system will be primed and ready to go.”

Adjust your bedtime. We all know catching enough zzzs can help us feel rested and give our body ample time to fight potential illness. But Lyon stresses it’s not just how much you sleep (aim for 7-8 hours), but when. Lyon recommends falling asleep by 10pm at the latest. “By going to bed at a decent hour, your sleep will be physiologic – which means it is congruent with your body’s normal functioning. Right around 10pm is when certain organs need to start the housekeeping work to prepare you for the next day, including your brain, which needs to detoxify from the day you just had. When you stay up late, the housekeeping cannot be completed, leaving you fatigued the next day.” If you have a ton of tasks on your to-do list, Lyon says you’ll be better off turning in at a decent time and waking up early.

By: Zoe Eisenberg          November 16, 2016          @ZoEisenberg

 

source: www.care2.com


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This Is Why Climbing Stairs Leaves You Breathless

A flight of stairs can leave the fittest people feeling out of breath.

It’s happened to all of us: We’re running late for a meeting and it’s only one flight of stairs away, so we dash on up. But when we arrive at the meeting, we’re embarrassed to be huffing and puffing as if we had just sprinted for a mile. It was just one little flight of stairs!

If you’re tempted to take this as a sign that you need to hit the gym more often, think again: Even marathon runners can get winded by the sudden task of vaulting a flight of stairs quickly, because physical fitness has little to do with it. It’s also tempting to assume it’s just a matter of not warming up. Eh, not really.

What happens when we approach a flight of stairs, with the intention of darting up them quickly, is that our brain tells our body to stop breathing.

Wait. What?

Humans (and many of our closest animal relatives) tend to stop or slow their breathing when concentrating on a specific task for a short period of time. When you’re running to make a meeting, you approach the stairs and aim to sprint up them quickly. This activates a specific program in your brain—let’s call it the “concentration on a small task” program. One result is that you slow or even stop your breathing as you approach the stairs, and maybe even continue this for the entire flight.

The outcome, of course, is that we combine a small burst of oxygen consumption by our muscles with a small burst of oxygen deprivation through our reduced respiration. Together, these two forces make our blood oxygen level plummet. After you’ve scaled the steps, the concentration program terminates. Your brain quickly notices the low blood oxygen level and it sends the opposite signal, which initiates rapid breathing to replace the missing oxygen. (It’s actually a spike in carbon dioxide in our blood that triggers this, but oxygen and carbon dioxide concentrations in our blood are inversely related in all normal circumstances.)

stairs

So why do we stop breathing right when we should be breathing more?

This reflex evolved to keep our bodies still when focusing on a physical task that requires concentration and precision. Imagine threading a needle, making a surgical incision, aiming a rifle, or throwing a dart. The key to being precise with these coordinated physical tasks is stillness and quiet concentration. By slowing or stopping our breathing, we reduce the background movements of our bodies and, hopefully, achieve better accuracy in the execution of our carefully planned action. That’s the idea, anyway.

Some people even report apnea (temporary suspension of breathing) when they are typing, chopping vegetables, looking for something in a drawer or refrigerator, drawing or painting, or any other task that requires momentary concentration.

One can imagine how useful this feature is for our animal cousins, who must make their living in the wild, as well as how useful it was for our ancestors who lived in the African savannah. From time to time, this trick likely made the difference between eating and not. That’s a clear evolutionary value and a clear selective pressure.

Try this: Next time you are dashing to a meeting, concentrate on your breathing, deliberately take deep breaths as you approach a flight of stairs, and force yourself to continue to breathe as you scale the steps, If you do this every time, it should become a habit and hopefully you’ll never arrive huffing and puffing again.

Posted May 10, 2016
Nathan H. Lents, Ph.D.
Beastly Behavior


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10 Relaxation Techniques That Zap Stress Fast

By Jeannette Moninger       WebMD Feature Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD

Relax. You deserve it, it’s good for you, and it takes less time than you think.

You don’t need a spa weekend or a retreat. Each of these stress-relieving tips can get you from OMG to om in less than 15 minutes.

1. Meditate

A few minutes of practice per day can help ease anxiety. “Research suggests that daily meditation may alter the brain’s neural pathways, making you more resilient to stress,” says psychologist Robbie Maller Hartman, PhD, a Chicago health and wellness coach.

It’s simple. Sit up straight with both feet on the floor. Close your eyes. Focus your attention on reciting — out loud or silently — a positive mantra such as “I feel at peace” or “I love myself.” Place one hand on your belly to sync the mantra with your breaths. Let any distracting thoughts float by like clouds.

2. Breathe Deeply

Take a 5-minute break and focus on your breathing. Sit up straight, eyes closed, with a hand on your belly. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling the breath start in your abdomen and work its way to the top of your head. Reverse the process as you exhale through your mouth.

“Deep breathing counters the effects of stress by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure,” psychologist Judith Tutin, PhD, says. She’s a certified life coach in Rome, GA.

3. Be Present

Slow down.

“Take 5 minutes and focus on only one behavior with awareness,” Tutin says. Notice how the air feels on your face when you’re walking and how your feet feel hitting the ground. Enjoy the texture and taste of each bite of food.

When you spend time in the moment and focus on your senses, you should feel less tense.

4. Reach Out

Your social network is one of your best tools for handling stress. Talk to others – preferably face to face, or at least on the phone. Share what’s going on. You can get a fresh perspective while keeping your connection strong.

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5. Tune In to Your Body

Mentally scan your body to get a sense of how stress affects it each day. Lie on your back, or sit with your feet on the floor. Start at your toes and work your way up to your scalp, noticing how your body feels.

“Simply be aware of places you feel tight or loose without trying to change anything,” Tutin says. For 1 to 2 minutes, imagine each deep breath flowing to that body part. Repeat this process as you move your focus up your body, paying close attention to sensations you feel in each body part.

6. Decompress

Place a warm heat wrap around your neck and shoulders for 10 minutes. Close your eyes and relax your face, neck, upper chest, and back muscles. Remove the wrap, and use a tennis ball or foam roller to massage away tension.

“Place the ball between your back and the wall. Lean into the ball, and hold gentle pressure for up to 15 seconds. Then move the ball to another spot, and apply pressure,” says Cathy Benninger, a nurse practitioner and assistant professor at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.

7. Laugh Out Loud

A good belly laugh doesn’t just lighten the load mentally. It lowers cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, and boosts brain chemicals called endorphins, which help your mood. Lighten up by tuning in to your favorite sitcom or video, reading the comics, or chatting with someone who makes you smile.

8. Crank Up the Tunes

Research shows that listening to soothing music can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety. “Create a playlist of songs or nature sounds (the ocean, a bubbling brook, birds chirping), and allow your mind to focus on the different melodies, instruments, or singers in the piece,” Benninger says. You also can blow off steam by rocking out to more upbeat tunes — or singing at the top of your lungs!

9. Get Moving

You don’t have to run in order to get a runner’s high. All forms of exercise, including yoga and walking, can ease depression and anxiety by helping the brain release feel-good chemicals and by giving your body a chance to practice dealing with stress. You can go for a quick walk around the block, take the stairs up and down a few flights, or do some stretching exercises like head rolls and shoulder shrugs.

10. Be Grateful

Keep a gratitude journal or several (one by your bed, one in your purse, and one at work) to help you remember all the things that are good in your life.

“Being grateful for your blessings cancels out negative thoughts and worries,” says Joni Emmerling, a wellness coach in Greenville, NC.

Use these journals to savor good experiences like a child’s smile, a sunshine-filled day, and good health. Don’t forget to celebrate accomplishments like mastering a new task at work or a new hobby.

When you start feeling stressed, spend a few minutes looking through your notes to remind yourself what really matters.

SOURCES:
American Psychological Association: “Exercise fuels the brain’s stress buffers.”
Bennett, M. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, March 2008.
Bennett, M. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 2003.
Cathy Benninger, RN, CNP, MS, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Joni Emmerling, wellness coach, Greenville, NC.
Robbie Maller Hartman, PhD, clinical psychologist, health and wellness coach; founder and owner, Centered Coaching, Chicago.
Harvard Health Publications: “In Brief: Sing along for health.”
Koelsch, S. Frontiers in Psychology, June 2011.
Judith Tutin, PhD, psychologist, life coach, Rome, GA. 
Ozbay, F. Psychiatry, May 2007.
Reviewed on September 14, 2015

source: WebMD


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A 5-Minute Breathing Exercise To Reduce Stress

In yoga, we try to balance the flows of energy and awareness as we raise prana, or breath. Pranayama (“conscious breathing”) creates this balance by linking the body with the mind. Pranayama is the inhale, the exhale, and the suspension of the inhale and exhale. Performed correctly and gradually is to be freed from all disease.

In essence, without the breath, yoga would be no different than our traditional Western forms of exercise. The breath is the tool that unites body with mind. When linking breath with movement, we gradually develop a relationship with the length, depth and pace of our inhale and exhale. This synchronicity creates balance. Now let’s see what this mind-body connectivity hoopla is really all about!

To deepen your yoga practice, try this 6-step process once a day for 30 days:

  1. Pick your favorite seated yoga posture. Secure yourself safely in the posture.
  2. Close your eyes and breath naturally for a moment. As you do so, acknowledge your slowing pulse, become aware of how still your mind and body are, and absorb your connection to your entire being
  3. Now, deepen your breath, inhaling the breath from your belly into your chest. Feel the strength of your life force.
  4. Exhale slowly and completely through your nostrils, being patient with your release
  5. Still holding this posture, breathe deeply for at least 90 seconds. Watch the heat build. This is how we detoxify and purify the body.
  6. Notice any sensations and discomfort that arise in the body. Notice the mental discomfort as the ego wants to escape from the posture. Every breath is a source of valuable information for you.

 

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Pranayama is also a powerful tool for developing mindfulness and witness consciousness.

The average person has between 40,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day.

(Take a moment to soak in thought #60,001.)

So what determines whether you’re having 40,000 or 60,000 thoughts?

You guessed it: the length, depth and pace of your breath.

The mind spends the majority of its time replaying memories of the past or projecting how events or moments in the future will unfold. These repetitive thought-cycles carry an emotional charge. Those that are negative and fear-based enslave us in negative habitual patterns of unconscious and subconscious behaviors.

And that kind of thinking certainly takes the fun out of life, doesn’t it?

In yoga, we call these Samskaras. As long as these particles containing these emotions, thoughts or desires are within, we will continue to be influenced by them at an unconscious level.

The past is our guide to healing. The breath is our tool for healing and transformation.

All we have is the present moment, which empowers conscious choice and transformation from the inside out.

So, maybe you’re not a yogi or yogini. Even so, a daily pranayama practice is one of the most valuable resources you have for your overall health and well-being. Conscious, mindful breathing allows you to organically raise energy levels in your body while activating the relaxation response, all designed to bring you maximum vitality.

Take five minutes for yourself every morning for a little mindful breathing and see how that elevates your workout, reduces stress, and helps you realign inside and out.

This is pranayama!