Fast, ambitious lives can cause anxiety that becomes as much a part of our daily rhythms as our work and lattes. Whenever we are stressed, our bodies respond by releasing stress hormones, including cortisol, that can stay in circulation for days. This can lead to many serious health problems, like increased risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, menstrual problems, infertility, stroke and cancer. Here are seven fun things you can do to decrease your stress and better your health.
Laugh, and laugh some more
Studies have shown that laughter lowers cortisol levels, supports the immune system, and boosts the number of cells that fight malignant cells in the body. Pink Panther, old Groucho Marx movies — pick your medicine.
Get a gentle massage
Even a single session of massage can cause biological changes. A basic light Swedish massage can significantly decrease cortisol levels and increase oxytocin — a hormone that boosts the feeling of contentment that is so often missing from our daily routines.
Deep, slow breathing is a quick, effective way to reduce cortisol levels. Start with a very basic breathing technique:
- Sit in a comfortable position, with one or both of your hands on your lower abdomen.
- Exhale slowly and completely, through your nose.
- Take a gentle pause without straining at the end of your exhale.
- Inhale through your nose, slowly, filling and expanding first your belly, then your rib cage, lower lungs and upper lungs, as the air smoothly fills each section.
- Take a gentle pause without strain at the end of your inhale.
- Exhale through your nose slowly, relaxing your entire torso.
- Repeat this at least five times. Do it for 10 to 15 minutes each morning upon waking, or each evening just before bed, if possible.
Cut out caffeine
Caffeine stimulates the nervous system. The more stimulated the nervous system, the more we perceive benign events as threats, triggering the release of cortisol.
Too much or too little exercise can each lead to increased cortisol. Exercising until you begin to sweat is a good rule of thumb. Increased cortisol is associated with about half the people with major depression. The good news: By the end of a 16-week period, depressed patients who take a brisk 30-minute walk or jog three times a week experience as much relief as patients treated with standard antidepressant medications.
Replace bad thoughts with good thoughts
Whatever we think about gets more ingrained and reinforced in our brains and neurological pathways. Whenever you become aware of a stressful or worrisome thought, focus instead on something that makes you grateful, calm or affectionate. This can be a memory, a prayer or a piece of uplifting writing.
Reduce stress through meditation
Meditation exercise for stress relief
Christopher Lee May takes you through this mindfulness meditation exercise. It is a simple but powerful exercise that any one can do. If you’re looking for a relaxing meditation, this is perfect. Hope you enjoy.