Don’t let life get you down. Use these happy triggers to boost your overall well-being and lower your stress levels.
LAUGH: Have you ever noticed a cleansing feeling after a great belly laugh? That’s because laughter provides a physical and emotional release. By laughing you not only reduce the levels of stress hormones, but also increase the levels of good hormones. These help you build a stronger immune system. Another great benefit is laughing contracts the abdominal muscles and works out the shoulders. This helps your muscles relax instead of tensing up and creating that “knot” feeling.
BREATHE: Focusing on your breathing is a great way to bring yourself to a peaceful state. Sit up straight with your legs crossed in front of you. Close your eyes and inhale deeply through your nose and hold it. Count slowly to five and exhale slowly through your mouth. Do three repetitions at a five count and focus all your energy into how your chest expands as you breathe in, and deflates when you breathe out. When you allow your brain to focus on one thing, such as breathing, your nerves and muscles relax and allow for better circulation and recovery from stress.
RUN: Never underestimate the many benefits of exercise, as it helps you focus on one very important factor: you! Working up a good sweat helps your circulatory system, relaxes muscles and produces endorphins which are your body’s natural pain killers. “When you are focusing on your workout and your body’s movement, you relieve yourself from everyday stressors, and improve your health from such ailments as depression,” says personal trainer Jacqueline Morgado, at the Equinox Gym in West Hollywood, Calif.
SNUGGLE: The love of a dog or cat can have a significant affect on your health. One main reason is pets provide an unconditional amount of affection and companionship. Think about it. You leave them for hours at a time, and they still want your attention and love the moment you walk through the door. A study done in 2001 by the National Institutes of Health, showed that pet owners made fewer trips to the doctor for non-serious related medical conditions, than their non-pet owning counterparts. In addition, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) concluded a survey in 2002 that showed a 76 percent decrease in stress levels for pet owners and a 65 percent improvement in mental health. Not bad for enjoying a few minutes here and there with Fluffy.
TALK: It’s important to feel your feelings: the good, bad and the ugly. You should never “hold it all in.” Crying is a good release for your pain or sorrow, but talking about it is even better. “When something tragic happens, you shouldn’t close the cupboard on the situation,” said Clinical Psychologist Roxie Persi, PsyD, of Brea, Calif. “What that does is allow the problem to fester inside. Telling your story helps you bring out the parts of you that are dealing with shock. Discussing it can actually help you deal with the grief.” When people don’t talk about their grief, such as a breakup or the loss of a child, their next loss will amplify the last, causing them to deal with two losses instead of one at a time. “You need to allow time for mourning and having someone mediate the situation for you is a good way to help you through that,” she said.
By Lisa Maiorana