In last weeks post I gave some tips on how to start managing your stress. I hope you took the time to write down the things in your life that causes you the most anxiety, or at least made a mental note, and have a good idea of the things that do. Also, that you noticed the things that you can change verses the things you cannot.
Now let's put together a game plan for adding more joy and less stress in our lives. I have 10 things listed that if taken to heart and applied to your life will definitely make you feel better. You still might need some outside help if you are really depressed but these things will get you moving in the right direction.
What we eat has more affects on our body than we realize. Food changes the chemicals in the brain. Certain foods bring us down while other foods raise us up. We want to eat foods that are as close to nature as possible with the least amount of processing. Most people do not eat the perfect diet but you can start with small changes. Start by adding more fruits and vegetables in your diet. If you do not like to eat them, blend them up into a smoothie. This is how I prefer to eat mine. I will be doing a separate blog post on this very thing in the near future because it is so important to eat healthy. Especially in this day and country.
It seems to be a badge of honor in our society to be able to function on as little sleep as possible. But this causes stress on the body and mind and causes you to age faster. I do not know about you but I am trying to age as slowly as possible. Most people need 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Below is a great link to the benefits of a good night sleep.
There are many techniques for instant relief from stress. The quickest and easiest is deep breathing. Take 6 slow deep breaths. Inhale slowly for six seconds, hold for a few seconds, then exhale slowly for six seconds. Hold for a few seconds then repeat. Do this six times and it is amazing how doing this one thing will help to relax you even for a few minutes. If nothing else, it might keep you from saying or doing the harmful thing you were thinking about doing.
Another technique is meditation. Meditation is different from prayer. This is a time to clear your mind and not think about anything for a while. Meditation is for everyone and every religion. There are many websites devoted to just this thing. Maybe I will do a post about this subject because there are so many benefits to meditation. Below is a great link to learning the basics of meditation.
Prayer is another technique that can relieve stress. It helps to believe that someone has your back and you can ask for help when you need it. The important thing to remember is to not use prayer as a time to relive past hurts or to wallow in self-pity. Make your request known, then be thankful for the answer you are searching for. Gratitude goes a long way in reducing stress.
Yoga is a great exercise to do to relieve stress. Almost anyone can do a beginners yoga program. You can find many free beginners classes online and most towns have at least one yoga studio. There are too many benefits of yoga to mention here so below is a website with a large list of the benefits of yoga.
Everyone by now has heard how good exercise is for the body. It keeps our weight in check and prevents every major cause of disease. Nothing can protect you from everything but exercise is one of those things that has too many benefits to mention. It is an amazing stress reliever. There are a few important points to make about exercise, especially if you are using it to reduce stress.
First of all, you need to do something you enjoy. I know many exercise gurus will tell you that you have to do certain types of exercise for maximum results. Everyone has their own take on what that is. If you are trying to build muscle then there are certain things you should do. If you want to lose weight then you have a different set of rules. If that is what you really want and it helps you to reduce your stress then by all means find a great program or gym and go for it. But speaking from experience, the only exercise you will stick with is if you are doing something that you really enjoy.
Second of all, there are no excuses. There are as many different ways to exercise as there are in your imagination. The sky is the limit. You just have to be moving your body.
Walk, hike, run, jog, lift weights, yoga, play a sport, basketball, baseball, soccer, gymnastics, rock climbing, gardening, walking your dog, playing with your kids, dancing, boxing, tai kwon do, karate, take the stairs, bike, roller blade, tennis, swimming, etc, etc, etc. As you can see there are no excuses. You can just do something that you are thinking of as a chore and turn it into a workout. Yard work is a great exercise. Playing with your kids or walking your dog are great examples. You can even turn housework into a workout. You just have to be creative. Below are two great videos of how to incorporate your baby or housework into a workout.
I know what you are thinking. How can I think positively when I am under so much stress!? Well, here is the thing, our attitude is our choice. We cannot always control our situation but we can control how we deal with it, how we react to it. Thinking positively is our choice. Anyone can go around with a poor pitiful me attitude but it takes some work to not go that route. Do you really want to be one of those people that everyone avoids? You know when you are in Walmart and you see that person that never has anything good to say so you duck away hoping they didn't see you? You don't want to be that person.
Learning that our attitude is our choice regardless of our circumstances was a real eye opener for me. It was both liberating and frightening. I had no one else to blame for how I acted. Only myself. There are a few things that you can do to help yourself on the path to positivity.
First of all, listen to your inner dialogue. How do you talk to yourself? Are you always telling yourself you are stupid, fat, ugly, useless, and putting yourself down? That needs to stop. If you cannot love and respect yourself, how is anyone else supposed to? The first step is noticing when these negative, self-defeating thoughts come up. As soon as you recognize that you are doing it again, replace the thought with a positive one. Maybe right down all of your good qualities. The things you like about yourself. Then when you find yourself thinking those negative thoughts, replace them with the things you like. This takes time and practice but you will start to realize that you will start having more and more good thoughts every day.
Second, what is your inner dialogue like when you are around others, whether friends or strangers. Are you critical, judgmental, or prejudice? Or do you think kindly of others? Just remember this, however you judge others is how you will be judged. That is a fact. Also notice the things we judge others for are sometimes the very things we do not like about ourselves.
Lastly, spend some time not saying anything negative. Let no negative talk come out of your mouth. You might be very quiet for a while but at least you will not be spreading negativity to others.
I realize this all seems like a lot of work but believe me when I say that it is worth every minute spent on improving your life.
Stress melts away when you are laughing. You cannot be in a bad mood and laughing at the same time. Find things that make you laugh. Watch comedies, watch funny videos, hang out with people that make you laugh. Laugh at yourself. Hang out with children. Watch animals.
There are many health benefits to laughter. Removing stress is number one. Below is an excellent article on the health benefits of laughter and ways to incorporate more laughter into your own life.
Spend time with people that make you happy, that make you feel good. Hang out with the friends and family that accept you just the way you are. That bring you up instead of tear you down. Relationships take work just like everything else in our life but we need to put in the time.
If you are in a toxic relationship then you might need to get away from that person. I realize this is easier said than done, but if this person is the reason that you are severely stressed then the only solution might be to move on. Your health could depend on it. I am not encouraging you to get a divorce or quit your job. I am just saying that you need to look at your situation and decide what is the best decision for your health right now.
Below is an excellent talk given by Robert Waldinger about what makes people the happiest. His conclusions are based on a 75 year study of 600 men. It is very interesting if you have the time.
Most of us spend our days taking care of all of our responsibilities. Doing all of the things on our list of things to do. But how many of us actually do things that we actually enjoy? Do things we love? Too many times we just go through life fulfilling obligations while we put what we really want to be spending time on on the back burner. Well it is time to change things up a bit. Pull out those old paint brushes, dust off those old golf clubs, tune up that instrument that hasn't been used in a while and start enjoying yourself for a while. You do not have to be an expert at doing what you love. You do not even have to be that good. You just have to enjoy doing it. Whatever it is that makes you happy, go for it!
So now you are thinking, "right, like I have time for that in my life!" This is where you have to look back at number three in the previous post and say no to some obligations so you can make time for the best things in life. Go ahead - have some fun :)
You might be wondering why I would add gratitude to a post about stress but I will just say that this is the best way to get out of a funk quick. If I ever find myself moving into a negative or unhappy mindset I start naming things I am thankful and grateful for. It is amazing how many things you can come up with once you get started. You can even be thankful for the job you have because it provides money or the dirty dishes because that means you had food to eat. Some people do not have a job or food.
This is a great habit to get into when you are falling asleep at night. As you are lying in the bed about to fall asleep, start thinking about all of the things you are thankful for. You can name all of the good things or moments from the day and if you cannot think of one good thing that happened to you all day long then just start naming all of the things you like about the world, or your partner, or your children, or your pet, or nature. I am sure everyone can appreciate a beautiful sunrise or sunset, blue skies, birds, fluffy white clouds. You get the hint.
All of these techniques are useful and help reduce stress. When you combine them they reduce stress greatly. But this is my favorite. I cannot express how good I feel when I can get into the sunshine and nature. Especially a hike to a waterfall. It is a natural high that you could never get from a bottle. We came from the earth and we are connected to it in body and spirit. The fresh air, the sun, they are natural remedies for anyone feeling down.
Don't take my word for it, get outside!
I hope you enjoyed these tips for improving your mood and reducing stress. It takes work to feel better and have a better quality of life but it is worth every amount of effort. We only have a limited number of minutes on this big beautiful planet. Make the most of them.
Go have some fun. Adventure is out there!
Peace and love,