With all of your good-intentioned resolutions in place, you might have already reneged. If so, don’t sweat it! Chances are if you follow the mind and body tips below, you will be able to think more clearly, be more focused, feel less stressed, more grateful, and energized too! These are tips that anyone anywhere can do, and the wonderful thing is that they take very little time to incorporate into your life. The payoff will be huge, as you will see positive changes happening in your life very quickly, making you feel better and healthier overall .
1. Gentle Stretching
Since it very easy to get overwhelmed by emotional and physical stress before you even get out of bed in the morning, there is no better time to engage in a little gentle stretching. Do a full body stretch for 5 minutes or less everyday before getting out of bed. Your muscles were stiff from sleeping, so doing these simple stretches provides more blood flow to your body. Think neck, torso, shoulders, and toes.
These stretches should never hurt, so do not push through a stretch if you feel pain. Stretches should sooth, and gently wake up the body.
2. Cultivate Compassion
Research shows its very hard to cultivate compassion when we are involved in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Compassion can at times feel forced, like a chore. The good part is that we can actually work to strengthen our ability to show compassion through meditation. And, even better, research shows positive stress-reducing benefits from practicing compassion meditation. In fact, a Stanford study found that it not only lowers our stress response, it lowers our own pain response, helping people with chronic pain and inflammation find relief.
To practice a quick and easy compassion meditation, simply close your eyes and imagine someone you think could use some compassion. Focus on an image of them and slowly repeat these three phrases in your mind, directed toward them, three times: “I wish you peace, love, good health, happiness, and fulfillment.” If you prefer to be silent, you can continue closing your eyes, and just think good thoughts about the person, sending good energy their way.
3. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Considering that our bodies are mostly water, most of us are intellectually aware of the vital importance of hydration. But not everyone realizes that the health benefits of hydration actually extend to stress relief. Being even just a little dehydrated can increase our body’s levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, leading to feelings of anxiety, cloudiness, exhaustion and overall irritability. As we run around from place to place feeling frazzled, we forget to drink as much water as we normally would. Forget about how much water to drink depending on your weight. Just drink enough water so your urine is a pale-yellow color.
4. Actively Practice Gratitude
Sometimes saying a mere thank you is the hardest, humbling thing to express. Research shows that expressing consistent gratitude has many health and wellness benefits, including boosting energy and our immune system, improving mood/feelings of positivity, fighting depression and strengthening relationships. For example, couples who express gratitude on a day-to-day basis have stronger relationships, and feel more satisfied with their lives and research backs this up. Gratitude also extends to all relationships out there including sibling/parental/friendship circles. Find the good in someone else and become a better person.
5. Learn How to Breathe Better
When we are anxious about something, or when we are ruminating about something in our minds our heart rate increases, our pupils dilate, and our breath becomes shallower. When we are stressed, it literally plucks us out of the present moment, and into concerns/thoughts about the future which hasn’t happened yet, or the past, which we cannot do anything about or change. That’s why deep breathing is one of the best, most simple stress busting techniques out there that doesn’t cost a dime.
Our breath is always happening in the present moment. By connecting with it, we can bring our minds back into the present, the here and now — what really counts. All it takes is 90 seconds of long, deep breaths to elicit a relaxation response from our parasympathetic nervous system, inhibiting stress hormone production, lowering our heart rate and decreasing our blood pressure.
6. Exercise for Stress Relief
Our self-care routine is usually the first thing we give up in order to accommodate others. By putting ourselves on the backburner, it is difficult for our bodies and minds to overcome any stressors that may come our way. The good news is that you can take a less-is-more approach and fit in just a few minutes of stress-relieving exercises at home that will make a big difference in helping you manage all sorts of pressures. If yoga is your thing, take just two minutes to practice a restorative yoga pose by lying on the floor with your legs up on a pillow, on a chair or straight up on the wall.
If you’d rather be more physically active in your stress relief strategies(s), try blowing off some steam with some high-intensity interval training sessions. You can do jumping jacks, jumping ropes, pushups, whatever feels best for you in under 10 minutes. Most have us can spare these 10 minutes a few days a week. Ultimately, it is a matter of personal preference which always falls in the subjective domain. Maybe you can’t stand the feeling of doing high intensity, but love the way you feel after a quick restorative yoga session. Perhaps meditation isn’t your thing, but you find that keeping a gratitude journal works best for you.
Determine the ways that help you relieve stress, and be consistent in your proactive use of them. Sometimes it just takes time and patience to see what works and doesn’t work for you. If you do that, you’ll have a happier, healthier, and more fulfilling life.