Stress

Music Offers Many Cognitive, Emotional and Physical Benefits to Young and Old

Photo by Mike Giles on Unsplash

Photo by Mike Giles on Unsplash

“Music is therapy. Music moves people. It connects people in ways that no other medium can. It pulls heart strings. It acts as medicine.” — Macklemore

 

Much research over the years has centered on the potential, perceived and realized benefits of music. In fact, the area of study has blossomed, growing from the preliminary findings of earlier studies to recent ones that built upon them. What’s exciting is the widespread and diverse benefits that music offers to everyone, young, old and in-between.

Musical training gives babies’ brains a boost.

Even before babies can walk or talk, they can benefit from receiving musical training. That’s the finding from a 2012 study. In the first study of its kind, researchers from McMaster University found that one-year-old babies who engaged in interactive music lessons with their parents were better able to communicate: they smiled more, were easier to soothe, displayed less distress when things didn’t go their way. Babies in the music lessons study group were also able to point at things out of reach and wave goodbye.

Children who regularly attend and participate in music classes benefit from improvements in speech and reading.

A 2014 study found that attendance and participation by children in music classes – especially music classes involving instrument playing – exhibited improvements in neural processing of sound after two years of classes. The researchers at Northwestern University said that the active music class participants had greater improvements in speech and reading scores than their peers who didn’t attend music classes.

Structured music lessons improve kids’ academic performance and cognitive skills.

Researchers in a 2018 study found that structured music lessons added to regular school curriculum significantly enhanced students’ cognitive abilities, leading to improved school performance. The cognitive skills’ improvement was in the areas of short-term memory, planning and inhibition, and language-based reasoning. The first large-scale longitudinal study adapted to regular curriculum at school also found that visual arts helped significantly improve children’s visual and spatial memory.

Early musical training benefits the brain in later life.

Researchers in a 2013 study found that early musical training has a lasting and positive effect on how the brain processes sound, with benefits to aging adults years later. Neural timing, researchers said, is one of the first age-related declines, resulting in compromised hearing, such as a slower response to fast-changing sounds, which is vital in interpreting speech. The researchers looked at musical training adults had in childhood and found that the more years those adults had training in music, the quicker their brains responded to a speech sound. Even though the response was just a millisecond quicker, researchers said that the millisecond, compounded with millions of neurons, corresponds to making a real difference in the lives of older adults.

Surgical music therapy program helps reduce pre-operative anxiety in women undergoing breast biopsy procedures.

Anxiety before surgical procedures is a common concern for patients about to undergo necessary interventions. Results reported in 2016 from a two-year clinical trial on live- and recorded-music therapy during breast biopsy procedures found that women undergoing those procedures self-reported a significant reduction in their pre-operative anxiety levels. Researchers said that adding a music therapist to the surgical setting may help patients achieve goals of reducing anxiety, managing pain, learning more about their procedure and gaining satisfaction from the experience.

Seniors’ mental health gets a boost from religious music.

Research published from a 2014 study discovered that, among older Christians, listening to religious music – especially gospel music – is associated with less anxiety over death, and increases in feelings of satisfaction with life, self-esteem, and sense of control over  their lives. Study authors wrote that even among those seniors with health problems or physical limitations might find listening to religious music might offer a valuable resource to better mental health.

Making music may help children improve pro-social behavior and problem-solving skills.

In a 2013 study, researchers from the School of Psychology at the University of West London found that young children, both boys and girls, who engaged in making music – singing or playing a musical instrument – improved in the pro-social behaviors of helpfulness, cooperation, and social bonding, and with problem-solving skills. Study authors said that making music in class, particularly singing, may encourage students with emotional difficulties and learning differences to feel less alienated at school.

Music listening may offer multiple benefits to older adults with early memory loss.

A 2017 trial found that the mind-body practice of music listening, as well as meditation, may offer several benefits to older adults with preclinical memory loss. After three months, said researchers, both groups showed “marked and significant” improvement in subjective memory function and objective cognitive performance. These improvements were around attention, processing speed, executive function, and subjective memory function – domains generally affected in preclinical and early-stage dementia. The cognitive improvements were not only sustained at six months, they increased. The two groups also showed improvements in mood, sleep, stress, well-being, and quality of life, gains that were either sustained or further enhanced three months after intervention.

Parkinson’s patients may build strength through singing.

Other promising 2017 research finds that patients with Parkinson’s disease might be able to build strength in their muscles used for swallowing and respiratory control through singing. These two functions are complicated by the disease. Study participants were trained in proper breath support, posture, how to best use muscles involved in the vocal cords. Singing significantly improves this muscle activity. Researchers noted that participants also reported other benefits from the singing therapy: improvements in mood, depression and stress.

Music therapy offers comfort to palliative care patients.

In a three-year study of male and female palliative-care patients with a terminal illness, researchers in a 2011 study found that music intervention therapy proved effective in enhancing their pain relief, comfort, mood, confidence, relaxation, resilience, well-being, and life quality. The music therapy team consisted of music therapy students from a university and musicians from a professional symphony orchestra.

Cancer patients find symptom relief from music.

A systematic 2016 review of literature finds that there is a significant body of evidence that music therapy and music interventions help alleviate cancer patients’ symptoms, including pain, anxiety, and fatigue, while also improving their quality of life and overall well-being. Among the findings: music interventions had a moderate-to-strong effect in anxiety reduction, a large pain reduction benefit, and a small-to-moderate effect of music treatment on fatigue.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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10 Easy Ways to Increase Your Energy Levels Naturally

10 Easy Ways to Increase Your Energy Levels Naturally

Photo by Jared Erondu on Unsplash

 

“You are responsible for the energy that you create for yourself, and you’re responsible for the energy that you bring to others.” – Oprah Winfrey

 

I’m all about doing what I can do in a better way. This includes taking proper care of my health and watching my energy levels throughout the day. There’s no denying that a busy lifestyle contributes to a drain on how much energy you feel you have, yet there are natural ways to boost your energy levels that are easy and relatively quick to do. After doing my research, I’ve discovered that science backs up the merits of the following 10 easy ways to increase your energy levels.

Lower stress.

Stress is a huge culprit when it comes to drained energy. When you’re stressed-out, you’re likely worn out as well. If you suffer from chronic stress, the effect is cumulative and can result in worsening physical and mental conditions over time. Most stress is the result of anxiety, worry about things you have no control over or agonizing over making the wrong decisions, even worry about decisions you know are right. In short, living with non-stop stress will zap your energy like an electronic bug killer. Figure out healthy ways to lower your stress levels and you’ll find that you have more energy daily.

How can you lower your stress? Do whatever relaxes you, whether that’s reading an engrossing novel, going for coffee with a friend, watching a favorite TV show or movie, exercising vigorously, gardening, playing sports, working on a hobby, taking a drive, going out for dinner and so on. It isn’t what you do but how relaxing the activity makes you feel that will lessen the tension and reduce stress.

Eat more nuts and fish.

Studies of women with magnesium deficiency showed that the women felt physically exhausted much of the time. Why? When you have magnesium deficiency, your heart beats faster and requires more oxygen to get things done. Natural sources of magnesium that are low calorie and delicious include almonds, cashews and hazelnuts, as well as fish such as halibut. Recommended daily magnesium allowances are 300 milligrams for women and 350 milligrams for men.

Get out and walk.

Perhaps one of the simplest ways to boost energy levels is to go out for a walk. How can it be that engaging in physical activity such as walking increases your energy? It sounds contradictory, yet the science is sound. A brisk 10-minute walk is enough to elevate energy levels and the effects last up to 2 hours. Do regular daily walks and you’ll have not only increased energy and stamina, your mood will also improve.

Drink lots of water.

Another nasty culprit causing lack of energy is dehydration. Simply put, when you’re dehydrated, your body is starved of life-saving water. You may not realize that you’re thirsty, though, and by the time that you do, you’re likely dehydrated. Sometimes, you think you’re fatigued when the truth is that you’re dehydrated. You also might confuse hunger with thirst, thinking you need to eat something when what you really need is water. There is a simple solution: drink lots of water at regular times throughout the day. Strive for eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily. If you have trouble downing that much plain water, go for fruit-flavored, sugar-free water. In so doing, you’ll be benefiting every organ in your body, including muscles, which are re-energized with water. You’ll also find that you’ve got a little more energy by exercising your water-drinking habit.

Cut back on sugar.

Besides contributing to a thicker waistline and more pounds on the scale, eating a diet high in sugar will also leave you feeling drained. While sugar initially spikes blood sugar and provides an energy boost, that increased energy is short-lived, quickly followed by a rapid blood sugar drop. You may feel wiped out consequently. If you’re like me, however, adding a natural sweetener to morning lattes and hot tea is an absolute must. I’ve become an aficionado of Stevia, a no-calorie natural sweetener that tastes 30 times sweeter than table sugar. Another natural sweetener I’ve decided to try is coconut sugar, which has 20 calories per teaspoon (the same as table sugar), but it is an excellent alternative to regular sugar for baking.

Meditate.

If you’re a fan of yoga, you might already know that the Savasana pose (also called the corpse pose) is beneficial in reducing fatigue. I was unaware of this, not being very proficient in yoga, yet willing to learn. The Savasana pose is what you do at the end of your yoga session. It looks like taking a quiet nap on the floor while resting on your yoga mat. You are resting, yet fully conscious for the 10-20 minutes you allocate for this restorative energy exercise.

Eat breakfast every day.

Your mother probably told you that breakfast is the day’s most important meal. That advice echoes what nutrition experts have said for years. It’s tempting to skip this vital meal, though, especially when busy schedules mean every minute counts, yet don’t fall for that excuse. It doesn’t have to be a long, sit-down affair for you to gain the benefits of breakfast. Just make sure you eat wisely. Go for breakfasts that help you power up your morning. As Harvard Medical School experts points out, include whole grains, fruit and protein – and eat at home, not from a fast-food eatery.

Add power snacks to provide energy between meals.

It might seem a long way to dinner or your next meal, especially if you’ve been engaged in vigorous physical activity or concentrating on a complex work project. The healthy solution here is to snack on some power foods to give yourself an instant energy lift. Do a combination of fat, protein, a little bit of fat and fiber and you’ll be doing yourself and your energy levels a favor. Try a low-fat, low-salt (or salt-free) cracker with peanut butter or enjoy yogurt with a small handful of nuts.

Try a 1-hour power nap to prevent burnout.

Experimental research conducted by the National Institutes of Health found that participating subjects who took a 60-minute power nap were able to prevent burnout. Like physical effects of stress that cause fatigue, mental performance during repeated cognitive tasks, especially stressful ones, can simulate feelings of fatigue and low energy levels. While not everyone has the luxury of taking a 1-hour nap every day, if you do opt to take time for a snooze, remember that 60 minutes is more beneficial in preventing burnout than a half-hour nap.

Tend to your emotional health.

Depression and anxiety often make you feel exhausted, tired all the time, lacking energy and desire to do much of anything. If you are otherwise healthy, yet you feel constantly fatigued, examine your life for what may be bothering you emotionally. If you’ve experienced depression or anxiety that persists for two weeks or more, consider getting professional help. Psychotherapy can help you overcome these debilitating issues and help regain your normal energy.

 

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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10 Health Benefits of Daily Exercise

Photo by Denys Nevozha on Unsplash

Photo by Denys Nevozha on Unsplash

“A bear, however hard he tries, grows tubby without exercise.” – A. A. Milne

 

You don’t need to knock yourself out at the gym each day to reap the many health benefits of daily exercise. With simple planning and a determination to engage in a healthier lifestyle, you can add easy stints of exercise to your schedule without breaking too much of a sweat. Best of all, you may realize some of these 10 health benefits of daily exercise.

Exercise elevates your mood.

When you are physically active, it stimulates brain chemicals that make you feel better and lifts your mood. Some experts say that any intensity exercise, such as a walk or a time on the elliptical, exercise bike or other equipment at a home or outside gym can even be instrumental in preventing future depression. A study in the journal Brain Plasticity reports that even a single episode of physical exercise confers “significant positive effects” on mood, as well as cognitive functions.

Control your weight with exercise.

Anyone experiencing problems with fluctuating weight, an accumulation of extra pounds, weight loss or difficulty maintaining a healthy weight can benefit from regular daily exercise plus a healthy diet. When you exercise vigorously, you burn even more calories than when you walk around the office. And burning calories can make your desired weight goal easier to attain. It’s also easy to add a little exercise to your day: take the stairs instead of the elevator, go for a walk outside at lunch or on break, park several aisles from the grocery or mall entrance. You get the idea.

Want toned muscles? Regular exercise helps with that goal.

Along with caloric burn and the slimming effect you might be after, daily exercise will greatly help in toning muscles and getting rid of body fat. It needn’t result in a bodybuilder physique – that’s more an outcome of intense, targeted (some call it hard-core) exercise. Get rid of belly flab and loose skin after weight loss, pregnancy, or yo-yo dieting by working on different muscle groups with specific exercises – such as jumping rope for calves, hand weights or dumbbells for upper arms, sit-ups for belly fat and sit-to-stand for your backside. Find something you enjoy doing, work out with a friend, add music to your routine – whatever it takes to motivate daily exercise.

Sleepless nights? Adding daily exercise to your routine can promote restful sleep.

The good kind of tired you feel after a bout of vigorous physical exercise does more for you than what you might expect. You’ll be readier for sleep, have more deep sleep (which helps the body repair itself), and be less likely to wake up during the night when you make it a point to do some form of physical exercise every day. There’s compelling evidence that exercise and a good night’s sleep are linked as essential to overall health.

Exercise helps in preventing health conditions like cardiovascular disease.

There’s no secret to the fact that regular exercise is good for your health. Yet the number of medical and health conditions exercise can help prevent is impressive. One way exercise helps your heart is that it releases high-density lipoproteins (HDL), the good kind of cholesterol, while reducing nasty triglycerides. Not only helpful in preventing cardiovascular disease and maintaining good cardiovascular health, exercise is also proven to be a preventive strategy for stroke, developing type 2 diabetes, several types of cancer (cervical, breast, even skin cancer, when combined with intake of caffeine), depression, arthritis, and the damage resulting from falls.

You’ll get an energy boost.

How can exercise boost energy? Simple. During vigorous exercise, oxygen gets delivered to tissues and organs. This helps the heart to work more efficiently as well as the lungs. A more efficient heart and lungs translates to more energy. So, combat fatigue while you boost your energy with regular, daily exercise.

Put a spark in your sex life with exercise.

This health benefit should perk up your interest in beginning regular exercise – beyond the physical exercise you get during sexual activity, of course. With a continuing exercise routine, such as daily brisk walks, a focused home workout, jogging, playing sports, swimming, skiing and more, you’ll have more energy, be more toned and fit, and see dramatic results in physical appearance. Exercise may help women feel more sexually aroused, and men may experience less problems with erectile dysfunction, contributing to a healthier sex life.

Alleviate stress and help improve memory with regular exercise.

Dealing with a high-pressure job or increased stress at work, school or home? Instead of reaching for a pill or downing a cocktail to cope with stress, go for regular exercise. In addition to being a healthier way to cope with stress, regular exercise has also been shown to improve memory and learning functions, both impaired by chronic stress. Scientists have also discovered that exercise helps in preventing dementia and cognitive impairment in older adults.

Exercise – especially aerobic exercises – helps prevent or delay aging.

Researchers have discovered that relatively short stints of high-intensity aerobic exercise, such as walking or biking, can help stave off the effects of aging. The improvement occurs as the aerobic activity causes cells to build more protein necessary for energy-producing mitochondria and their protein-building ribosomes. Researchers said, “there’s no substitute for these exercise programs when it comes to delaying the aging process.”

Staying active can help reduce chronic pain.

Several studies have examined the beneficial effect that exercise can have on chronic pain. In older adults, especially, scientists have found that physical activity may reduce the risk of developing chronic pain. Other research found that targeting exercises for spine-support and muscle control helps reduce disability and pain caused by lower back pain. Yet another study found that exercise reduces nerve pain by decreasing inflammation, a key contributor to neuropathic pain.

 

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related Posts:

Combat Stress With Mindful Walking

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

10 Ways Stress Harms You

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5 Tips To Banish Loneliness

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Photo by Myles Tan/Unsplash

Loneliness is not a very accommodating or welcoming emotion. It is also not a given. Yet far too many of us experience this powerful and debilitating emotion from time to time. While most are able to get past it without too much trouble, there are times when loneliness seems to hang around and is difficult to overcome.

While there can be no substitute for professional counseling should feelings of helplessness, despair and hopelessness persist for more than a week or two, these tips should help give loneliness the heave-ho.

Find something to do

When you’re lonely, feeling like you’re enveloped in loneliness, you’re likely spending too much time thinking about your situation and not really doing anything. Those who obsess over being lonely are going to be convinced there’s nothing they can do about it. That’s a misconception that should be put to rest.

The first step is to identify something you can do today, and get busy doing it. What that is doesn’t matter much. Doing something, other than thinking, you gets you out of your present surroundings and mindset.

Go out in the garden and yank weeds. Sweep the garage. Wash the car. Spend some time talking with your neighbor. Call a friend and meet for coffee, lunch or a movie. Go for a walk. Any of these will provide a change of scenery and get you outside your dismal thoughts for a while. When you’re actively engaged in doing something, you’re not suffering from loneliness.

Be good to yourself

The tendency to beat up on yourself when you’re blue is not beneficial. Unfortunately, we all do this, even without meaning to. We stumbled and made a mistake at work that was costly, we got into an argument with a significant other or friend and now find ourselves not talking with each other, the bills pile up and we’re not sure how we’ll get out of this mess. Instead of talking about what’s bothering us, we bottle up our emotions. The result: We feel a tremendous sense of loneliness.

When we hurt, we need to take care of ourselves. This self-care likely took a back seat to other pressing problems. Sleep may have suffered, as well as diet, lack of exercise, pushing ourselves past our limits. It’s time to hit the reset button and do something that will help us regain our equilibrium, make us feel physically better (a long soak in the tub works for some), and quashes feelings of loneliness.

Be with others

Most people who say they’re lonely spend too much time alone. While you can experience loneliness in a crowd, most people find the interaction and distraction of others takes away the lonely feelings – at least temporarily.

The best antidote to being lonely is to get out and be in the company of others. Friends are an excellent go-to resource, but groups involved in a hobby, recreational activity, educational or leisure pursuit, skills building, community get-togethers and travel also work.

When you are with others, listen, smile, communicate in a reciprocal fashion and be in the present. Should thoughts of loneliness seek to intrude, remind yourself that you’re taking active measures to counter that negativity. Find someone to talk with and strike up a conversation. It’s hard to think about being lonely when you’re chatting about something you enjoy.

Go somewhere new

The discovery process is an almost guaranteed way to get past loneliness. When you activate your curiosity gene and pursue something that intrigues or interests you, the inevitable result is that you follow your enthusiasm as far as you can. There’s no room for feeling lonely when you’re eagerly going after that beckoning beacon.

Take a drive using a different route than you normally take. Or, chart a course for a day trip that allows you to check out a small town, state or national park, wildlife refuge, botanical garden, museum, a restaurant you’ve long wanted to try. While you’re on the road, anticipate learning something new, meeting people, making memories.

Not only will this help dispel any loneliness you may have felt before starting out, the good feelings will remain with you on your trip home.

Help someone

If you’re wrapped up in yourself, feeling sorry that you’re lonely and not able to get past it, another method to employ is to go out and help someone. This doesn’t mean that you walk the street looking for a person who’s down-and-out. There are other more effective ways of helping others that you can use.

Go through your closets and find usable clothing that you no longer wear and donate it. There are many charitable organizations in desperate need of clothing. The still-working small appliances, electronic devices, dishes, furniture items, linens, toys and other items also are much in demand for those less fortunate. When you donate, it’s good for the recipients and it’s good for you.

Perhaps you know of a neighbor who’s elderly, unable to get out, a widow or widower or single parent. Bring a food item, flowers, a board game or just call and ask to come by for a visit. If you experience loneliness, you can imagine how a shut-in must feel. Two people visiting have more of a chance of dispelling loneliness than either one sitting alone ever will.

Remember that you don’t have to suffer loneliness. But it is up to you to do something to get past it.

 

This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

Are You Lonely Tonight? How To Combat Loneliness

How To Be Flexible With Your Perceptions

How I Learned To Overcome Stress

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How I Learned to Overcome Stress

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Photo by Andrew Pons/Unsplash

Friends often ask me my secret to being free from stress. I’m no expert, but I know what works for me. It didn’t come naturally, though, and it wasn’t easy at first.

When I was younger, I did it all wrong. Like a lot of young adults, back then and still, I seemed to constantly get involved in activities and pursuits that created a perfect petri dish for the development of stress.

  • As the old saying goes, I burned the candle at both ends.
  • Not only that, but I also engaged in risky behaviors.
  • To add more complicating factors, I hung out with questionable friends.
  • Naturally, I had poor self-care because of my bad habits.

Over the years, however, I learned that I control my actions and – vitally important – that my actions have consequences.

So, how did I go from being a veritable poster child for how to build stress to learning to live as close to stress-free as possible? Here are my go-to techniques to vanquish stress. Maybe they can work for you.

Stop trying to be perfect.

I used to think that I had to be the best in everything I did. I had to do it better, faster and smarter than anyone else or it didn’t count. Part of that had to do with being the younger sibling to a very competitive brother. Perhaps part of it was trying to please my parents, although I think every child wants that.

The downside of accepting only perfection is that perfection is an elusive target. There’s never going to be a perfect outcome. Improvement is always possible. What’s considered success today may be failure tomorrow.

My therapist helped me recognize this self-defeating tendency and gave me wise counsel: You don’t have to be perfect. Just do the best you can.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But when the advice finally sunk in, a lot of stress disappeared. Striving to do my best was not only enough, it was life-affirming, motivating and made me feel better about myself.

Create a schedule.

When too many conflicting demands began to intrude on my daily life, with a consequent dramatic uptick in stress, my therapist recommended I create a schedule. I didn’t want to do this, since I felt schedules were too confining. But I agreed to try it out. After all, with kids and school and work demands, I needed help keeping everything organized. If a schedule could accomplish that, I’d become a convert.

To my surprise, creating a schedule did help me put some breathing room into my life. It cut down some avoidable stress and gave me the self-confidence I needed to tackle other projects. In other words, to put different items into my schedule. All in good time, of course. I had to get comfortable with my schedule before I began to alter it.

That’s the other thing I learned about creating schedules. Like prioritizing tasks and creating lists of goals, schedules must be able to evolve and adapt.

It’s OK to ask for help.

I never liked asking for help. I thought it made me seem weak. But after several tragedies, unfortunate experiences and a lot of heartache, I gradually accepted the fact that there’s nothing wrong in asking for assistance. If I was willing to help others in need, asking for help when I needed it was OK.

In fact, for me, being able to ask others for help turned out to be a lifesaver. There was a time when I was so despondent, I didn’t know what to do. My therapist offered some consolation, but I needed more. He encouraged me to talk with a trusted friend, which I did. Just having another person listen nonjudgmentally was instrumental in lifting a crushing weight of stress. That we could laugh and do things together, like go to a movie or out for a pizza, helped as well.

Today, while I don’t make a practice of asking others to help, if I really am in need, I won’t hesitate to do so. And, I firmly commit to being there for others when they request my assistance. This is all part of being genuine, living up to commitments, wanting to help when it matters.

Do what you love.

It took me a long time to be able to love what I do. I went to school at night to earn several degrees, each with an emphasis on what I consider my strength: writing. Like millions of people, I had to work at jobs that weren’t necessarily gold standard, didn’t match my goals and dreams, but they did help me put food on the table and clothes on my kids, pay the car payment and rent.

I held firm to my dream of working in a field that allowed me to make use of my talents. I was fortunate to work in public relations for a major automaker and then become a freelance writer once I retired. Capitalizing on both my studies and my love of writing was incredibly beneficial. Every day brought new challenges, new opportunities to do what I love.

Here’s a secret I learned about doing what you love. It crushes stress.

Make time for play.

Part of why people get stressed is they grind endlessly without a break. Or, the only downtime is when they fall exhausted into bed. I know. I’ve been there. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that any human being will reach a point of no return if they fail to insert time to relax and recharge into their life.

I love going to movies. I also love reading, walking the nearby nature trails, gardening, cooking and travel. Any one of these I consider play. And they work wonders for dissipating stress.

After breaking for play – doing what you enjoy for leisure, recreation or educational pursuit – you can come back and take on the next item on the schedule, today’s to-do list, or address a pressing or unexpected problem. You’ve put harmony and balance back into your life. Stress doesn’t have a chance against this dynamic duo.

Exercise gratitude daily.

I’m lucky to have learned how to rid myself of stress. In fact, I consider myself extraordinarily grateful. The concept of expressing gratitude for all that I have and all that I have learned is so strong that I recommend doing it daily. There’s a lot to be grateful for, no matter what the personal situation or circumstance. For one, you’re alive. For another, you have friends and allies. You have another day to receive the blessings and gifts today brings.

These tips aren’t all-inclusive. A few more I’ve found helpful include:

  • Know when to say no. It isn’t necessary or conducive to well-being to take on more than you can handle.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat regular, well-balanced meals. Avoid excessive intake of sugar, fats and salt.
  • Drink lots of fluids, especially water.
  • Cut down (or cut out) alcoholic beverages.
  • If you smoke, quit. Nicotine is addictive. While it may create initial calming or soothing, once cravings set, the stress increases until the urge is again satisfied.
  • Tap into spiritual renewal through prayer, meditation, yoga, self-reflection.
  • Nurture a positive attitude.
  • Follow your dreams.
  • Love wholeheartedly, deeply and without reservation.

 

This article was originally published on PsychCentral.com https://psychcentral.com/lib/how-i-learned-to-overcome-stress/

 

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Related Articles:

10 Ways Stress Harms You

Combat Stress with Mindful Walking

8 Healthy Reasons to Ditch Your Bad Habits

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* * *

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my daily blog and more.

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10 Quick Ways to Take a Much-Needed Break

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Photo by Lindsay Henwood/Unsplash

“To experience peace does not mean that your life is always blissful. It means that you are capable of tapping into a blissful state of mind amidst the normal chaos of a hectic life.” – Jill Bolte Taylor

 

Grabbing lunch on the run, trying to multitask while glancing at the clock, staring with dread at the mountain of reports yet to go through – no wonder you’re frazzled, anxious, feel the tension rising – and it’s only mid-day. You need a break. Better yet, you owe it to yourself to take a break.

Maybe you think you don’t have time for it, but you can reward yourself – and considerably damp down your stress level – by making use of these 10 quick ways to take a much-needed break.

Take the long way to the next meeting.

Better yet, take the stairs. Walk fast or slow, whatever you choose, but do give yourself the time to get in a bit of aerobic exercise from walking. Be sure to take some deep breaths along the way. Getting oxygen into your lungs lowers blood pressure, eases anxiety, improves mood and clears your mind.

Sip a full glass of water.

Besides hydrating your body, slowly drinking 8 ounces of water gives you time to hit the pause button on whatever else you’re trying to get done. It’s not so much that you’re avoiding responsibilities as that you’re doing something incredibly positive for your own well-being. Aim to do this several times during the day for added benefit (and greater peace of mind).

Cup your eyes.

This simple exercise is one you can do anywhere. Cup your hands over your eyes so there’s no light coming through. Open your eyes and hold your hands in place for at least 1 minute, longer if possible. Allow your eyes to become accustomed to the dark, feeling the peace inside. After you’ve counted to 60 or however long you want the break to last, take your hands away. Your eyes will feel refreshed and so will you.

Gaze at nature wallpaper.

If you spend a lot of time at the computer, this is a break that’s a no-brainer. Download and install a breathtakingly beautiful screenshot of nature: mountains, river, forests, water, flowers, birds, whatever draws you in. You can even customize a rotating set of views to keep your interest level high. As you gaze at the wallpaper or photo display, let your mind take you there. This works especially well if the shot is a place you enjoy visiting or want to spend time in soon or someday.

Pick a bouquet.

If you have a flower garden available, take a few minutes to gather a bouquet. Even if it’s a single flower, spend a few minutes taking in the intricacies of a rose, an iris, chrysanthemum or other blooming beauty.

Daydream.

This suggestion is a personal favorite. When everything mounts up and I need to catch my breath, musing about things I’d like to do, places I want to go and people I anticipate spending time with or projects or goals on my wish list helps me transport myself away from the current hustle and bustle and off somewhere enticing. Best of all, daydreaming doesn’t cost a cent, can be done anywhere (except when driving or operating machinery), and may motivate action.

Go for a brisk walk.

This break takes a little longer than a leisurely stroll to the next meeting. The best way to get exercise and give yourself some time away from the grind is to mosey outside and get in a brisk walk. Aim for 10-15 minutes at the least and use the time to see what’s going on around you. This means you’re not checking your smartphone or thinking about what’s next on your to-do list. Be in the present. Enjoy the outdoors.

Light a scented candle.

Unless you’re allergic, the recommendation to light up a fragrant candle can help elevate your mood, change the dynamics of your cubicle, work space, home or study. There’s something mesmerizing about staring at the flickering flame as well that does wonders to put some space between tasks.

Indulge in a leisurely bath.

OK, so you can’t do this one at the office. But you can allocate some much-needed time for relaxation at home. Use Epsom salts to ease muscle tension or soothing oils or bath salts in a bubble bath.

Limber up with a few stretches.

Sitting at a desk or behind the wheel for long periods of time wreaks havoc on the body. An aching neck, sore back, tight leg muscles and other body parts that clamor for relief can get it with a few sensible stretches. Not only will you get out the kinks, you’ll probably have better posture after regular stretching.

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Related articles:

10 Ways Stress Harms You

Combat Stress with Mindful Walking

5 Ways to Find Peace of Mind

10 Quick Ways to Beat Stress

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

10 Tips to Decrease Work Stress

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Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my daily blog and more.

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10 Ways Stress Harms You

Photo by Breno Machaco/Unsplash

Photo by Breno Machaco/Unsplash

It’s a stressful world out there. Time-crunched, sleep-deprived, overwhelmed at work, home and school does not produce good health, just the opposite. Key among the culprits is stress, sometimes inevitable, but always requiring attention.

In order to begin to find effective approaches to deal with stress, it’s first important to know the many ways stress harms you. Here are 10 findings from research that show just how bad stress is for the human body.

High levels of financial stress can make you look older.

As if you don’t have enough to worry about, a new study published in July 2016 in the journal Research on Aging finds that people with high levels of financial stress looked older and appeared to have aged more over a nine-year period than people with a higher level of confidence in their financial control.

Women’s fertility may be negatively affected by stress.

Research finds that stress appears to lower a woman’s chance of becoming pregnant, particularly stress experienced around the time of ovulation. Stress disrupted the signaling between the brain and ovaries, reducing the chance of ovulation.

Stress can make you fat.

It’s not just that gooey chocolate donut that will add pounds to your frame, but a build-up of stress can wreak havoc by packing on weight. That’s the finding of researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine who say that stress triggers a hormone called Adams1 which generates fat in the human body. In addition to increasing your waistline, this stress-induced fat also accumulates around organs like the pancreas and liver, which increases risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Stress may wipe out benefits of a healthy diet in women.

Researchers at Ohio State University found that the prior day’s stressful events seemed to eradicate any health benefits women might have gained from eating a healthier breakfast that’s rich in “good” monounsaturated fats. The study’s lead researcher, Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, said stress complicates the way the body processes food.

Early-life exposure to stress can lead to adult illnesses.

Researchers at the MDI Biological Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine studied zebrafish embryos chronically exposed to the stress hormone cortisol for just a few days and found that they developed into adults with signs of chronic inflammation and abnormal immune systems. Early-life exposure to chronically elevated levels of cortisol results in lasting developmental changes affecting processes in adult life that are critical to immune system function and regulation.

Stress may exact the greatest toll on younger women with heart disease.

A study of nearly 700 men and women with heart disease found that stress was harder on women aged 50 or younger. They were nearly four times than either men of the same age or older women to have reduced blood flow to the heart. Reduced blood flow can often lead to a heart attack. The study suggested that younger women, who juggle work, family and financial responsibilities and routinely feel stressed need better assessment of life’s stressors and more support coping with them.

Prolonged stress affects short-term memory.

A study from the University of Iowa found a potential link between stress hormones and short-term memory loss in older adults. High levels of cortisol – a natural hormone present in the body that surges when a person is stressed—are the culprit. Short-term spikes in cortisol help a person to cope and respond to life’s challenges, but abnormal spikes like those experienced during long-term stress can wreak havoc on memory by “weathering the brain.”

Stress is linked to breast cancer.

Researchers at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey are studying a link between stress and breast cancer, specifically in the p53 protein. The protein, say researchers, reacts to large numbers of stress signals. If p53 becomes malformed, it could spark an uncontrollable reaction, causing cells to continuously reproduce, and those cells would be considered cancerous. About one in eight women will develop aggressive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime. According to the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program, more than 40,000 women are expected to die in 2016 due to breast cancer.

Depression, emotional stress may cause type 2 diabetes.

Longitudinal studies suggest that not only depression, but also general emotional stress are associated with an increased risk for the development of type 2 diabetes.

Emotional stress is a trigger for eczema.

The National Eczema Foundation cautions that emotional stress is one of the common triggers for eczema, although it is not known why. In some people, their eczema gets worse when they realize they’re stressed, while others get stressed because they have eczema and their flare-up worsens.

Note that this is not an all-inclusive list of the ways stress harms you. Research continues to uncover how untreated stress punishes the body and mind. If you’re plagued by chronic stress, find effective ways to cope with it. This may include getting professional help, although there are many approaches you can take on your own, including meditation, mindful walking, prioritizing tasks, deep breathing, guided imagery and more.

Related articles:

10 Tips for Less Stress During the Holidays

10 Tips to Decrease Work Stress

Combat Stress with Mindful Walking

10 Quick Ways to Beat Stress

My 10 Favorite Summertime Stress-Busters

5 Ways to Find Peace of Mind

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10 Tips for Less Stress During the Holidays

Photo by Toa Heftiba/Unsplash

Photo by Toa Heftiba/Unsplash

If the sounds of Christmas carols playing in the malls make you cringe, it could be you’re letting the stress of the holidays get to you. With so much to do and so little time to get it done, this seemingly-innocuous musical reminder just adds more fuel to the fire. You’re primed and ready for these 10 tips for less stress during the holidays.

  1. You Don’t Have to Do Everything

Where is it written that you must be the poster person for everything done and everything right for the holidays? If you’ve assumed this mantle willingly, now’s the time to toss it aside. It’s impossible to be perfect, so why should you pursue perfection? The biggest hurdle for you to overcome is your own self-expectations. Tell yourself – and listen so it takes hold – that you don’t have to do everything. This is the first step to much less stress this holiday season.

  1. Know Your Own Limits

You might think you’ve got everything under control, even after you’ve told yourself that you don’t have to do it all, yet you still push yourself beyond what’s realistic. When you wind up haggard and exhausted at the end of the day, don’t look forward to tomorrow’s to-do list, start shortchanging your own well-being in a constant quest to do more, you’ve got to stop. Here is where you must know your own limits and never exceed them. You’ll be tempted, but don’t succumb.

  1. Make Your Boundaries Clear

If you haven’t let others know what you will and won’t do, you need to make your boundaries clear. Let them know it’s not OK to automatically expect you to host the big holiday dinner, just because you may have done so in the past. Times change, other responsibilities may take precedence, or it’s just not equitable, besides no longer being fun. Don’t think that others can guess what your boundaries are, however, because they can’t. Most won’t want to. You must tell them.

  1. Shop Online

The best thing that ever happened with holiday shopping, in my opinion, is the ability to easily, quickly and seamlessly do almost all of it online. Free shipping, discounts, extra gifts, suggestion lists, cash for purchasing via sites like eBates.com and TopCashBack.com are all excellent for easing this type of holiday stress.

  1. Watch What You Eat

Gobbling a sandwich on the run, skipping meals, eating unhealthy snacks and eating too much are all a recipe for increased stress, if not a serious medical condition. The human body requires nourishment, not junk food. Eat sensibly, in moderate portions, at the appropriate times and regularly. Not only will you have more energy, with good self-care you’ll be better equipped to deal with the stressors you’ll encounter during the holidays.

  1. Get Some Good Shut-Eye

Just as eating too much, too little or the wrong kind of food can increase your stress level, insufficient sleep is a huge contributor to added stress. It might be tough to get 8 hours of sleep each night, especially if you wait until the last minute to wrap presents, clean the house, launder the holiday linens and make sure all the decorations are in good shape, but this is one area you can’t afford to ignore. Remember the tip about knowing your limits and not trying to do everything? When it’s time to go to bed, go. You need your sleep.

  1. Steer Clear of Alcohol

Another big culprit in holiday stress is alcoholic consumption. One drink won’t kill you and probably is fine – unless you are in recovery, do crazy things with the slightest sip of alcohol, or some other reason – but keeping up with the party-hardy folks is just going to land you in a tight spot. Maybe literally, as in handcuffs from drinking and then driving. Just say no. Drink something festive and non-alcoholic. No one will care. And this is a safe choice that will cut down on your stress level as well.

  1. Begin (or End) Each Day with Something You Enjoy

If you want to have something to look forward to, begin or end each day with something you enjoy. Maybe that’s a massage from your partner, a specially-prepared latte, a hot bath or soothing shower, listening to your favorite album, taking a mindful walk outside, working in the garden. What it is matters less than you derive pleasure from doing it. The release of endorphins you get from doing something you enjoy will dramatically reduce your stress.

  1. Enlist Help and Make It Fun

Since there’s a finite amount of time and you only have so much energy to go around, one way that you can reduce your anxiety and stress during the holidays is to ask for help. If you also make it a fun activity, there’ll be less chance others will resent the request. Furthermore, if everyone pitches in, the task or project will get done that much quicker. Be sure to let others know you’ll reciprocate. It’s more than a grand gesture. It makes them even more willing to lend a hand.

  1. Cherish the Moments

Think about what it means to you to have your loved ones and family members to spend time with this holiday season. What you take for granted, others would gladly trade places to experience. Also, time goes by quickly. The moments you cherish and share now will be loving memories later. Love is a healing balm that can magically erase stress. Be open to it and soak up every minute with those you care about.

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Related articles:

Combat Stress with Mindful Walking

How Your Memory Suffers with Poor REM Sleep

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my daily blog and more.

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10 Tips to Decrease Work Stress

Photo by Kristopher Allison/Unsplash

Photo by Kristopher Allison/Unsplash

Are you stressed to the max at work? Feel like you can’t catch a break no matter how hard you try? The truth is that work stress will kill you if you don’t do something about it. But what should you do? Here are 10 tips to decrease work stress you can begin today.

Figure out what’s causing you stress.

Before you can begin to decrease work stress, it’s helpful to know what it is that’s causing you to be stressed in the first place. Are you taking on too many projects at once? Is your boss expecting too much from you and have you not mentioned any limitations to what you can reasonably do to him or her?

By analyzing what bothers you at work, you’ll be better able to pinpoint ways to effectively deal with the stressor. If, for example, you’re overworked, you must carve out some of those responsibilities and either delegate them or reduce them.

Your supervisor will be a great help in this area, although it might be tough to broach the subject. Construct a proactive approach. If you let your boss know that you’ll be able to finish X project within deadline if Y and Z are either delayed, assigned to a different person or team, or can be consolidated, he or she may be amenable to making some changes.

Take regular breaks.

Working non-stop is going to wear you down, increase stress and make you miserable. The only way out of this dilemma is to institute a practice of taking regular breaks. Even if you only get a 10-minute break in the morning and afternoon, you can still stand up and walk around at regular intervals.

Instead of staring at a computer screen for hours on end, avert your eyes and gaze outdoors once an hour. These mini-breaks help you compartmentalize what you were doing and provide a buffer so that stress doesn’t exact too great a toll.

Cut down on tasks.

When your to-do list starts to resemble a phone book, you’ve got too much to handle. No human being can possibly tend to an overwhelming number of tasks, not to mention the unnecessary stress such an accumulation tends to produce.

The quickest and perhaps the only way around this is to simply cut down on the number of tasks. Streamline the entries, combining similar ones and deleting, delegating or deciding others. For example, if you have 30 tasks listed, see how many are necessary and which ones are perhaps holdover items no longer relevant. Cut the list in half. That’s a good start. Shedding this amount of weight will lighten your load and help to decrease work stress.

Prioritize what’s necessary.

No doubt there are some work items that need to rank high on your to-do list. Your boss may demand action on a project, or you’re the head of a team working on a hot development. Some are time-sensitive, while others require the assistance of others only available for a certain period.

But there are also other items on your to-do list that don’t require immediate action. They may be better suited to a lower ranking on the list or even deserve their own list of tasks and projects for when there’s a lull.

Mark each item on the list in numerical order, with #1 being the most important and requiring prompt attention. You might even color code those items in the top five, assigning different colors to those further down the ranking of priority.

By prioritizing things, you exert control over what and when you intend to work on them. This alone will reduce the type of stress that often goes together with work-related duties and responsibilities.

Limit distractions.

When you’re trying to work on a task or project, listening to your co-workers’ conversations in adjacent cubicles or offices isn’t exactly conducive to productivity. Neither is having your email client notifications of incoming messages going to keep you focused on the work at hand. Constant interruptions of any kind drain your energy, scatter your attention and limit your ability to get work done.

What’s helpful is to schedule times to check emails, take or make phone calls. Turn off your email client, put the phone on silence mode and automatic answer. Tell co-workers you’re not going to be available for the next hour while you tend to an assignment. Most of all, don’t allow yourself to search for distractions to keep you from your work.

When you’re less distracted, you can concentrate on what you need to do now. This is a great way to curb stress at work and something very much in your control.

Confide in someone you trust.

When you’ve bottled all that stress inside you, you feel like you’re going to burst. That’s not a pleasant feeling and it won’t go away on its own. A huge help is finding someone you trust that you can confide in. This doesn’t mean you do a dump of everything on your mind. That will just succeed in exhausting you and your confidante. Maybe talk about the biggest thing that’s bothering you, the one causing you the most stress.

Also, be aware that you can go to the well too often. Instead of abusing your relationship with too many instances of crying the blues, balance your time with that person by doing other things. Ask about his or her problems and listen without jumping in to talk about your own.

Sometimes it’s enough that you have someone you can go to and talk over things. It isn’t always necessary to dwell on them when you’re with that person.

Meditate or try yoga.

You don’t have to be spiritual to get value from meditating. Think of meditation to get in touch with your inner self, whatever that concept means to you. Through the practice of meditation, you’re not forcing items out of your mind as much as you’re acknowledging their presence and then allowing them to dissipate. This is a huge boost in reducing work stress. You can take classes to learn how to meditate or teach yourself with the help of books, tapes and information on meditation websites.

Another way to decrease work stress is to practice yoga. Again, there are classes you can take to learn yoga as well as self-help instruction. There are numerous types of yoga, so you can check out what resonates with you.

Eat well and sleep better.

Too much stress at work also wreaks havoc on your health in other ways. You tend to eat inappropriate foods, eat too much or fail to eat altogether. You’re also likely to toss and turn at night, mind racing over things left undone at work, remembering something you should have done but didn’t, endlessly going over in your mind what’s on tap for tomorrow.

A key part of your quest to decrease work stress begins at home. You need good self-care: to eat well-balanced, nutritious meals and get a good eight hours of sleep each night. There’s no getting around the fact that your body requires adequate nutrition and rest to function properly. This includes the ability to fight the cumulative effects of stress.

Start to exercise.

You might think that scheduling time for exercise has no place in your busy life, especially given all your work responsibilities. Who has an hour to devote to something that doesn’t lighten your work load? When you exercise, your energy levels get a boost, your mood lightens, and you’re better able to channel the anxiety and stress you feel at work.

Furthermore, after a quick, brisk walk, riding an exercise bike or working the treadmill – or any other vigorous physical exercise that gets your blood flowing, heart rate increasing and oxygen coursing throughout your body – you’ll likely return to the task at hand with greater focus and a resulting increase in productivity.

Enjoy a recreational activity or hobby.

All work and no play is bad for your health. If you’re so caught up in work projects that you never have time to do things you enjoy, your life is seriously out of balance. It’s time to remedy that by figuring out something you can do away from work that, well, takes your mind completely away from anything related to work.

What the activity is doesn’t matter. It can be a recreational activity you do alone or with others. It can be a hobby you’ve long wanted to pursue or just discovered you have an interest in. Spending free time with friends, loved ones and family members also qualifies if this brings you a sense of contentment, love and fulfillment.

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Related articles:

Combat Stress with Mindful Walking

10 Quick Ways to Beat Stress

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

10 Ways Lists Rule

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my daily blog and more.

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Combat Stress with Mindful Walking

Photo by Sylwia Bartyzel/Unsplash

Photo by Sylwia Bartyzel/Unsplash

“When you look at the sun during your walking meditation, the mindfulness of the body helps you to see that the sun is in you; without the sun there is no life at all and suddenly you get in touch with the sun in a different way.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

 

A lot of people are scared off by the words “mindfulness meditation” and likely shy away from anything mindful. That’s a shame, because research shows that the practice of mindful meditation and mindfulness in everyday activities is powerful and effective.

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to get involved with mindfulness is to begin mindful walking. To gain some insight into how meditation can work to help manage stress, I got in touch with David Lynch, Namaste Culture Limited, who practices in the United Kingdom.

Is there a simple statement you use to help people be more present – even if they are resistant?

Meditation can seem like a daunting prospect, especially if you’re already feeling anxious or low in mood. When addressing an audience who have little experience of it, I tend to talk more in terms of a practice that helps you still your mind, in the way that a run or yoga might do. I use terms like an invitation to experiment with a new approach to managing stress. I make reference to the findings of neuroscience and the many proven benefits of developing a regular practice.

What is a mindful walk? How do you do it?

It’s like any other walk with an extra focus on all the senses, exploring both internal and external landscapes, and their interconnectedness. It’s walking more slowly than usual, less concerned with the final goal, more engaged with the sensations of the body, and savoring the impact of the external world on the inner experience.

How long does it take while walking to let go of all the “noise” in your head and embrace nature?

Not long at all, although it can feel like a long time, if you’ve come straight from a busy office environment, where you’ve been very goal-focused. Walking outdoors in nature helps you to switch off, to disengage from fast thinking and problem-solving.

Suppose there aren’t any gardens near work or school or elsewhere to walk. How can you get the same effect otherwise? Can you walk up and down stairs, for example, and be mindful? Or do you need some calming influence you best achieve when in nature?

In some ways, it can be easier to walk indoors, either in a circle or in straight lines, where the invitation is to focus very much on your body’s internal experience, without the distraction of nature’s beauty. I think you have to be clear in your motivation to walk purposefully in a room, to be yourself on track, but once you get going, the rhythm of your body and the simplicity of the task soon stills your mind. Even 10 minutes on your lunch break can make a difference.

What are the specific benefits of mindful garden walks?

My experience is that the combined regenerative effects of walking in nature’s beauty, breathing fresh air and practicing mindfulness, results in an immediate uplift in mood and outlook. It’s as if these combined forces offer a fresh perspective on whatever your mind is grappling with.

How long do they last?

This summer, I was inviting office workers to a 40-minute experience, enough time to get back to the office during a lunch break. [This included] 10 minutes [of] instruction, 20 minutes walking and 10 minutes debrief and discussion.

Can you talk about the benefits of mindful walking to relieve stress? How does this work? Do you intentionally shut your mind off from stressful emotions, thoughts, etc., or do you go through a process of letting go?

Mindful walking helps relieve stress because the invitation is to connect with the felt experience of stress in the body and mind, the opposite off switching off from it, or suppressing the unwelcome and sometimes painful sensations of stress.

Walking works on at least two levels to relieve stress:

  • The mind is focusing on the moment by moment experience of the walking movement, the placing of the foot, the shifting weight from leg to leg, and not on the source of what’s inducing the stress response. Just keeping balanced and upright is enough to focus the mind.
  • The invitation is to acknowledge and connect with the sensations, emotions and thoughts, no matter how unpleasant and unwelcome, e.g. I can feel my heart racing, I feel nausea in the pit of my stomach, I notice my racing obsessing thoughts.

The additional benefit of walking in nature is that our mind’s attention falls on the sound of the rustling leaves, on the beauty of the light falling on the path, and gains a broader perspective on our experience. Suddenly, we note that we are part of something bigger and [better] than our stress response.

Is it better to walk with others or alone – or does it matter?

It’s probably easier to practice together when you first start, as it helps motivate you. However, once learned, mindful walking can be done anywhere and enjoyably by yourself; walking to work through busy streets, walking to your next business meeting. You just choose to do it with your attention on your felt experience, slow down and enjoy the sensations of walking.

How long does it take to make mindful walking a healthy habit?

Our program is for eight weeks, because that’s what the researchers/experts recommend to establish a sustainable meditation practice, to embed a change in our daily routine, to commit to a lifestyle shift in how we manage demands, responsibilities and stress.

Of course, it is not enough to learn mindfulness practices for eight weeks and then to expect the change to happen, without maintaining a daily practice, or at least regular practice. We’re talking lifestyle change. That said, I have trainees who have said that although they no longer meditate on a regular basis, they have learned the tools to address stress differently when it arises, and therefore benefit from the skills development, no matter what.

Any final thoughts?

I am no expert in mindfulness. I am a practitioner, a facilitator of learning, a coach, who has combined several professional qualifications (teaching, counseling, management) and 30 years’ experience to create an experiential model of learning that adapts to the learners needs and vulnerabilities. They learn, I learn, and I love my work.

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Also check out My 10 Favorite Summertime Stress-Busters and 10 Quick Ways to Beat Stress.

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