It seems that we talk about the benefits of exercise or physical activity in every article. This is because it appears that being physically active helps to either solve or alleviate every other type of disease or illness in existence. By the way, the evidence backs up this claim.
From the Mayo Clinic: “Exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries.”
From WebMD: “…bursts of (exercise)…may help buffer the devastating effects that stress can have on cellular aging.”
From the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA): “Exercise is (considered) vital for maintaining mental fitness, and it can reduce stress.”
In other words, exercise – even of the light variety – is irreplaceable as a stress reducer. And a countless number of other things.
2. UNDERSTAND THE POWER OF THOUGHT
Unproductive and negative thinking leads to worry, which results in the release of stress hormones. Sadly, we’ve become such a rushed and overworked society that this physical response is extremely commonplace.
There are certain thought patterns and habits that increase the frequency at which this physical response takes place. Here are some: “What if (fill in the blank)?,” “I should/should not ever do (fill in the blank),” “If (fill in the blank) does/doesn’t happen, (fill in the blank).”
Some people have a way of anticipating the worst and hoping for the best in nearly every situation. We all do this to some extent, and it is absolutely terrible for both our physical and mental health.
Try to understand that thoughts matter, which leads us to #3…
3. PRACTICE MINDFULNESS
Being mindful doesn’t require one to shave their head and relocate to a monastery. In fact, if you were to ask a dozen or so of your friends, you’d probably find one that takes this concept pretty seriously – and for good reason.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, who developed the now-widely practiced Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program has this to say: “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. It’s about knowing what is on your mind.”
While this sounds simple in theory, how many of us actually do it? We give far too much credence to spontaneously-produced thoughts that we give away the power to control our mind.
Of course, there are programs – many free – that can teach the foundational elements of mindfulness. There are plenty of zero-cost educational tools and apps online. In other words, there are plenty of things to teach you how to be mindful.
4. SEEK HUMAN CONTACT
Being in touch with people that we care for has a magical way of reducing a multitude of stressors. Just ask any mom or dad that comes home after a long, hard day at work and is immediately greeted and embraced by their adoring children.
Spend some time with a friend, call a family member, have a date night with your spouse. Do something to take your mind off of the stress. There are plenty of things to do.
Or, if you prefer, try getting a massage to help alleviate the physical effects that stress has caused on your body. Massages, especially from a massive therapist or other professional, has a wonderful way of dissipating stress – both from body and mind.
5. WRITE DOWN YOUR THOUGHTS
Some people abhor the thought of “keeping a journal,” thinking it strange or unnecessary. However, many find that once their thoughts are written down, they feel a sense of relief.
Aside from the fact that research affirms the stress-reducing effects of keeping a journal, it is perhaps the best way to unload your thoughts without judgment. Writing down thoughts also has a way of promoting clarity of thought.
Journaling is a great way of organizing your thoughts – a benefit that cannot be overstated. When our thoughts are jumbled, it almost always leads to stress. We try to rationalize our way out if these confusing thoughts, only to realize our inability to do so. A journal helps to solve this problem.
6. YOU WILL LEAVE BEHIND SELF-DESTRUCTIVE HABITS.
None of us is perfect; we all have temptations, vices, and bad habits. We fill voids in our lives with drugs, alcohol, bad foods, bad relationships, etc. We sometimes stay up too late, sleep too little, work too much, and don’t leave nearly enough time for ourselves. All of these bad habits are born out of pain, stress, loneliness, and other negative feelings. However, these bad habits will only destroy us over time and sabotage our chances of true happiness. You have to get at the root cause of these feelings which prompt you to act out these bad habits. Once you can do that, and replace those habits with more loving actions, you have reached a whole new level of freedom.
In 2017, commit to yourself and start replacing those bad habits with better ones. Also, remember to take baby steps and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get it the first time. We’re all human, so go easy on yourself and set reasonable goals.
7. YOUR MENTAL HEALTH WILL IMPROVE.
Mental health is a huge topic of discussion nowadays. All of us go through rough times and get in a bad place mentally. Some of us have severe disorders which make life even harder to deal with. However, no matter your current mental state, self-love can only work to improve it. When you commit fully to bettering yourself and having positive mental health, you CAN and will see changes. It does take perseverance and determination, but simply starting to have positive conversations with yourself and doing activities that promote mental wellness can make a world of difference. Practices such as meditation and yoga, for instance, have proven highly beneficial for many types of ailments and disorders.
However, if you need additional help outside of healing practices and improving your relationship with yourself, don’t hesitate to ask for it. Everyone falls down sometimes and needs help getting back on their feet, and you shouldn’t feel ashamed about that. We’re all in this together, but you have to take responsibility for your own health and realize when you need assistance.
So, our overall message to you in 2017 is, get out there and live your dreams, love yourself, do what makes you happy, and don’t ever give up on you. Rekindle that fire in your soul, and don’t ever let anyone extinguish it – especially yourself.