How to stress less and enrich your life
A couple of things have caught my attention recently, specifically relating to our wellbeing. One in particular happened as my friend and I were driving to the beach to walk our dogs. She was chatting animatedly to me about her new pattern of eating - lots of healthy food, however certain foods could only be eaten at certain times of day - no dairy, no grains, and her sugar intake was to be below a certain percentage in anything she ate. It certainly made sense.
However, it left me thinking - we are living in an information age, yet it seems that as a result, we are becoming completely seduced with any new idea, concept, number, list or plan that will change our body, our health, or our life. And we are losing sight of what we know truly nourishes us. This endless search for the ‘right’ answer is perhaps lessening the richness of our life.
For this reason I have created something for you – let’s think of these things as reminders of what you already know and not a list of new information.
Consider these as simple, yet robust resources that are designed to help you nourish, to refresh and to experience joy:
- Pause How often do you just keep on going? Not taking a break has large health implications. Simply, a moment where you turn away from your screen at work, or a 1 minute break [yes, that small] every 90 minutes during a work day to breathe, and you feel plugged back in. Every 90 minutes Set an alert and notice the benefit of a 60 second pause.
- Develop a ‘future’ orientation. Humans are inherent creatures of progress. So whether you take just a moment to review a personal goal, or have a 3-hour brainstorm on the direction of your business, you become energised when you look forward. Weekly – or anytime you feel ‘on the treadmill’ A Sunday afternoon can be a pleasant time to turn your attention to your goals.
- Meditate Immunity, inflammation, brain function, memory, attention, anxiety, stress, depression are just a few factors that may be positively impacted by meditation. If you cannot meditate initially, that is perfectly fine. Simply be still and breathe slowly, deeply and rhythmically for as long as you can. Each morning Get up a few minutes earlier than the rest of your household for some stillness.
- Create rhythms Nature operates in rhythms. Think of tides, seasons, cycles of the sun and moon. Create patterns in your day and week where you can – morning rituals, gym days, date nights, sleep and wake times. Be committed. Plan weekly I recommend putting these important things into your planner first – and then letting the rest of your life flow around them.
- Gratitude New neural pathways can be formed in your brain when you consistently focus on positive, uplifting, or special events, however big or small, say Berkeley University neuropsychologist and author Rick Hanson, and The Brain That Changes Itself author Norman Doidge. Consequently, this creates a shift in how your view challenges and life in general. I can’t put it more simply; gratitude is an essential health and wellbeing tool. Nightly Keep a journal by your bed [and a pen] so you’re always prepared to enjoy this.
- Breathe The simple act of one big beautiful breath has a huge impact on your health and vitality. Your breath is a vital vehicle that oxygenates, alkalises and detoxifies your body, when you do it properly. That’s been documented in publications including the Journal of Obstetric, Gynaecologic and Neonatal Nursing (1998), A. Guz’s Brain, Breathing and Breathlessness (1997), and D. Repich’s Overcoming Concerns About Breathing. This increases your energy, reduces stress, and may help prevent inflammation and disease. Practice breathing properly, and eventually it will become natural to you. Consistently Most of us breathe incorrectly, so teach yourself how to breathe deeply, into your stomach – not your chest – and create a new habit.
- Choose optimism Worrying depletes us emotionally. The cells of your body experience worry as a negative stimuli, which causes them to reduce and separate from one another, according to Dr Bruce Lipton in The Biology of Belief interview. When you worry, you are less likely to find the answer to your problem, and of more concern, your health is compromised. What are you worried about? Be still, ask yourself what you need to do about it? You’ll know… Consistently Sometimes your worry is valid, however instead, practise thinking about what a positive outcome could be instead, and your brain will begin to re-wire for optimism.
- Rekindle your joy Most of us are not sure what truly brings us joy. And even if we are, we probably don’t prioritise it in our schedule. When you are engaged in something you enjoy, the brain responds and creates attachments to that experience. According to Hanson and Doidge, if you are continually engaged in rushing, worrying, and mindlessness, those neural circuits develop differently and form patterns accordingly. A special joy may be remnant from your childhood – perhaps playing the piano or riding horses or being outside in nature. Although they needn’t be time-consuming activities; they could simply be moments spent laughing with a best friend or reading outside in the evening. Ruminate on them. Choose one or more for yourself. Engage in them regularly. This is generally the last thing we prioritise; yet it should be the first! Decide on yours – and enjoy some richness in your life.
Sarah Laurie is an author, speaker and coach, who has a passion and practical advice for living well. Find out more on her website.