According to The American Institute of Stress, 77% of Americans are dealing with physical symptoms because of stress.
It’s believed that stress can even undo all the benefits from exercise and a good diet. I know that just taking 10 minutes from my day to go outside, sit quietly, or talk with a friend helps keep me grounded, balanced, and happy.
Wouldn’t that be nice? It turns out, you can! And it’s free. It’s as simple as going outside. Plus, the benefits are bigger, the longer and more often you spend time in nature,
For years studies have shown that being in green spaces is good for your health. Recent research has confirmed this once again and gone a step further, showing that your nervous system is directly affected, similar to your cardiovascular and respiratory systems. You breathe easier while lowering your blood pressure, and now you can actually increase the part of your brain that makes you smart and happy. You might even pay more attention than before.
Drinking water can be fun! I promise.
Most Americans don’t drink enough water and it’s even more important when we have a heat wave. The biggest reason people give is because they don’t like the taste of plain water. Yup, it can be boring. But, it can make the difference by reducing muscle aches, headaches, and giving you more energy. In weeks like this, it’s crucial.
So here’s the cure. My dear friend, Deb Dittner, wrote a great book called Body Balance that includes this recipe for a Healthy Electrolyte Drink. It’s written for hockey players who are looking for healthier ways to eat that are convenient, give them more energy, and don’t require much reading. Take away the hockey stick and the ice skates and this book is helpful for almost all of us.
Mix the following and chill before serving:
4 cups pure warm water
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp. honey
For even more variety, I’ve made this in a blender and added whatever fruit or berries I’ve got. I’ve even blended it up first and added frozen berries when I want to drink it right away. No need for chilling!
I spent most of this past weekend in the garden where it was vewy, vewy quiet. Although, I’m not sure if any of the rabbits in the thicket are named Bugs Bunny.
I leave my cell phone in the house for practicality so it doesn’t get hot, dirty, or wet. Because of that, I discovered I’m more focused and productive, but I’m also more aware of what’s going on. I notice the bird songs, the color of the sky and clouds, and the antics of my outdoor cat.
You would think that taking pauses to observe my surroundings would slow down how much I get done, but I’ve found it does the opposite. There is something about quiet time that is soothing to your body. It resets your nervous system to relax mode. When you’re in overdrive, you can actually miss important details as well as bigger obvious things. You can’t take in as much data to help you make decisions.
Slowing down is an important part of functioning. That’s why your nervous system is divided into the sympathetic, fight or flight part, and the parasympathetic, rest and digest part. Our culture rewards the fighting side of your nervous system and many of our recreational activities like gaming and even watching TV triggers the adrenals that fuel it.
Quiet time guarantees that only our resting nervous system is engaged. You might have a few anxious thoughts that come and go if you’re not used to slowing down. Wait them out and let them pass or employ several slow, deep breaths to ease your tension.
Build some form of quiet time into each day, especially in the morning and before bed. It doesn’t need to be meditation. You can read a book, stretch, or watch a sunset or sunrise. You could play music or enjoy a hobby like gardening, knitting, or woodworking. Just 10 minutes of quiet time might even give you a half hour or more of relaxed productivity elsewhere in your day. If you’re like me, at the very least, you’ll feel refreshed, relaxed, and happier.
Laughter is unique to humans according to Aristotle.
I heard this on a podcast recently. It’s accepted that laughter has healing properties, is infectious (in a good way), and can deepen our relationships when it’s shared. Yet, Aristotle might be wrong that only humans can laugh. We just might not know how to recognize laughter in animals. I’ve seen squirrels playing in the park and, for me, it’s not too big a leap to imagine they can laugh. I think the idea makes our world feel even more magical.
The most important stretch you’ll ever do for pain relief. Just two minutes once a day is all you need.
You’re not alone if you have rounded shoulders. Your desk, couch, and car all provide a comfortable place to sit, but they slouch you forward in a C-curve. In ancient times, this was a protective posture that decreased the target area of your vital organs. It’s helpful if you’re in a fight, but if this position is held too long, your back muscles overstretch, potentially causing pain.
Counter this position by elongating the front of your body into an arch. Your back muscles shorten, giving them a chance to relax. Shoulder tension may release, offering more space to breathe deeply. You really need to do this important stretch EVERY DAY.
Roll a thick blanket or towel or use a foam roller, or even a pool noodle from the dollar store as a support. The noodle can be cut into thirds allowing you to keep one at your desk, in your car, and at home. Lie with your face up, with the bolster behind your ribs where your bra strap is (sorry, men, I couldn’t think of another reference point). Adjust the pillow as needed, as long as it’s behind your upper back, not lower lumbar area. You can also turn it 90 degrees to run along your spine. You may need a different spot each day.
Bend your knees and place both feet on the floor if you have lower back tension. Place your arms overhead or down by your side. Most importantly, stay there for at least two full minutes.Enjoy the effect of melting into the floor. I like this stretch best at the end of the day, but there is no right or wrong time to do this stretch.
Spring can bring a host of outdoor activities such as lawn and garden cleanup. You may want to add some exercises now to your weekly routine. This will get your muscles ready and may prevent soreness which will keep you from needing a massage. It’s always more enjoyable to get a massage when you don’t hurt.
Did you know that improving your balance also reduces your risk of tripping or falling?
These exercises help strengthen the muscles that improve your balance. As you practice them, try to increase the time that you hold each pose. If you breathe deeply while staying in position, you pass the time and relax easier.
Stand on one foot.
Sit down and stand up without using your hands.
While holding onto the back of a chair, bend your knees slightly and lift your heels up and down slowly at least 10 times.
Sit in a kitchen chair and extend one leg out in front of you. Lower your leg and repeat 10 times with each leg.
Walking, swimming, and practicing tai chi are other ways to improve your balance, strength, and endurance.
But a little chocolate, a massage and a great night’s sleep doesn’t hurt.
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