Stress is something we all experience, but we do have control over it. The basic teaching of
Buddhism is, “Pain is part of life, but suffering is optional.” What you do with stress makes all the difference. Here are 21 ways you can transform the quality of your life by reducing your stress and creating more peace, joy and happiness.
1. Adjust your attitude and choose to be happy. Abraham Lincoln once said, “People are about as happy as they make their mind up to be.” When you wake up, before you even get out of bed, think about what you have to be grateful for. Who are the people you love and who loves you? When faced with a challenge, ask yourself, “What’s great about this and what opportunities does this give me?” Decide that you’re going to have a great day. Don’t dwell on the past or future; just focus on what you have right now to be thankful for and the universe will bring you more of that. Whatever you focus on
2. Take ten deep breaths. To boost brain function, assist emotional balance and stimulate creative thinking, you can do the following alternate nostril breathing technique, which helps balance the right and left sides of the brain.
a. Completely exhale and then close your right nostril with your thumb and breathe in a full breath through your left nostril for a count of 5. Let your abdomen expand as you breathe in. Hold the breath a count of 20, or as long as you can if that is not comfortable.
b. Now close the left nostril with your ring finger and little finger and exhale completely for a count of 10 letting your abdomen relax back in.
c. Inhale a full breath through the right nostril and hold for a count of 20.
d. Exhale a count of 10 through the left nostril, again closing your right nostril with your thumb.
e. Repeat steps a – d for 10 breaths or five minutes and experience the benefits.
3. Maintain a balanced, nutritious diet, including fresh, whole foods and lean, quality protein. Have 70% of your diet consist of alkalizing foods such as sprouts, green leafy and fibrous vegetables, legumes and beans, avocados, tomatoes, lemons, limes, grapefruit, soaked almonds, fish oils, flax seed and olive oil. Avoid or eat sparingly highly acidic foods such as alcohol, coffee, sugar and artificial sweeteners, pork, beef, cheese and condiments, especially vinegar and soy sauce.
4. Get seven hours of restful sleep, ideally going to bed by 10 o’clock. Have your last meal several hours before bed so you have plenty of time to digest it. Don’t watch TV right before going to bed, especially the news. Play soothing music and take a warm bath. You may find it helpful to take nutritional supplements like calcium, magnesium, melatonin, amino acids and other nutrients that stimulate the sleep cycle.
5. Take regular breaks at work. Get up and take a walk letting your arms swing, which stimulates the brain and helps free up the spine. Do neck and shoulder rolls every hour. Focus on something else, like natural beauty around you or something that uplifts you.
6. Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water every day. The average person sweats and/or urinates approximately 2.5 quarts or 80 oz. of water every day. A good guide is to drink½ ounce of water for every pound of body weight. Water flushes toxins out of your body and keeps you hydrated—essential to clear thinking and optimal health! Make sure to drink purified water, not tap water. A good bottled water is Essentia, which has a high pH to alkalize the body.
7. Exercise. Do aerobic exercise such as biking, running or swimming where you are working up a sweat, but are not out of breath – a rate where you could carry on a conversation. Besides increasing your energy and endurance, it normalizes levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), insulin, blood glucose, growth hormone (and others), and puts more oxygen into your brain. It also stimulates your serotonin and endorphin levels, which make you feel happy and peaceful.
Also do some strength training, such as weight lifting, power yoga or palates. This increases your metabolism, builds stronger bones and increases your dopamine levels, which gives you more drive and motivation. Finish your exercise with some stretching, which enhances circulation of blood, lymph and chi, the essential energy that runs the body and keeps us healthy.
8. Learn to let go of things out of your control. Next time you find yourself getting upset by something that’s out of your control, take a deep breath and affirm, “I am going to let this go.” Then visualize something pleasant or think about someone you are grateful for.
9. Meditate. Let meditation be your medication. Take five to thirty minutes once or twice a day to focus on your breath or a peaceful sound or scene. Your eyes can be open, but most people find it easier to do with eyes closed. When you notice your mind wander, simply bring it back to your object of meditation. This helps soothe the mind and body and produce a sense of well-being. It also stimulates serotonin levels, which when low causes depression. You may find a deeper connection to your core self, that part of you that is connected to spirit and the essence of all things. Teilhard de Chardin reminds us that, “We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
10. Laugh a lot. In his book Anatomy of an Illness, Norman Cousins describes how he discovered that laughter is one of the keys to helping rebuild the adrenals, the little glands that sit on top of your kidneys, and are responsible for helping your body respond to stress. Watch funny movies, read humorous books, go to a comedy club. After all, laughter is the best medicine!
11. Avoid CATS: caffeine, alcohol, tobacco and sugar. These throw the body out of balance and can lead to addiction and other problems. They are highly acidic, which eats away at your body and contributes to illness and disease.
12. Do nothing at all. Schedule down time into every week (every day if you can). Putter around the house, take a leisurely stroll, and spend this time doing whatever you feel like without worrying about being productive.
13. Do something you love to do that gets you totally in the present. Maybe it is playing music, doing art or some creative outlet where you feel invigorated afterward.
14. Calm yourself with soothing music, aromatherapy, a massage or a leisurely bath. A warm bath helps increase circulation to the skin and relaxes the muscles. Add a few drops of pine needle essence, oil of eucalyptus, or soothing lavender oil.
15. Develop loving, honest and supportive relationships. Dr. Kenneth Pelletier, in his research of people who live over 100 years, found this a common element of this
population. Studies of people who had terminal cancer found that those who were partof a support group lived twice as long as those with the same cancer who were not part of such a group. Let people know you appreciate them and show interest in them.
16. Transform fear and negative beliefs. Fear is simply False Evidence Appearing Real! As Franklin Roosevelt put it, “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” You can clear the emotional charge and mental programming of a fear or negative belief, as well as reprogram your mind to adopt positive emotions and beliefs. It begins with accepting and loving the part of yourself that is experiencing these emotions. Whatever you resist will persist, so just notice or witness your emotions and thoughts without resisting them or reacting to them. Then do the following procedure:
While tapping on an acupressure point on the little finger side of the outside of either hand, say three times, “Even though I have this fear of (or belief that)… (whatever the fear or belief is), I deeply and completely love and accept myself and I now choose to … (the new emotions or beliefs you want to experience). Feel those positive emotions as you repeat this. For example, “Even though I am afraid of rejection and believe I am not good enough, I deeply and completely love and accept myself and I now choose to feel confident and believe that I am worthy of achieving this goal.”
By tapping this acupressure point while repeating this affirmation, it creates a very high field of energy to interrupt the old pattern and program the new way of being deeply into your identity and subconscious. Do this whenever doubts or fears arise and you will notice that the energy and power of your goals and visions will become increasingly stronger and your fears and doubts will loose their grip over you.
17. Forgive yourself and others. When you hold resentment towards another it is like taking poison and hoping that the other person will die. Even though they may have been mean or cruel and unjust, it does you physical and emotional harm to dwell on this. An affirmation you can use is, “Even though this person treated me unjustly, I now choose to forgive them and release all negativity towards them.” Feel the sense of relief and freedom that comes from this. For yourself it is important to release all guilt and shame, as these toxic emotions can eat away at you and undermine your health, happiness and quality of life. Realize that your actions from the past were the best you could do with the resources you had at that time. If you made a mistake choose to accept it, take the lesson you have received from it and move on. You can use the technique in number 16, tapping on the side of your hand and saying, “Even though I (whatever it is that you are beating yourself up about) I deeply and completely love and accept myself.”
18. Supplement with essential nutrients that may be missing in your diet. The most common nutritional deficiency is essential fatty acids, which are oils found in fish and vegetables. Omega 3’s found in fish oil and flax seed oil are anti-inflammatory, which are particularly deficient in most people. Udo’s Oil contains these and it is found in your health food store. Take 1 tablespoon per 50 pounds of body weight each day. Also you may find it helpful to take a multiple vitamin and minerals, including a trace
mineral complex that has selenium and zinc. Amino acid supplements can also help balance brain chemistry and hormones, which are built of essential fatty acids and amino acids.
19. Read inspiring books and watch uplifting movies. This can give you a model of how someone else overcame his or her difficulties and challenges to inspire you to greatness. Some excellent movies are Braveheart, Benny and Joon, Gandhi, Miracle, Shawshank Redemption, Rudi, Dead Poet’s Society and The Secret. Some great books are Awaken the Giant Within, by Anthony Robbins, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl,The Diary of Anne Frank, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, Out on a Limb, by Shirley MacLaine and the Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield.
20. Go to personal development seminars and listen to audio programs. Growth is one of the six psychological human needs. Many people find their lives are changed through attending seminars, which can provide a deeply transformational experience. You can turn your car into a university by listening to audio programs while you drive. Programs by Tony Robbins, Marianne Williamson, Mark Victor Hansen, Les Brown, Caroline Myss, Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, and Cheryl Richardson are just a few that you will find of tremendous value.
21. Contribute to others. It was the great doctor Albert Schweitzer who said, “Those of you who are truly happy are those of you who have sought and found a way to serve.” While in his thirties, Schweitzer gave up a thriving career as a concert organist in Europe to attend medical school so he could move to Africa and set up a hospital where there was great need of medical care. He made a tremendous difference to the people of this forgotten continent and saved thousands of lives. What is something that you can do selflessly that will make a difference to others and provide you with great joy?