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.