4 Stress Busting Habits
Stress is a natural part of our lives. No matter how varied our individual lives get, we all experience various levels of stress at some point. Finding ways to alleviate daily stress so it doesn’t build to long-term stress is a valuable tool to have in our mental health toolkit. Here are four healthy habits to help fight stress and keep us mentally healthy.
Cultivate The Power Of Positive Thinking
Stress can profoundly impact how we interact with the world. Our reactions can be extreme, our ability to problem-solve can be negatively impacted, and motivation to participate in activities, even things we enjoy, can be difficult to find. When we feel like this, knowing how to harness the power of positive thinking can go a long way to reduce the cortisol in our brain, which helps alleviate these stress reactions.
As with any habit, starting small is key. Perhaps instead of automatically accepting or declining an invitation to do something, we commit to taking ten minutes to consider the pros and cons before deciding. Or maybe we make a rule to say yes to one thing a week, focusing on the positive aspects of the activity while we’re there. We can journal, writing down three positive things that happened every day, or meditate by focusing on our goals and visualizing how we can achieve them.
By adjusting our brain to focus on the positives, we’re training our brain to pay attention to those details as opposed to negative experiences. These reactions release feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, which combat the levels of cortisol released from stress.
Spend Time With Family and Friends
Not feeling up to group activities or needing to spend time alone to decompress are natural human responses to coping with stress. But this can easily swing too far into isolation if we let it. And one of the best ways to reduce stress is by spending more time with our family, friends, and yes, even work colleagues.
Being around people stimulates our limbic system, the area of our brain responsible for emotional processing. Seeing other people smile and being around laughter all raise instinctual responses in the limbic system, signaling that we should do the same. This elevates our mood, helping us relax and reduce the levels of stress we’re experiencing.
This same effect happens when we listen to others talk through a problem. It helps us feel connected when we realize our struggles aren’t isolated occurrences, and that others also experience difficulty, even if the problems aren’t exactly the same. Getting our frustrations out in the open can lead to problem-solving we couldn’t find on our own, or can simply release the built-up frustration that was blocking us from moving forward.
Whether we’re reaching out to work through a problem, or simply want to catch up with friends or family, simply seeing a friendly face will help elevate our mood. The best part is, thanks to technological advancements, we can reach out and connect with people face to face easier than ever.
Find A Hobby
Hobbies are a great way to stay busy while actively engaging our minds. They can be mentally or physically challenging, and we aren’t limited to pursuing only one. We can swim, hike, write, cook, dance, knit, jog, walk, and more. Reading for a book club, putting together puzzles, playing board games or interactive role-playing games, or signing up for a team sport can be great ways to participate in hobbies with other people. And of course, we can take classes, learning new languages or how to play a musical instrument to combine self-improvement with having fun.
Studies show that people who actively participate in hobbies have lower rates of stress, anxiety, and depression. It isn’t simply that we’re busy but that we’re engaging our brains. Every time we learn something new, our reward system is activated, giving us powerful mental boosts. These reduce stress and elevate our moods, but also build on our skills and confidence, which keeps the reward system active and motivated. Participating in physical hobbies raises endorphins and lowers cortisol. We have higher energy levels and can get more done, which also reduces stress. And solitary hobbies can help us relax, combatting the fatigue and physical exertion stress can put on our bodies.
Eat healthy foods
More and more, researchers are finding that eating a nutritious diet is vital for our mental health as well as our physical health. Making sure our diets are filled with brain-healthy foods such as fresh fruits, avocados, fatty fishes, and green, leafy vegetables will not only give us the brain fuel to power through our day but actually help lower stress and promote good mental health as well.
When we eat healthy foods, we can actually change the brain proteins and enzymes to promote neural growth and increase neurotransmitters. This means we can increase our brain’s neuroplasticity, improving overall cognitive function along with our memory. Healthy foods can also stimulate serotonin and oxytocin release in our brain, fighting to keep cortisol levels down and our moods balanced throughout the day.
Stress happens. The key is to find ways to combat the negative effects of stress in the short-term while mastering habits to help keep that stress from continuing in the long-term. By making stress management part of our everyday routine, we can unlock our limitless potential.