Have more fun and live longer
We’ve all experienced it: a traffic jam that causes road rage to bubble to the surface; the pressures of deadlines and long hours at work; the challenges of juggling family and friends with work and other commitments; worries about money and bills – the list goes on and on.
It feels like stress is just an everyday part of modern life, something we have to accept or “survive” each day as we try to navigate our busy lives. A certain amount of stress is perfectly normal and is your body’s way of protecting you or helping you rise to meet challenges. However, there is a point where stress stops being helpful and can start to seriously affect the quality (and length!) of your life. Stress is a contributing factor to issues such as depression, heart disease and obesity. It can even have a negative effect on pre-existing conditions, like diabetes. Chronic stress is not your friend.
But does it have to be this way?
The good news is, while it’s unlikely you’ll get through life without experiencing any unhealthy stress, it doesn’t have to be your default mode of living. There are lots of things you can do to take the pressure down, start having more fun, and live a healthier and longer life.
Here are just a few fun stress relievers to get you started:
Laugh – a lot!
Oftentimes you’ll find laughter is indeed the best medicine with a range of positive health benefits. Studies have shown that laughter can help relieve pain by releasing endorphins, increase your happiness, help you relax and even increase your immunity. Our bodies undergo changes when we laugh. Muscles stretch in our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, breathing gets faster and as a result more oxygen is sent to our tissues – just like a mild workout.
Get your daily laughter fix by spending more time with friends, watch a funny movie or TV show or just tap into your sense of humour and see the funny side when your day isn’t going as planned. Don’t wait for the laughs to come to you – seek out a good belly laugh every day and watch your stress levels drop.
Get active every day
We all know that exercise is vital to our health but when we’re caught in the eye of a stress storm, getting active can feel like something that’s easier said than done. If it all feels too daunting at first, the key is to start small. Go for a 15 minute walk around the block to clear your head and build up from there. Increase the amount of time you’re doing something active each day and before long it’ll be something you find fun and look forward to.
Aim to reach a stage where you’re doing exercise that gets your heart rate up several times a week and you can look forward to the natural high of endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s natural feel good chemicals and when they are released through exercise your mood gets a boost. Even 10 minutes of moderate exercise is enough to improve your mood and increase your energy, and will help you kick stress to the curb.
Find a hobby you love
Discover your inner Picasso with art classes or unleash the rock god within by learning an instrument. Transform your garden with a newly discovered green thumb or write the next literary masterpiece. Whatever it is you think you might enjoy or have always wanted to do, give it a go today and discover the positive difference taking up a hobby can make. When your mind is engaged in a hobby, the trials and tribulations of life melt away, your stress will leave the building and you’ll enjoy the satisfaction of mastering something over time.
Doctor and author Stuart Brown M.D has written a book ‘Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul’ in which he says, “When you’re using your imagination and have a heightened mood, you open possibilities that you wouldn’t think otherwise.” This is a doctor’s advice you definitely shouldn’t ignore!
Get lost in the beauty of nature
Mother Nature certainly knows how to turn on the beauty and taking the time to appreciate nature’s amazing diversity and often jaw-dropping magnificence can be an instant feel good shot. Trek through a rainforest, sit on a headland staring out to sea, climb a mountain – whatever it is, you don’t have to go too far to find a natural landscape that will lift your spirits, make your feel refreshed and help you put life’s troubles into perspective.
Naturopathic doctor Alan Logan has co-authored a book called ‘Your Brain on Nature: The Science of Nature's Influence on Your Health, Happiness and Vitality’ and he notes that traditional Chinese medicine “has long advocated interaction with nature as a form medicine”, a concept which is now supported by modern science.
While there are times stress is unavoidable, it’s reassuring to know you can take control by making time in your life for activities that ease the pressure, boost your mood and are, above all, fun. You’ll enjoy a healthier, happier and, importantly, longer life.