Laugh yourself happy
Who doesn’t love a good laugh – it raises our spirits and our endorphins – the body’s natural feelgood chemicals, says laughter wellness expert and adjunct lecturer at La Trobe University, Ros Ben-Moshe. “Laughter also helps reduce stress, lowers blood pressure, increases oxygenation, and even improves your resistance to disease,” she explains.
“Evidence suggests 15 minutes of laughter in blocks or interspersed throughout the day is optimal for wellbeing,” says Ben-Moshe. So, check out laughter workshops in your area, or watch a favourite comedy for a regular dose of therapeutic giggles.
Take a walk in nature
If you’re feeling under pressure at work, a walk in the park at lunchtime can be a great stress-buster.
suggest that walking in nature can help dampen anxious feelings . “Most of us feel better when we are outdoors and among nature,” says psychologist Merryn Snare .
“The serenity makes us feel calmer, giving us an internal breather, and the fresh air we breathe is kinder to our organs. So it’s no surprise how much better this can make us feel.”
Not looking after our own needs can add to our stress levels, whereas practising self-kindness helps us react more calmly in stressful situations.
“Be on the lookout for opportunities to practise more kindness to self,” says psychologist Madonna Hirning . “For example, as you notice yourself allowing your coffee or tea going cold while you respond to emails, spend a few minutes to just be and enjoy your drink while it’s hot,” she suggests.
“Could you have a brief soak in the bath instead of rushing through the shower? Be creative and seek out small ways to amplify your own enjoyment and self-care within the confines of your day.”
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Learn to belly breathe
We all breathe, but not many of us do it well, says clinical psychologist and mindfulness trainer Cameron Aggs .
“Most of us expand our chest, rather than our diaphragm when we breathe in. This reduces our oxygen intake and is associated with the fight-flight response as opposed to the relaxation response,” he explains.
“Alternatively, slow belly breaths increase oxygen to the brain and body and bring an array of health benefits as well as helping to alleviate anxiety.”
“The trick is to breathe slowly,” says Aggs. “You want your belly to expand and move outwards. Practise four belly breaths four or five times a day.”
Swap your coffee for chamomile
Coffee raises your levels of the stress hormone cortisol, so it’s best avoided when you’re feeling under pressure .
Teas can be a great alternative and chamomile is often recommended by naturopaths for its calming properties.
If chamomile isn’t your cup of tea then lavender, passionflower or peppermint are also good options.
Get some ZZZZs
Getting a good night’s sleep has many benefits, including making it easier to deal with stress . To help you nod off and stay asleep the Sleep Health Foundation suggests:
- Try to go to bed at the same time every night
- Have your last meal at least two hours before bedtime
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as well as computer screens and smartphones for at least an hour before bed
- Build in some time to wind down
- Make your bedroom a quiet, dark haven, with no TV
Find a furry friend
Spending time with a pet is also associated with lower stress levels and may have knock-on benefits for the health of your heart.
The relationship with man’s best friend can be especially close, and now we have a clue why. A study
in Japan found that when your dog gazes into your eyes, both of you experience a release in oxytocin, the ‘love hormone’, which helps the two of you bond .
As for cats, according to one Austrian study
, they’ve been found to be as good as a romantic partner at lifting you out of a bad mood , as well as helping to slow down your heart rate and support healthy blood pressure . What’s not to love!