Recent scientific research into alternative healing methods have shown that these three simple techniques reduce the effect of stress on the body, and lowering stress allows you to think more clearly, work more efficiently, and experience more joy in life.
Meditate: Find a class in mindfulness meditation and start changing your brain for the better. Harvard Medical School neuroscientist Sara Lazar found that study participants who practiced a mindfulness meditation stress-reduction program for eight weeks showed changes in brain volume in five different areas, including a thickening in areas of the brain devoted to learning, memory, cognition, empathy and compassion. Study participants experienced a reduction in the amygdala, the portion of the brain associated with stress, anxiety and fear. Lazar’s study participants were asked to meditate for 40 minutes per day, but most only practiced a half-hour per day and still showed positive effects.
Practice yoga: Make time in your schedule to take a yoga class. Researchers in Japan asked a group of pregnant study participants to take part in two yoga classes a month and to practice yoga in their homes three times a week following an instructional DVD. The women’s cortisol and alpha-amylase levels, which are biological indicators of stress in the body, were tested immediately after their yoga sessions, and the women were asked to record their mood. The women’s cortisol and alpha-amylase levels dropped after the yoga classes, as did their scores for negative moods (anxiety, depression, anger-hostility, fatigue and confusion). Their positive mood scores increased significantly after the classes.
Pet your dog: All you need is a friendly dog and a moment of quiet to reduce the impact of stress on your body. Research conducted at the University of South Carolina, Columbia and reported in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine discovered that study participants who had a neutral or positive attitude toward dogs experienced a drop in blood pressure and heart rate upon petting a dog. When the participants both talked to and touched the dog, their heart rate and blood pressure rose slightly.
We all want to reduce stress to lead happy, healthy lives. Simply knowing that the stress-reduction program you choose to embark on has been scientifically proven effective provides comforting assurance that it may work for you. These three simple de-stressing techniques are inexpensive, readily available and require minimal instruction and just 10 minutes a day. Here’s to your improved health!