The Huffington Post ran an article a few years back entitled “23 Scientifically-Backed Ways to Reduce Stress Right Now”. This in-the-moment approach to fight stress in writer Kate Morin’s piece is what attracted me to it the most, but I have a top three fun ways to fight stress out of her long list that I like to use – music, yoga and laughing.
For example, many people on the busy, congested highways of our most crowded cities in America (such as New York or Chicago) experience what is referred to as “road rage” every day. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration specifically defines it as being very different from just aggressive driving, and that it is an “assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger(s) of another vehicle or is caused by an incident that occurred on a roadway” (NHTSA, 2015). We never want stress and anger to get this far. And, if the person in that horrible mood had simply cut on the radio and zoned out into a few of their favorite tunes, that temper may have been majorly softened!
Yoga is definitely many women and men’s answer to stress these days. There were over 20 million Yogis in the U.S. several years ago according to the Yoga Journal (Yoga Journal Blog, 2012) and USA Today reports it to now be a growth industry in 2015 (Painter, 2015).
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But, the great thing about yoga is that you don’t have to actually join a club in order to immediately calm yourself down, say, at work around that annoying co-worker we talked about earlier.
You know, the one that you quietly mumble about to yourself as you are clocking in: “She better not say anything to me today, or I swear, I’m gonna…” See? Right there is the moment when you can practice the many breathing techniques that yoga teaches, and start your work shift off on the right note mentally.
Finally, I have always thought that having a sense of humor about life is a huge automatic stress reliever, and that laughter is the best medicine. Basically proven to fight stress. That combined with my love of yoga actually lead off this part of my research. Dr. Madan Kataria is the founder of what is called Laughter Yoga. In the mid 1990’s, he and his wife Madhuri (co-founder) were researching the physical as well as the psychological benefits of natural laughter. The first exercise session (which combined breathing exercises with a normal yoga routine) only involved five people at a public park in Mumbai. But, before the couple knew it, they were being featured in publications such as Time Magazine and interviewed on popular networks and programs such as CNN, BBC, and the Oprah Winfrey Show. Today, there are over 6,000 Laughter Yoga Clubs worldwide, and the trend just seems to be getting more and more recognition.
There was one doctor last year who actually did spell out a prescription that involved laughing out loud as a routine to fight stress. Michael Miller MD is the Director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland and the author of a book released last fall entitled Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease (Rondale Press, 2014). He points out that a good belly laugh can release heart-healthy endorphins from the brain that widen blood vessels and decrease inflammation. In one interview with National Geographic, he said that the healthiest laughs are those that actually bring real tears to our eyes.
It’s even written in the Bible how laughter is good for us all. Proverbs 17:22 says that “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” Let’s remember that verse all during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, as well as during the rest of the year.
Morin, K. 17 March 2013. 23 Scientifically Backed Ways to Reduce Stress. Huff Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/17/reduce-stress-research_n_2884876.html
NHTSA. Define Aggressive Driving. Aggressive Driving Enforcement. Retrieved from http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/enforce/aggressdrivers/aggenforce/define.html
5 Dec 2012. New Study Finds More than 20 Million Yogis in the U.S. Yoga Journal. Retrieved from http://www.yogajournal.com/uncategorized/new-study-finds-20-million-yogis-u-s/
Painter, K. 3 March 2015. Ancient Practice of Yoga Now a Growth Industry. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/03/01/yoga-health-fitness-trends/23881391/
Laughter Yoga University. Meet the Founders of Laughter Yoga. Retrieved from http://www.laughteryoga.org/english/diary/doctor_profile/26
Miller, M. March 2015. Laugh, Cuddle to Unclog Arteries? Reader’s Digest. Retrieved from http://www.rd.com/health/wellness/laugh-cuddle-healthy-heart/
Hopefully the above helps you fight stress. This has been something we have seen the results from!