People who exercise regularly are happier people, this is a fact.
Exercising releases endorphins which are the hormones secreted from the brain and nervous system that release pain. Exercise is a natural pain reliever and mood elevator, when we are not in physical pain we feel better mentally, feeling better physically and mentally leads to feeling happy all over.
According to a Harvard University study, "regular aerobic exercise will bring remarkable changes to your body, your metabolism, your heart, and your spirits. It has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress. It's a common experience among endurance athletes and has been verified in clinical trials that have successfully used exercise to treat anxiety disorders and clinical depression."
The mental benefits of aerobic exercise have a neurochemical basis. Exercise reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol (remember these from fight, flight or freeze?). It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators.
How much exercise does one have to do to help relieve stress and feel happier? It's suggested that we move our bodies everyday. If you're anything like me or human, not all of us love "working out"
So what do we do? Here are a few suggestions:
The winter is so dry here in the Midwest.
I've been giving a lot of thought to cell regeneration, dehydration, how what we eat and drink transforms our health on a cellular level. How much caffeine (my love) is adding to my winter dehydration? Also, does being dehydrated make a difference in my stress levels? Honestly asking the question, "Am I drinking enough water everyday?" No, I'm not.
I do admit I don't drink enough water on a daily basis, I really try, honestly I just forget. I even invested in those Swell water bottles to try to stay hydrated and make a cute fashion statement. Sadly they haven't been used as much as I imagined lately.
So I asked the experts, "What is happening with my body when I don't drink enough water, and is this making me more stressed out?"
Yes, being under hydrated or dehydrated causes stress on a physical level.
HOW MUCH WATER DO I NEED EVERYDAY?
6 to 8, 8oz glasses a day is the standard answer
WHAT ARE SOME SIGNS OF BEING DEHYDRATED?
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF STRESS CAUSED BY DEHYDRATION?
According to WebMD, studies have shown that being just a half a liter dehydrated can increase your cortisol levels, cortisol is a stress hormone. You are more likely to get dehydrated when you are under stress, because your heart rate is up and you're breathing more heavily, which leads to losing fluid. Being dehydrated also causes stress on your internal organs, which leads to your body not running well.
HOW CAN WE HELP DE-STRESS?
Drinking water is a great step in the right direction. Remember we cannot do everything perfect all the time, but drinking water is a heck of lot easier than recovering from stress related illnesses such as heart disease, heart attack, obesity, and a long list of others.
With any issues in our lives having awareness of the issue is the first step to healing yourself.
When alcoholics get sober in the AA program, Step One is "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable"
This step can be applied to so many issues in our daily lives: financial, family, job, relationship/friendship and health, what are your stressors? Are you aware they are causing you stress?
So easy, so difficult.
How many of us have been in that relationship, job, family situation, health issue or substance abuse cycle and just find ourselves doing the same thing over again, and reacting the same each time?
Albert Einstein said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results." Are we all insane?
I doubt we are all insane...Yet we continue to do things because there are two factors that have been programed in our brain:
1. Millions of years of "flight, fight or freeze" programming,
our ancestors had to run from wild animals a lot! This system also known as the sympathetic nervous system programed our brain. 2. We have experienced trauma as children and adults that has not been worked on, so we have more triggers to sympathetic mode, our coping mechanisms haven't learned to relax, calm and know we are ok if we try something different.
We live in an active society, everyday we are bombarded with emails, texts, phone calls, loud noises, fast and careless driving cars and people with short tempers, this list could go on and on...
When we feel threatened, a chemical reaction occurs in our bodies that allows us to act in a way to prevent injury. This reaction is known as "fight or flight", the stress response, it us a result of our sympathetic nervous system firing up to defend us.
In response our heart rate increases, breathing quickens, muscles tighten, and blood pressure rises. Other immediate responses to stress placed on your brain or physical body can make us feel frustrated, nervous, anxious, fearful, worrisome and uneasy.
Stress that is left unattended can contribute to many long term health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Other things to be on the look out for as a result of stress are:
Stress symptoms can affect our bodies, thoughts and feelings, as well as our behavior.
Being able to recognize common stress symptoms can give us a better understanding on how to manage them. Awareness of your stress is the first step we take to begin to heal our stress.
We'll address stress management in upcoming blogs and my "under-construction" stress relief program coming soon!