One of the greatest benefits of having a radio show is receiving valuable advice that can help everyone, myself included, in how to handle the stresses of life. Recently, I asked several of my guests for tips on riding life's ups and downs. Here's what they shared:
Practice a relaxation technique regularly to cope with stress and prevent depression.
Jihan Barakah, Founder of The Global Quantum Shift, suggested, "Just take this moment and take a nice deep breath. I really feel we have lost touch with our breath. Just connecting with breath. What a shift that is!"
Dr. Scott Stoll, author of Alive!, and Chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Coordinated Health, told us, "Deep breathing decreases the stress hormones, cortisol, norepinephrine, and adrenaline."
Michael Neill, empowerment coach and author of The Inside-Out Revolution, discussed why relaxation helps to decrease stress and depression, "As you get quieter on the inside, thoughts are changing all the time by themselves. And they're moving in the direction of health - moving in the direction of clarity."
Try this: Sit with a straight back, your legs comfortably crossed, focus your attention on your breath and on any sensations that you notice in your body. Slow down your breathing and say silently to yourself, as you inhale, "one," then breathing out, slowly say "one." Do this every morning for 5-10 minutes and several times throughout the day for a minute or two.
2. Put on your track shoes, or your dancing shoes, and get moving.
Exercise reduces stress, increases stamina and strength, thereby increasing one's ability to cope with stressors. It releases endorphins, those feel-good brain chemicals, helping to improve mood. So, go for a walk, try some tai-chi, take a yoga class, dance. But, first, please check with your physician before starting any new exercise program.
Depression causes people to isolate themselves, and isolation leads to further decline in mood. Getting around other people can help break the cycle. If you're not able to get out by yourself, ask for help from a friend, family member, or neighbor. Join a community center. Take a class. Join a "meet-up" group (check out: meetup.com). Exercise with other people. Join a dance group. Call a friend or relative to talk. Meet with with "like-hearted, like-minded people. Have a community to belong to," as Jihan Barakah suggested.
4. Commune with Nature
Venture out to a park or a lake, river, or ocean. Plant a garden or some indoor plants. Pet your dog, cat, or your horse or a llama, if that's the pet that suits you best. Share some kind words with them and watch them respond.
Henry David Thoreau wrote, "I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright."
"Nature is always healing," stated Jihan Barakah when she discussed how she healed herself from depression. "I would sit by the water and listen to water, feel the warmth of the sun, and I would feel a healing taking place."
5. Laugh regularly
Laughter always turns a bad attitude into a good one. Make a point to laugh every day. Find a way to laugh at yourself, rather than criticizing yourself for a mistake you might have made. Look for life's ironies. Watch a funny movie or television show. Read a funny book or a book of jokes. Tell a funny story to a friend. Sharing a funny story with a loved one can, not only bring both of you relief from stress, but it can also improve communication between the two of you. Research has found humor to be extremely powerful in reducing stress, improving mood, and strengthening the immune system to fight off illnesses ranging from colds to cancer.
In their book, Awakening the Laughing Buddha Within, The Barefoot Doctor, Stephen Russell, and Joe Hoare report that, even listening to the sound of laughter, can significantly reduce stress.
There are laughter apps that you can download on a smart phone with many varieties of laughter to listen to.
6. Eat well
Poor nutrition can cause depression and can lead to illness. Eat balanced meals. Decrease alcohol, caffeine and sugar. And read my blog, Food and Mood. That old adage, "We are what we eat," holds true, especially today.
Get enough of it! How? Set a schedule to go to bed at a regular time each night--and stick to it. Consider it an appointment with yourself.
"Everything you do, you'll do better with a good night's sleep," says Dr. Michael Breus, author of Beauty Sleep.
For more tips, check out my blog, Getting to Sleep.
8. Become a "glass half-full" person
Practice substituting positive thoughts for negative ones. Quentin Vennie, wellness coach and yoga guide, spoke on the radio show about how thoughts affect how we feel, "I'm a firm believer in constant affirmations. If I can focus my attention on that one positive, no matter how difficult it is for me to find it, if I dig deep and I find that one positive to focus my attention on, nothing else around it is real."
9. Find meaning
Help someone else. Volunteer. Do a good deed for a neighbor. Make someone who is feeling blue laugh. Look for the deeper meaning in an unfortunate circumstance. If you can find something meaningful, something of value, to take even from the most difficult of situations, it will have a dramatic effect on how you deal with that situation. One of the most powerful ways of preventing depression, or even coming out of a depression, is by focusing energy on helping others.
Jihan Barakah advises that finding one's purpose in life helps to keep us from being knocked down by low moods. Says Barakah, "If you don't know what your purpose and calling in life is, live a life of curiosity. That, in itself, creates enthusiasm.
The nature of life is that it always contains dark and light, yin and yang, up and down, ebb and flow. We can ride these waves as smoothly as possible, by accepting that this is what life is about, instead of resisting them or letting them cause us to feel like we're drowning. Using the above tools can provide a life-raft, so to speak, and help us sail smoothly and peacefully over the sometimes tumultuous waves that can disrupt our life.