When fear, anger, frustration, sadness or anxiety is poking a hole in your happiness bubble, every organ in the body reacts — including your heart, brain, skin, kidneys and intestines. It’s easy to spot the effects on the outside. One example is a plump belly, the result of a body that’s pumping out high amounts of the stress-related hormone cortisol, which causes us to store fat in our stomachs. Wrinkles and lackluster skin? These mood states activate our nervous system to cause inflammation and oxidation, which are known to cause wrinkles and lackluster skin.
Things inside aren’t pretty either. Your stomach may be churning, your head pounding, your back tweaking and your heart beating a little faster. In a word, when we’re the opposite of happy or balanced, our body does its best to alert us that things are out of whack. Learning ways to deal with and process stress and negative emotions will bring you one step closer to a state of balance, or what some describe as a positive state of being.
So where do you begin? Experts say that engaging your body and breath regularly and constructively are two amazing tools for getting you closer to that balance. When we’re in balance, our autonomic nervous system (ANS) — which regulates key areas of our bodies including the heart and the intestinal tract — are much happier. Try these tips for getting in balance:
Move often. According to the American Council on Exercise, one 30-minute exercise session generates 90 to 120 minutes of relaxation response. Essentially this is a state your ANS likes to be in — heart rate, blood pressure and breathing is regulated and the body is functioning normally, as opposed to being in an all-systems-alert state of arousal. And consider that for your 30-minute investment, you get a three- to four-fold gain (not to mention what the exercise is doing for your brain, heart, belly, hips and thighs). To top it off, you get a mood boost, thanks to the surge in neurotransmitters and endorphins released by the brain during exercise.
Use your breath. We’re not talking about running on a treadmill, but rather practicing a technique that focuses on finding calm through your breath. Thomas Morledge, MD, of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, offers this short breathing meditation, intended to stabilize the autonomic nervous system.
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