Have a game plan for dealing with difficult people or situations. If someone in your life has an opinion or criticism for everything you do, strategize ahead of time on how you’ll handle your next encounter. Dr. Baker says that this will allow you to be proactive and in control of the situation, rather than reactive and emotional. Proactive encounters are empowering and help keep us emotionally grounded and happy.
Take feel-good breaks. Spend two minutes petting your dog or 10 seconds on a really good hug and your body will thank you with the release of the feel-good hormone oxytocin. Known also as the cuddle hormone, oxytocin is stimulated by touch. In addition, if you head outside to catch the last 10 seconds of that beautiful sunset, you’ll automatically reduce your anxiety by counteracting the sympathetic nervous system, which is a just a scientific way of saying, your body and brain likes what it sees.
Listen to music. When your brain likes what it hears — whether it’s Mozart or Michael Jackson — it interprets this arousal with increased heart and breathing rates. This positive response triggers a release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward.
Don’t think of antidepressants as cure-alls. These drugs have had profoundly positive effects on many people’s lives. But experts caution that these meds shouldn’t be the only treatment for depression and anxiety. “I would never bad-mouth prescription antidepressants because of the miracles that I’ve seen [with the use of these drugs],” say Ann Pardo, MS, director of life management at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona. “But a lot of us are just taking the pill without practicing the necessary lifestyle changes that allow for true happiness. Taking a pill is essentially the CliffsNotes version of feeling better. You’re cheating yourself out of the full experience.”
— by Maureen Connolly
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