Exercising and eating right are certainly primary components of wellness. But don’t underestimate the importance of keeping stress down. High stress really can interfere with your healthy eating and workout routines.
“Wellness is about more than just eating healthy. It’s the eating properly and exercising, but it’s also about stress reduction. It’s all of those things that have an impact on us every single day. It all plays a role,” says Adriane Kozlovsky, MS, RD, LDN, a clinical dietitian at Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center & Hospital. “Stress can have as much of a negative impact as eating high-fat foods or not exercising and being sedentary.”
Try these 10 tips for lowering stress and staying in a happier mood:
Plan a trip (even if you don’t end up taking it)
Arranging a nice getaway is something to look forward to. Even if the trip never happens for whatever reason, the planning process can still help with creating positive energy. “Putting something on the vision board and working towards it does help with mindset and outlook,” Kozlovsky says.
Meditation can help reduce stress, increase calmness and promote an overall happier mood.
A smile might be worth more than you think. Even if you have to force (fake) it, smiling can trigger hormones in the brain that give off feelings of happiness and reduce stress. It might even help lower your blood pressure or give your immune system a boost. According to physical therapists, it takes less muscles to smile than to frown.
Spend time with friends and family
Being around relatives and friends you’re close with can put you in a more comfortable, relaxed state of being.
Get outside more
Sometimes a change of scenery makes a difference. Experts say that spending time in nature—perhaps a few laps around walking or bike paths along forest trails, away from the busyness of big city environments—can help lower stress and anxiety and thus boost your wellbeing. Take the opportunity to hug a tree.
Get good sleep
It’s generally recommended that you get at least eight hours of sleep each night. But various factors can, and often do, interfere with getting sufficient rest. “I think generally we don’t get enough sleep as a nation,” Kozlovsky says. “Lack of sleep has so many implications and side effects. You must work to get in as much sleep as possible. Daytime naps are not a bad idea if your schedule allows.”
Kind deeds, even small gestures, can induce feel-good effects that reduce stress.
The American Heart Association recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both. It’s also recommended that kids ages 6 to 17 get at least 60 minutes per day of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity, mostly aerobic. Kozlovsky says the most important thing “is to develop an exercise routine that fits into your schedule to maximize the chance of it getting done.”
“I always say what fits into someone’s schedule is the amount that should be done,” she adds.
Some health studies suggest that, like helping others, being thankful can have a positive effect on your psychological wellbeing in terms of reduced stress and depression and increased happiness.
Move closer to work
More time to sleep in, a shorter commute and fewer traffic hassles, especially on bad weather days, can make for a significantly less hectic day. “I reduced my travel time from 30 minutes to 10 minutes. It has been a game-changer for me,” Kozlovsky says.