These mental tweaks help cheery types live longer, stay healthier, and even look younger.
To banish worries, put stressors on paper. Writing them down and stashing the note in a “worry jar” (or a drawer) makes it easier to compartmentalize and move on, says Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., a psychologist in Washington, D.C. Limiting anxiety is healthy. A surfeit of the stress hormone cortisol may lead to chronic pain, depression, cognitive issues and even heart problems, potentially shortening your life. Not to mention that constant worry is no fun.
Keep Your Sunny Side Up
Optimists live longer, plain and simple. In a 15-year study of more than 100,000 women, cheery types were 14 percent less likely to die in an eight-year period than gloomy gals were, the National Institutes of Health Women’s Health Initiative finds. To change your thinking, visualize a happy moment: “Imagining yourself in a hammock on the beach can have an immediate, relaxing effect on the body that makes it more difficult to stay focused on the negative,” Bonior says.
If All Else Fails, Take a Nap
When life starts getting you down, catch 40 winks. If you’re stressed out, a 45-minute daytime snooze may lower your blood pressure, a study from Allegheny College reports. Siestas also help you catch up on much-needed sleep. That’s crucial, because chronic sleep deprivation can cause aging at the cellular level. So give yourself permission to nap like a kid. We predict you’ll start feeling like one, too.
Your Relaxation Rx
Which mind / body treatments have the most rock-solid science backing them up? Brent Bauer, M.D., director of the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, provides the big picture.
For: Back pain Try: Yoga
For: High cholesterol Try: Qigong
For: Depression Try: Music therapy, qigong, yoga
For: Eating disorders Try: Meditation, yoga
For: Fertility Try: Visualization, yoga
For: Heart health Try: Deep breathing, qigong, yoga
For: Immunity Try: Breathing, chants, meditation, qigong
For: Insomnia Try: Acupuncture, visualization, yoga
For: Joint pain Try: Music therapy, qigong, yoga
For: Migraines Try: Acupuncture, yoga
The latest cutting-edge research proves your mind can heal your body. Here’s how:
Your body dials down stress. Dr. Benson’s research has found that mind/body practices—meditation, yoga, tai chi, deep breathing, visualization—all elicit the relaxation response, quelling the release of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Your heart slows, blood pressure falls and digestion eases.
The relaxation response causes cells to release micropuffs of nitric oxide, a gas that dilates blood vessels and stabilizes the immune system, Dr. Benson reported in Medical Science Monitor. Mind/body methods worked as well as drugs designed to do the same thing, without the side effects.
Over the past few seades, the role of women in society has changes sihnificntly.As more and women enter the work force and juggle career and families, the need for quick, de-stressing strategies is greater than ever before. Here are some relaxation recniques. Just choose your pick…
• Take frequent, short breaks from work, whether that is from housework. Also from husband and children!
• Take a trip to the beauty parlour ( and get yourself a pedicure, manicure, or a massage!)
• Take up knitting ! Seriously, like meditation or prayer, knitting allows for the passive release of stray thoughts. The rhythmic and repetitive quality of knitting, together with the sound of needles clicking, is akin to a calming mantra. The mind can wander, while still focusing on one task.
• Exercise ! you’ve heard it before, but aerobic activities such as swinning, cycling, walking are soothing.
• Count your blessings every single day and be grateful.
• Take a few moments everyday to “be in awe of nature”, watch a sunset, appreciate trees and flowers, gaze at the stars, listen to the sounds of waves, and the chirping of birds…
• Get an aquarium. Gazing at ponds and aquariums with various fish reduces stress and lowers blood pressure.
• Take the time to listen to your favourite music.
• Eat healthy andss sleep well.
• Do Yoga and Meditation daily.
Should a Christian do the Downward Dog?
This is not a trick question, but rather an issue raised by Baptist leader Albert Mohler that, like an egg beater, has whipped up the yoga community’s usual calm into a peaked, frothy fluster. Then again, aren’t we all a bit confused about this body-bending, mind-enhancing practice from the East?
In the name of clarity, here is an attempt to answer what yoga is—and what it isn’t.
The word yoga… Yoga traditions go back thousands of years, and today have spawned more than 100 schools, according to the American Yoga Association. This is partly why any discussion about the practice is so complicated. “In Sanskrit, ‘yoga’ can mean anything from an astronomical conjunction to yoking an animal to going to war; it’s what you put in front of the word—hatha, raja, tantric—that defines it,” explains David White, PhD, professor of religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and editor of the forthcoming book,Yoga in Practice.
“Not to say there is a pure hatha, raga, or tantric tradition—they were all mixed over the years in different ways by people in India, as well as the West, to attract followers.” In other words, what’s taught today in gyms, studios, and retreats around the country is inevitably a smoothie of traditions, usually featuring one ingredient—the physical poses—that was originally a very small part of the recipe.
Is yoga a religion? Categorically no, if you ask most teachers and devotees. “Simply put, yoga is not a religion,” says Aadil Palkhivala, who grew up in Bombay and studied with B.K.S. Iyengar before founding Purna Yoga. “It’s a process that helps you become physically stronger, more mentally alert, and more emotionally stable, so you can be a better Christian, Jew, Muslim, or whatever you care to be.”
Digging far back into the roots of yoga, however, scholars and historians hedge, noting that the ancient texts are quite difficult to understand. “My answer is that it can be” a religion, says Stefanie Syman, author of The Subtle Body: The story of yoga in America, the new book that prompted Mohler’s call for Christians to abstain. “As a spiritual technology, yoga has been attached to Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, so it hasn’t been affiliated with a single religion—that’s true. But it developed to liberate the soul in this life, and how that was described and what theology was associated with it varies somewhat dramatically within the yoga traditions.”
White, who has read the original texts in Sanskrit, and is the author of Sinister Yogis, agrees with Syman. “Certain yoga schools do speak of ‘god,’ though not in the way that we do. The Sanskrit word used simply means master and not necessarily Master of the Universe; it could apply to a human. But there was never a church or gospel of yoga. It’s a very tricky question.”
So is it un-Christian to do yoga? There is no one answer, but some Christian yoga practitioners definitely make the opposite case. “Our practice combines Biblically-based meditation with yoga,” says Lisa Abbott, a spokesperson for Yawheh Yoga. “Each class opens with a prayer and introduces a selected portion of scripture that students focus on throughout.” Developed five years ago, Yawheh Yoga has certified nearly 100 teachers, including Abbott, who points out that the Bible (Joshua 1.8), instructs believers to meditate on His word. “We feel,” she says, “that we’re fulfilling a Biblical mandate to help Christians grow in their faith by meditating on His scripture.”
Yoga is about who can do the nuttiest pretzel pose. Not quite. “Traditionally the poses are actually a very small part of what you’re expected to do as a spiritual aspirant following the path of yoga,” says Syman. The breathing and meditative aspects are much more important.
Is the body a vehicle for reaching consciousness with the divine? Mohler objected to this aspect of yoga, but is it true? Possibly, if you go way back into the traditions. What’s more accurate, however, is yoga’s use of the physical poses to help prepare the mind for meditation, scholars say. As Palkhivala puts it, the physical practice, rather than trying to macrame your limbs, is intended to free the body of knots, “When you have aches and pains, it’s hard to focus the mind. And if you don’t take care of your body where are you going to live?”
Does yoga assume we can find divinity within ourselves? Many practitioners do believe in the idea that you can radically transform your consciousness and experience the divine, says Syman. It’s as if your own boundaries dissolve and you become connected with a larger spirituality. “That’s quite different from the Christian idea of a separate god or one you’re waiting to meet.”
What about chanting weird Sanskrit phrases you don’t understand? You could say the same for listening to Gregorian chants or repeating Hebrew prayers when you don’t speak the language. Mantra yoga, says Syman, is one of the techniques developed to aid in concentration. “We use the word ‘namaste’ which means ‘I bow to you,'” says Palkhivala, “which is an act of humility. We also use the Gayatri mantra, which simply invokes light, as in, illuminate my consciousness.”
Is the American version truly yoga? Face it, few of us have the time or savings to sit for hours and practice yoga as it was meant to be done. And if some purists compare the modern distillation as the Cheez Whiz of a glorious tradition, plenty of studies show that it improves health, from boosting mood to aiding weight loss to helping breast cancer patients recover.
“Much to the dismay of many,” says David Romanelli, “I started Yoga and Chocolate, Yoga and Wine, and Yoga for Foodies. But I always make the case that the world is a better place with more people doing any kind of yoga. And I’d actually like to invite Albert Mohler just to try a yoga class. I bet he’d love it.”