Music

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Whether you’re banging on percussion, chanting ohms or listening to a recording, music is a strong tool that can alter mood and mindset. Media often use it in this fashion; for example eerie music is often played when something is bad is happening.  On the other hand, a bright, sunny scene often opens with an upbeat tune that automatically makes you happy – you might even smile! link to smile post It’s a motivational tool you can even use to improve your exercise intensity.

Use music to relax and alleviate stress by listening to music that you enjoy, or simply by having fun making your own music (even if you’re bad at it). I’m tone deaf but love singing karaoke from Youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/user/TheKARAOKEChannel for stress relief. Of course, I refrain from singing at the top of my lungs at work and generally close the windows at home to spare my neighbors. Even though I’m bad I have a lot of fun, and it definitely takes my mind off of everything else!

Music therapy is increasingly used in hospitals around the world to reduce anxiety and boost people’s spirits because so many people attest to its power. It’s been shown to reduce depression in patients that listen to music over an extended period of time, and reduce a mother’s anxiety prior to a cesarean section. [1] [2] Listening to soothing music while going to bed can even help insomniacs fall asleep![3] Also, listening to music is the third most-cited way for med school students to de-stress. [4] Even recreational lap swimmers that rated no increase in their enjoyment of swimming with music in the pool swam faster when it was played.[5]

Due to the ubiquity with which music is used to help people, it should be clear that you’ll benefit from its effects. So find a tune you enjoy, or make a new one of your own, and rock on!

Smile

Starting with Charles Darwin, scientists have observed that smiling is not only a positive response mechanism, but can also induce positive emotions in and of itself.

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Studies indicate that self-conscious people are best at channeling their smile into positivity, but that there is a robust effect across numerous studies that were conducted on this subject!  Not only do studies indicate that a smile is translated into positive feelings, but other associated autonomic responses may also occur.[1]

So next time you’re stressed, or feeling down, summon some energy to lift the corners of your mouth upward and smile! At the very least a genuine smile will put others at ease and hopefully help you find some space to work through your problems.

Sit Up to Relax

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Set your posture straight to manage stress, avoid injury and boost your health and image. While slouching you may feel more relaxed, but you’re actually compressing your ribcage, with it pressing into your heart, lungs and stomach under the weight of your shoulders. This not only can permanently misshape your spine and ribcage, but also can lead to headaches, jaw aches and gastrointestinal issues. Such issues, in turn, can lead to more serious health complications down the line.[1]

Your back supports weight most easily when it is straight, so you naturally reduce the strain on your body by straightening up. This can help reduce back pain and also can help you improve the quality of your sleep.  So not only are you more likely to smile but you’re also better able to get your zzz’s! Nearly everyone has back pain at some point in their life that affects their work, routine activities or recreation, and many cases of non-traumatic back pain are preventable according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Bad posture can lead to injury because it stresses the ligaments that are along your spine. Not only can you hurt your back, but also other areas of your body that are compensating. For example, lower back issues led me to have serious knee problems and I cannot run much to this day. So be sure to focus on good posture while exercising because otherwise you risk serious injury that will surely make your life more stressful.

Straightening up is an instant way to build confidence. Keeping your back aligned forces you to have your shoulders back and your chin up, which naturally lifts your mood and thus is a quick stress-reducer! I find that I’m much more likely to have a smile on my face when my shoulders are back and I’m standing or sitting tall. Straightening up also works core muscles and reduces the appearance of flab around your waist. Try it in the mirror!

We all sit for a significant part of the day, whether it’s while eating, commuting, working, watching TV or using the computer. Your posture can affect your mood and your long-term health, so it should be a no-brainer to strive to fix it. If you’re likely to revert back to slouching, you can set up reminders that will help you remember to sit up straight throughout the day. Strengthening your core and stretching regularly can help you maintain good posture.

I just followed this instructional video and feel that my shoulders are more open already!

Lastly, I found this video that also has tons of tips on improving your posture.

Get Your Zzz’s

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One of my top priorities when planning my schedule is making sure that I get enough sleep.  Not only does lack of sleep harbor many physical side effects, as seen in the chart above, but also it makes me feel relatively incompetent.

Luckily, my lifestyle enables me to get enough sleep. I no longer need to study long hours and I am also much less stressed than I was in school; a regular 9-5 work schedule has helped regulate my time. Furthermore, while exercise has been even more instrumental in relieving my stress and anxiety, yoga has been my key to learning how to focus my mind and help my body to relax and wind down for the night.

Personally, the most infuriating part of sleep deprivation is my inability to focus. Not only does this disrupt my thought processes, but it frustrates me knowing that I’m not doing my best at whatever I am trying to accomplish. Therefore I aim for 7 hours of sleep each night, which, through trial and error, I have found to be optimal for my mind clarity. This is challenging if you tend to over-commit to doing things with or for others, or simply if you drank too much caffeine (or alcohol) that day. Occasionally I do sacrifice sleep, but I am doing this much less as I realize its effects on the following day.

I hope that you can figure out what affects your body’s ability to sleep and make sure to accommodate it as much as possible. Many diverse factors go into getting enough sleep, and because everyone is different I cannot possibly name them all in a blog post, so I’m just emphasizing sleep in general as a fundamental part of achieving health and happiness.

Stay True to Yourself

stay true to yourselfStating your personal plans to everyone can make you stress out more if you get a rough start. It can be demotivational if you think that people no longer expect you to commit to a routine or diet. You can set yourself up for failure or stay true to yourself.

 

 

This TED talk cites several studies and argues the theory that you are actually less likely to achieve a goal if you talk about it with others. The theory is that by telling others your plans, their praise and support falsely make you feel like you’ve already achieved or worked toward your goal, and so you’re not going to work toward it quite as much.

I’ve always been conservative about sharing my personal goals. But this is because I dislike forming or living up to others’ expectations – I’ve always had a bit of a rebellious personality. Similarly, however, I’m hesitant to have long-term expectations from others and, therefore, rely on myself to attain the goals. For example, although I did P90X with my husband for a couple of rounds, which was motivational most of the time, on other days, when he decided to do something else, I held on to the workout routine that I had committed myself to doing. I still shared my plans with a couple of close friends, and eventually the people in my daily life all figured out that something was up as my routines changed etc., but I never posted my commitment, nor achievements, to Facebook.

Perhaps you disagree with the studies and TED talk, and maybe they didn’t research long-term goals specifically, but it is important to be aware of the expectations you set. I know many people who are consistently setting goals but never actually committing to them. One reason for this is that people get discouraged by hard work, that they don’t realize the magnanimity of the commitment they’re making or that they’re not specific enough to attain. Be careful of such pitfalls and work around them: for example you can set goals that build on each other so that you build a realistic short-term game plan into your schedule to gradually achieve a big dream.