For those of us that are persistently striving to better our lives: to work on our careers, to grow as an individual, to strengthen our relationships and to become experts at our hobbies; It's inevitable that we're going to experience various knocks, bumps and bruises along the way, the mental kind, that is. So while you shouldn't stop pushing yourself to be the best you can be, you also shouldn't be afraid of pausing, of taking the pace down a notch, to patch up your wounds. Since it's Stress Awareness month, here's a few fun ways for you to nurture and relax your mind.
1. Spend time outdoors.
Is it so surprising that spending quality time with mother nature does so much for our health? Whether it's a 10 minute walk in the park or a day spent in the garden, having evolved to spend a lot of time in the big outdoors, we need every ray of sun we can catch. So the next time work troubles, family issues or financial worries have you feeling blue, head outside, soak up the vitamin D (which reduces blood pressure), sink your feet into the grass and watch the clouds for a while.
2. Be kind to others.
Did you know that being kind to the people around you activates your brain’s relaxation responses? Feeling like an engaged and productive part of your community is a vital, and yet, frequently overlooked, aspect of your mental health. As naturally social creatures, we are, to an extent, interdependent on one another. Feeling connected, and like a valuable contributor, therefore, is great for counteracting stress. Try volunteering, becoming an active member in your faith community (if you're religious), or simply reaching out to the people around you.
3. Dance, dance, dance.
Dancing at parties, in a dance class, or in a club, never fails to leave us (myself at least) feeling exhilarated, energised and genuinely happy. Why is this do you ask? Dance psychologist, Dr Peter Lovatt of the University of Hertfordshire explains: “Dancing stimulates us physically and emotionally while there are also cognitive and social elements to it,”
“You appear to get a much bigger release of endorphins when you dance than during other forms of exercise; it also connects with the emotional centres in the brain. For many people, dancing prompts an emotional release – often that’s uncomplicated happiness, while for some it can make them cry. It’s cathartic – a letting go of pent-up emotions.”
4. Get creative.
Displaying your personality in creative ways is an excellent method of diverting your attention away from the difficulties in your life. It also helps you to release endorphins and eases tension. Be experimental. Paint, sing, draw, listen to music or take part in some other sort of craft.
5. Plan a holiday.
We all know how monotonous day-to-day life can get. When our focus is directed towards the same load of tasks, day-in, day-out, we may begin to feel demoralised, drained or overwhelmed. Moreover, we may begin to lose perspective on the other areas of our lives that are equally as, if not more, important. Even if you can't spare a week to go on a vacation, why not plan a long weekend somewhere? Or perhaps a spa day or a beach trip? Regularly giving yourself time to unwind along the way is far cleverer than waiting till you get to breaking point.
6. Read a book.
There's no purer form of escapism than immersing yourself in a good novel. Whether you have just 20 minutes to spare on your daily commute or just 15 minutes in the evening before you hit the sack, lighting up your imagination will add colour to the greyest, most difficult of days.
Not only does laughing minimise momentarily, but it alleviates it in the long-run too. It does this by lowering stress hormones and heightening the perspective you have on the world. Even thinking about something has the ability to reduce stress. Do something like watching a funny cat video or your favourite rom-com/ comedy. Ever heard of fake it till you make it? Even try fake laughing and before you know it, you'll be doing it irl.