One of the greatest ways to relieve stress may sound impotent, but trust me when I tell you it’s not.
I’ve learned this over the years–find something to laugh about. No joke.
It can change your physiology immediately, and take your body from stress, dis-ease to ease and relaxation.
I couldn’t believe it either, when I first heard about Norman Cousins’ seminal book, Anatomy of an Illness on a television interview. I was intrigued, but stupified by the thought that watching comedy films could put a severe, chronic degenerative disorder as anklyosing spondylitis to be healed.
Today, thanks to his work, there’s a field of humor therapy, that has clearly defined the benefits of laughter.
If you can’t laugh–take a few deep breaths. That will stop your brain from releasing stress hormones. You can mediate–even 2 to 5 minutes are beneficial. . Meditate.
Also there are nutrients phytochemicals (botanicals), vitamins, minerals and amino acids which can make a difference in your brain functioning. Check out our Med School Basic Resources for more information.
Or you can take a few minutes and immerse yourself in nature.
How are you feeling about what’s going on in the world? I know a lot of people have been experiencing more fear, uncertainty, and despair, for a variety of reasons. I want to share with you something that can help you and our world.
Several years ago while walking through the parking lot of a major big box store, I saw a beautiful little boy sitting in a shopping cart being pushed by his mother. His arms were outstretched as if to embrace everyone in his presence, and as they approached me, he turned his joyful smile in my direction. As he looked at me, beaming, he held out his arms toward me. I felt his heart embracing me, as though he’d actually wrapped his arms around me, and I also felt my heart returning his embrace.
It all happened in just a few seconds, but it was a powerful and beautiful moment that I will never forget.
His mother looked and me and said, “He’s like this everywhere we go. He just wants to love the world. It’s so embarrassing.”
“Don’t be embarrassed,” I replied. “He’s beautiful.”
I believe babies and young children are our purest and most accessible example of spiritual engagement. They live entirely in the moment and are always express their truth. Upset one moment, they can become happy with lightning speed. It’s not until much later in life that we linger in sadness.
Children haven’t experienced enough involvement with the external world to displace their natural awareness of love, and they are naturally and openly connected to their spirits. There are no prolonged interfering thoughts or emotions that separate them from their spirits. They remind us of who we are and of the beauty that lies within us. Over time, however, that engagement with spirit dwindles, and as adults, we shift our focus to the physical realm. Still, spirit remains the core of our being and waits for our conscious return to it.
And lovingkindness, is the doorway to our spirit. There are many ways to give. Explore new avenues for giving of yourself to others: family, friends, colleagues, coworkers, and strangers. The purest and easiest way is to be fully present with a person when you are together.
Committing random and conscious acts of kindness and volunteering on a regular basis, particularly when engaging in the acts from a place of spiritual awareness, are remarkable ways to experience optimal well-being.
The Kindness Diaries
A couple of weeks ago, my sister shared a powerful program with me, The Kindness Diaries, currently airing on Netflix. It’s a powerful series, capturing the highlights of one man’s journey across the globe seeking and sharing random acts of kindness.
While we don’t have to travel as Leon did, committing acts of kindness can make a difference in our lives and those we touch.
Here’s a link to his website http://www.leonlogothetis.com/
Study Find Benefits of Doing Good
Laboratory-based experiments have shown that providing support can help individuals cope with stress, increasing their experiences of positive emotion. To investigate whether this holds true in daily functioning in the real world, researchers at Yale University and UCLA Ansell and co-authors Elizabeth B. Raposa (UCLA and Yale University School of Medicine) and Holly B. Laws (Yale University School of Medicine) conducted a study in which people used their smartphones to report on their feelings and experiences in daily life.
The results indicated that helping others boosted participants’ daily well-being. A greater number of helping behaviors was associated with higher levels of daily positive emotion and better overall mental health.
Significantly, their helping behavior also influenced how they responded to stress. People who reported lower-than-usual helping behavior reported lower positive emotion and higher negative emotion in response to high daily stress. Those who reported higher-than-usual levels of helping behavior, on the other hand, showed no dampening of positive emotion or mental health, and a lower increase in negative emotion, in response to high daily stress. In other words, helping behavior seemed to buffer the negative effects of stress on well-being.
“It was surprising how strong and uniform the effects were across daily experiences,” says Ansell. “For example, if a participant did engage in more prosocial behaviors on stressful days there was essentially no impact of stress on positive emotion or daily mental health. And there was only a slight increase in negative emotion from stress if the participant engaged in more prosocial behaviors.”
So the next time, you’re feeling out of harmony with the world, please remember, you can make a difference, one that will help another and yourself. That is the beauty of sharing kindness.
Superhealing: Engaging Your Mind, Body and Spirit to Create Optimal Health and Well-Being: Chapter 9
The article abstract is available online: “Prosocial Behavior Mitigates the Negative Effects of Stress in Everyday Life” and access to other Clinical Psychological Science research findings http://cpx.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/12/10/2167702615611073.abstract