I've been doing a lot of reading lately. About making my own soap, using essential oils, making beeswax candles. I've ordered several books to further educate myself.
Along the way I've read about some ways to reduce stress that are quite simple. With the holidays looming, lots of people will be stressed.
1. First, I knew there was a reason I like to immerse myself in nature. Did you know that gazing at beautiful scenes in nature increase your brain's alpha-wave activity? And this is associated with relaxation.
2. The mere act of tending to indoor plants in the winter helps relax you. Simply viewing indoor plants has been found to lower blood pressure. It also reduces muscle tension and helps you recover from stress.
Transplanting plants from one pot to another induces mental calm and reduces physical tension. Immerse yourself in what you're doing. Forget everything else.
Unless you live in the mildest of regions, you won't be doing much outdoor gardening. But it is a very therapeutic activity, and one I find such joy in. But there's always indoor bulbs to look forward to.
Starting seeds inside several weeks before spring begins, you'll be exposed to soil microorganisms that improve mood and mental activity. So dig in that dirt!
3. A warm foot bath will begin to relax you from your feet on up. This is one by Dr. Scholls. This also enhances sleep and reduces stress.
I remember years ago (I've got to get back to that) I use to do a relaxation technique most every day. I would sit some place where I was comfortable and it was quiet. And I would imagine myself somewhere like the beach. Watching and listening to the waves move in and out.
I would then mentally relax my toes, my feet, my legs, all the way up my body. Your mind is a powerful thing. After about 20 minutes, I was totally relaxed.
A variety of different relaxation techniques can help you bring your nervous system back into balance by producing the relaxation response. The relaxation response is not lying on the couch or sleeping. But instead is a mentally active process that leaves the body relaxed, calm, and focused.
4. I did not realize that my sound machines were doing me so much good. By playing recorded nature sounds indoors, you can bring about relaxation. It also masks the sounds of the outdoors, like street traffic.
You want sounds like birds, ocean waves, breezes, rain, or a waterfall. I have two of these sound machines, and they are under $20 (or were anyway) at Bed, Bath & Beyond. One is in the living room, and one is in the bedroom.
I always have them on. And I've found that if I turn them off, I cannot go to sleep. My brain is now trained to listen to rain!
A Swedish study found that people recovered more quickly from stress when they heard water and birds than when they didn't.
4. This is an aromatherapy diffuser. I do not yet have one. I'm waiting for my essential oils book to arrive. Then I can start ordering the essential oils that I think will enhance my relaxation and provide other health benefits.
5. I think we all know by now what it means to have a beloved pet. Just the act of petting them lowers blood pressure. Researchers at the State University of New York found that people performed significantly better on a stressful mental task when their pets were nearby.
Other studies have found that interacting with dogs can increase the production of oxytocin - a hormone-like substance that facilitates social bonding, decreases stress and enhances a sense of security.
6. Take a walk in the woods. Even in winter, research has found that physical activity in a natural setting may have unique health benefits.
Japanese researchers found that a stroll in the forest decreases cortisol levels, blood pressure and heart rate, when compared to a walk in the city.
So if you live in the country, you have this right out your door to enjoy. Bask in the sunshine outside, listen to the birds and enjoy the scenery. Leave the stressful thoughts at home.
Just five minutes of "nature immersion" can improve your mood.
So get away from the computer, leave your cell phone at home, and take a nature walk. Always having electronics with us keeps us engaged with incoming electronic data. And deprives us of needed mental downtime.