3 Stress Reducing Activities For Improved Health

yoga man

The 2012 Stress In America survey by the American Psychiatric Association found that 72 percent of adults reported their personal stress levels as higher or the same over the previous five years. The study also found that only 37 percent of participants effectively managed their stress, and only 6 percent reported seeking professional help.

Unchecked stress will not only lead to ailments like high blood pressure and headaches, but will ultimately shorten your life span. There’s no need to start popping pills daily to keep stress at manageable levels however. Those who are willing to disconnect from the daily grind for several hours every week and partake in proven stress-relieving leisure activities will experience vast improvements in their health and well-being.

These three pastimes immediately come to mind:

Fishing

If someone asked how many places you can go and truly be alone, you’d probably start rattling off places like grandma’s house or even your “man cave.” The problem is that your smartphone still gets a signal, while television or some other medium will occupy your thoughts and prevent true “me time.” But a fishing rod in one hand and a cold drink in the other ensures stress-relieving solitude.

Dr. Allan Schwartz, a Boulder, Colo. psychotherapist, wrote for MentalHelp.net that many of his patients enjoy standing in flowing water and listening to the sounds of nature more than the actual act of reeling in a catch. Fishing from a boat was also one of the top three stress-relieving activities cited by participants in a 2007 Discover Boating survey.

Some of my fondest memories are fishing with my grandfathers, both in Hawaii and on the San Joaquin Delta. Sharing the silence and solitude with loved ones near water is an essential part of my life. The photo below tells it all.

fishing

You’ll need all the necessary licenses and credentials to remove fish from the water. Contact your local fish and wildlife service for all the specifics.

Walking

Enhance your mental well-being with a walk. The American Heart Association reports that just 30 minutes of walking a day can help reduce the risk of diseases like breast and colon cancer, osteoporosis, obesity and heart disease. For some, the thought of walking alone is unappealing. Coordinate and plan a walking route with a friend. It’s a great way to build connections with others and exercise.

I go on a weekly walk with an “empathy buddy.” We walk in nature and take turns listening to each other. Each person gets 20 minutes to express what is arising for them. The listener tries to feel what the speaker is feeling. They tell the speaker what they think they are feeling. The speaker then confirms or corrects the listener. This helps us hone in on empathy. After 20 minutes, the speaker and the listener switch.

This simple, easy to adopt activity can improve your health, both physical and emotional, but if you’re looking to track your results you’ll need to use a fitness tracker, like a pedometer. Smartphone apps and other techy devices for workouts can help you stay on track and ultimately become less-stressed.

Yoga

Nearly 20.5 million U.S. yoga participants in 2012 spent more than $27 billion on industry-related products, according to data analytics firm Channel Signal. Some practice yoga to mitigate chronic pain or improve blood circulation. But reducing cortisol, the stress hormone in the brain, is one of yoga’s most sought-after benefits.

Most full-service gyms offer yoga classes throughout the week as part of their memberships. The Yoga Health Foundation and YogaFinder.com are two of the best resources to find classes in your area. For those wanting to take it a step further and attend a school to teach their own classes can browse the Yoga Alliance directory for teachers near you.

I’m not a yogi, but I use yoga to get me back in alignment both physically and spiritually. My one tip with yoga is to leave your ego at the door. The last thing we want to do is get stressed out in yoga class due to competition or judgment.

Stress is an unavoidable reality that must be properly mitigated for optimal health. As Austrian endocrinologist Hans Selye said, it’s not stress that will kill you, it’s your reaction to it.

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