We are living in unique times. Stress abounds and happiness It may sound like a simple illusion at times. The year 2020 has brought many challenges.
We could all use a little help to tame stress and stay positive, so I asked Alyssa Shaffer, the author of “The Formula of Happiness: Simple Habits for a Happier Life” and “How to Beat” advice. stress: The scientific guide to happiness ”.
The Epoch Times: There is a lot of fear and worry out there. What key strategies can we use to allay that fear and worry?
Alyssa Shaffer: These really are unprecedented times – for many of us, this is the first point in our lives where we have had to face severe physical and emotional turmoil that is rocking our entire society. That said, we do have some tools on hand to help us control our emotions, so that fear and worry do not rule our lives.
For starters, while it’s easy to get carried away by the ever-present cycle of information, it can be helpful to skip the news channels or turn off the television entirely. Constantly hearing negative updates – which, unfortunately, drive viewer ratings and therefore news reports – can affect your mental health. While staying informed is important, cut down on that negative news diet, or at least limit your exposure.
Then do some form of exercise. You don’t have to invest in a home gym or play a new sport. A few minutes of activity, whether it’s taking a walk around the neighborhood, biking, or doing some light calisthenics, will be enough to increase the feeling of well-being from the chemicals in your body. Go outdoors, weather and conditions permit – Research shows that just five minutes of outdoor exercise is enough to combat anxiety and improve mood.
Lastly, when you feel anxiety building, take a few deep breath counts. Your breathing plays a critical role in the relaxation response, which is your body’s ability to combat the stress of the moment. Breathing can help alleviate some of the negative feelings (anxiety, depression, fear) and bring out more positive ones (love, compassion) simply by calming the flight or fight response and helping your body regain a sense of control.
Try this: Concentrate on fully inhaling on the count of five and exhaling fully again on the count of five. As you inhale, think of something relaxing like “calm” or “peace.” As you breathe out, add another calming thought, like “love.” Repeat for a couple of minutes.
The Epoch Times: Measures put in place to prevent the spread of the virus, such as staying home and increasing isolation, have been difficult for some people to cope with. What advice would you give to those struggling with loneliness or the general upheaval in their lives?
Sra. Shaffer: We know that COVID-19 is having a great impact on our mental health. According to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, almost half (45 percent) of adults in the United States reported that worry and stress about the virus have had a negative impact on their mental health. And sadly, it doesn’t seem like things are going to change anytime soon.
Reaching out to friends or family is crucial to help reduce the feeling of isolation. Low-tech measures, like a simple phone call, can have a big impact; If you have access to a Zoom or FaceTime video call, you can add an even greater effect to help you feel more connected.
If you can get out, get some fresh air, even for a short time and at a social distance, it will help you break the feeling of isolation and remind you that more than a pandemic is happening in the world.
If you stay inside, establish a routine: Get up at the same time each day, eat a healthy breakfast, and do some chores that will help you feel productive. Doing physical activity, again, is important, even if stretching for a few minutes. There are many free videos that can offer you some instruction; Start by searching YouTube or a free app like 7 Minute Workout. Or put on music that makes you feel good and dance.
The Epoch Times: As we face a global health crisis, we all know that stress is not the best thing for the immune system. What measures do you recommend for people to control stress and promote healthy immunity?
Sra. Shaffer: There are four things that everyone should do, every day, to help boost immunity and our overall physical and mental health:
Eat healthy. You don’t have to “diet” or even deprive yourself of a treat occasionally. But your general diet is crucial to your health. This means lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, or other complex carbohydrates (like wild rice or oatmeal), some lean protein, and a moderate amount of healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, or even fatty fish like salmon. Limit the amount of sugars, fats, and processed foods in your diet.
Be active. This is a regular message from me! But it is important because exercise does a lot for your body, including boosting your immune response. We know that exercise can boost the activity of immune cells and has even been shown to help kill bacteria in the lungs and airways. Again, it doesn’t take much time or intensity, everyone can get some benefit from the activity.
Get some sleep. Good sleep habits are crucial to help maintain a healthy immune system. Research has established that getting too little sleep can negatively impact your immune function, leaving you more vulnerable to disease. According to the National Sleep Foundation, when you get very little sleep (generally defined as less than seven hours), your body produces fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation.
Practice awareness. Stress itself can negatively affect immune function, but mindfulness activities (like meditation or deep breathing) can do a lot to reduce stress and help you feel more focused. Try sitting quietly for a few minutes (even five can help!), Focusing on your breathing; if you start to worry or your mind drifts, just refocus on your breath.
The Epoch Times: Most people want to be happy and they want their loved ones to be happy. In times like these, where can people find happiness?
Sra. Shaffer: Happiness is not a difficult concept and it does not have to be complicated. We can find things that make us happy around us, whether it be receiving a big greeting from a dog that is excited to see it, observing the pleasure that children have when playing outside. Don’t overcomplicate it or think you have to find “your happy place.” You can keep your place happy just by remembering a moment or time that made you feel joyful.
Another way to conceive of happiness is to think about paying for things in advance. Psychologists say there is a wellness effect when helping someone else. So whether it is volunteering in your community or just paying for the coffee of the person who is yours, small acts of kindness and compassion can make us all a little happier.
The Epoch Times: This will also happen, as they say. With a longer-term vision, how can people take advantage of this unique time to establish a less stressed or happier life in the future?
Sra. Shaffer: I think one of the biggest benefits for many people, especially for those who have been in a lockdown or quarantine with others in their home, has been the ability to reconnect with their family members. I know for myself that having these extra weeks with my children and not many other distractions, such as team practices, homework, and social events, has brought us much closer to everyone. And I, for my part, am trying to remember this feeling and not planning too much so that our days seem as if we are constantly running from one activity to another.
It has also been a good time for people to practice self-care, from starting an exercise program to trying new healthy recipes.
Finally, I believe that the importance of both our mental health and our physical well-being is recognized. I hope we can continue to remember the importance of a balanced and healthy lifestyle, even when things return to “normal”.
We adapt and grow from every conflict we have to face, and my hope is that we can emerge stronger than before.
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