Is there a link between age and happiness? A recent article from The Atlantic suggests the answer is not only yes, but that our lives tend to follow a U-shaped happiness curve, which unfortunately bottoms out in midlife. The ramifications of this are quite significant, as it suggests there may be some biology behind the midlife crisis phenomenon. Such information could also be a source of hope for people experiencing a slump in middle age, as life satisfaction tends to improve for many past the age of 50. You can check out the full article here: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/12/the-real-roots-of-midlife-crisis/382235/
In the immortal words of Ferris Bruller, “life can move pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.” These insightful words seem ever more prevalent in our fast-paced, distraction-filled world. So often our attention seems fixed on anything but what is happening right now. Instead, we worry anxiously about what might happen in the future, emotionally relive the past, or get lost in the mental nether world made up of such things as daydreaming, surfing the net, or mindlessly scrolling through Facebook posts. In fact, one study by psychologists at Harvard University found people spent 46.7% of their time, yes, half of their time, thinking about something other than what they were actually doing.
Unfortunately, not living in the moment can be a real downer. The same Harvard study found people were less happy when their minds wandered, even if they were daydreaming about something pleasant. Science is also showing that living in the moment can be beneficial to one’s physical health as well. For example, studies have found that people who pay attention to their food while eating tend to consume less calories.
So, what is a distracted person to do? Luckily, being able to stop, look around and experience the present moment is really a skill that one can learn with a bit of practice. Here are some exercises that can help you get your head out of the clouds and into the present moment:
So this week, try to remember to think like Ferris and take a moment to enjoy the moment, no matter how big or small it might be.
It seems like we are all stressed to the max these days, and it is little wonder between work pressures, family responsibilities, bill payments....heck even our phones seem to be a source of anxiety these days! While some stress can be motivating and even helpful in our lives, high levels of prolonged stress can be pretty detrimental to one’s mental and physical health. Even worse, the busier and more stressful our lives, the less time we seem to have to take a break and de-stress. So, short of quitting our jobs to live on a beach somewhere, what is a stressed out person to do?
Luckily, there are a number of quick and simple techniques that can help to lower your stress levels. Here are five of my own personal favourites:
1. Take a Deep Breath or Two (or Three). Deep breathing can act like a big “stand down” bulletin to a stressed out nervous system. It can also pull your focus away from whatever is stressing you out, breaking the anxiety cycle and giving you a little small mental break to boot. Even better, a short breathing exercise can be done surreptitiously at your desk, in your car, or even a slow moving supermarket checkout line. A simple breathing exercise is to breath in to a count of five, hold your breath for five, and breath out to a count of five. Try to repeat this exercise at least 3 times. If you start to become light headed or uncomfortable in any way, return to normal breathing.
2. Talk to Someone. Humans are social animals and as the old saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved. Talking through a problem with a trusted confidant can be hugely beneficial when dealing with a stressful issue. Even engaging in friendly casual conversation for a few minutes can be a huge stress buster. Just remember there are some situations where sharing personal information may be inappropriate, and that not all conversationalists are created equal. If you are already stressed, talking to someone who is overly critical or negative towards you may make you feel worse. Also, there may be times when it really pays dividends to speak to a professional, such as a counsellor or spiritual advisor, as they may be able to help you find more long term solutions to your stress.
3. Get Moving. I can sense an impending eye roll as you read this suggestion. We all know that exercise can be a real stress buster, but let’s face it, when things are really stressful, who has time to go to the gym? The guilt from not working out can even become another stressor! While hardcore exercise is an excellent way to reduce stress, what I’m suggesting here is more about changing your headspace than building up a sweat. So much of our stress involves getting caught up in a torrent of anxious thoughts, so focusing on something physical, even for a few minutes on can be a helpful way to calm things down. Small physical acts, like walking to the far office printer for example, can help you to do just that. Walking in general is a great de-stressor, and even a few minutes during your lunch break can be helpful
4. Do Something Kind for Yourself. Stress and self-criticism can become entwined together, especially when we believe we are not measuring up as a ______ (insert title here, e.g. parent, partner, employee etc.). Taking a small time out to do something caring for ourselves can be a healthy reminder that we are worthy of kindness. This needn’t be expensive or time consuming either. Little things such as taking a long hot shower, engaging in a favourite hobby, or even making yourself a nice cup of tea, can be great stress relievers. It doesn’t really matter what activity you choose, as long as it is something you enjoy doing. When doing something kind for yourself, try to stay focused on the activity. If you have a cup of tea for example, you might sit in a comfy chair while drinking it and really savour the taste for a few minutes. If feelings of guilt or self-criticism come up, try to start slow. Spending even a minute being kind to yourself can be beneficial and help lower stress levels.
5. Gain Some Control. From being stuck in traffic to our kids refusing to behave, we hate not having control over our lives and it stresses us right out. Leaving aside the whole “are we ever really in control?” argument, one way to combat “control stress” is to find things we can control (even small things) and to make conscious decisions on them. Starbucks has this concept down pat. Getting my latte, my way (whole milk, light foam), gives me a sense of control and therefore an extra boost of satisfaction. Other such control generating activities could include choosing your route to work, organizing a closet “your way,” or creating a to-do list and deciding the order you will complete it. These may seem like small decisions, but focusing on the fact you are in charge of making them, can generate a greater sense of control and lead to a reduction in stress.
These are just a few of my own favourite ways to de-stress. Please keep in mind, what works for each person is often unique and sometimes requires a bit of trial and error. The secret is to find one or more that really work for you and to do them on a regular basis, even when you might not be feeling particularly stressed out. Feel free to add in the comment section below what stress busting techniques work for you. Till our next post!
Kind-Mind Counselling & Wellness Services
Telephone/Text: 647-677-MIND (6463)
Telephone/Text: 647-677-MIND (6463)