RELAX! Why is that so hard? Well, we have things to do. I mean a lot of things to do. Work, family, house, kids, homework and it is the holiday season. The holidays just cram even more stuff on our already full plate. Now, more than any other time, is the time to make you do something to relax. This can be as simple as telling the family you need 30 minutes to take a bubble bath. Why? Here is why relaxing is so good for your health.
Relax to ward off colds, flu and illness. When we are stressed, our bodies produce cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that can interfere with the health of our immune system, increases weight gain and has negative effects on our cardiovascular system. Over time, the body will be unable to overcome the effects of prolonged cortisol production which results in illness and disease.
Relax for a healthy emotional state. Do you find yourself overreacting to the slightest annoyance? Have you felt really bad after you reacted negatively to your loved ones? Do you find yourself apologizing more frequently? Your mental outlook and how you react to situations are a clear sign if you are stressed or not. It is never appropriate to take your stress out on others. It leads to hurt feelings and negative emotions such as anger and irrational behavior.
Relax for better sleep. Sleep is one of the most important activities of leading a healthy life. When we are stressed, it results in insomnia, difficulty falling asleep, difficulty waking up and once awake being unable to go back to sleep. When you reduce stress, it becomes easier to fall and stay asleep. You know how great you feel when you have a great sleep!
Relax for better digestion. Stress can increase the amount of acid in our stomach. This leads to acid reflux, heartburn and indigestion. When we are relaxed, our digestive system can work with the appropriate amount of acid to ensure we digest and absorb nutrients from the food we eat. This also leads to helping to ward off colds and illness since the digestive system helps to regulate the immune system.
If you are convinced that relaxing can help you have better health, you may be wondering what you can do to ensure you take some time to relax. Below are a few ideas.
Exercise 5 days a week. What? Exercising is relaxing? Yes it is! When you exercise you are helping to reduce cortisol in your body. Believe it or not, exercising helps your body relax and manage stress. When you are fit you are able to respond to stressors in your life since your body has the strength it needs. This doesn't mean you have to belong to an expensive gym. Exercising can be a 30 minute walk with a friend or a bike ride. You might want to take a free Yoga or High Intensity class on YouTube. The key is to find something you like to do and do it regularly and often.
Eat for relaxation. Wait - eating can help you relax? Yes it can. I don't mean eating high fat and high sugar desserts or a big bowl of non-organic pasta. There are specific foods that can help you be calm. I know this is a very new concept. We never talk about how food can actually help us feel differently. The first rule of eating to feel calm is to eat organic. Organic foods do not have pesticides or chemicals. This means you will not ingest substances that can contribute to negative moods and feelings. The foods to eat to feel calm are:
Fruits: apples, pears, pineapple, raspberries, strawberries and kiwi.
Vegetables: sweet potatoes, cauliflower, bell peppers, squash, garlic and onions.
Nuts: almonds, pistachios and hazelnuts.
Dairy alternative: oat milk, almond milk, hemp milk and flax milk.
Now you are probably thinking, how do I incorporate these foods into my routine? Breakfast is easy! Make oatmeal with chopped up fruit from the list above. Use a dairy alternative to make the oatmeal. Lunch can be a sweet potato stuffed with sauteed cauliflower, bell pepper, garlic and onions. Since dinner may be a little challenging given you have a family to feed, you can make organic pasta with sauteed squash, garlic and onions. Serve turkey meatballs with it.
Breath for 10 - 30 minutes 5 days a week. A breathing practice can do wonders for relaxing. Find a spot in your house that is quite and comfortable. Set a timer and close your eyes. When you inhale, make sure that your stomach is extending. This is the deep breath needed to relax. Unfortunately, in our society we are taught to breath the opposite way. When we inhale our stomachs contract. As you inhale, relax the tongue from the top of the mouth and exhale slowly, with the stomach contracting. It will take a couple of times doing this for you to get used to breathing this way. But once you get used to it, you will be amazed how good you feel.
Finally, if you have another way you like to relax such as baking or reading a book or listening to music. Do it! The key is to do what works for you. That is the only way you can truly relax and be the healthiest you can be.
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