More Joy, Less Stress in Eight Easy Steps

By Susan Smith Jones, Ph.D.
More Joy, Less Stress in Eight Easy Steps

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2009 issue of Unity Magazine®.

Reducing stress is important, we’ve all heard it. Stress not only impacts your happiness, but your health. The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that two-thirds of all doctor visits are due to stress-related ailments. It’s also believed that 80 to 90 percent of all diseases are stress-related. And if you’re female, stress may be even more damaging to your health. Study after study has found that women suffer from both stress and depression more often than men.

For some of us, our biggest stressors might be weather-related situations, such as tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, fires and hurricanes. Similarly, for most of us, we get stressed out thinking of deadlines and commitments, but stress has many other causes. It can be triggered by emotions—anger, fear, worry, grief, depression or even guilt. And stress can actually lead to high blood pressure, heart problems, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, headaches and other illnesses and chronic health conditions. If you want to avoid these problems, here are my favorite eight tips to reduce stress, promote relaxation, and bring a sacred balance back into your body and world. …

1. Redirect your energies inward—Stress is a major problem in modern life. Technological advances have increased the pressure to keep busy, even during leisure hours. We talk on the telephone while we drive, watch television while we read, conduct business while we listen to the radio. … Given our current rushed pace, we have little time to relax and cultivate relationships with our spouses, children, friends and nature. …

When you constantly direct your attention and energies outward, it’s easy to lose the sense of inner wonder, calmness, balance and beauty where true happiness, joy and peace originate. By slowing down and redirecting your energies inward, not only will you train your brain to relax, you will begin to reestablish the wholesome sense of self-worth necessary to positively change your life. …

2. Get moving! That’s right—exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress in your life: it relaxes muscles and eases tension. Want proof? A study … shows that patients who took a vigorous walk and raised their heart rates to more than 100 beats per minute reduced the tension in their bodies by 20 percent. … So go for a walk, hit the gym and do some weight-bearing exercises, or give yoga a try. …

3. Meditate and breathe deeply. Really, it’s that simple. … Simply find a special, quiet space in your home. Spend at least 15 minutes here first thing in the morning and before going to bed. Sit and close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply, focusing on the sound and rhythm of your breathing. Mentally visualize peace and calmness. Your day will start and end on a stress-free note.

4. Eat a stress-relieving diet. Can what you eat really help relieve stress? You bet! Take stress off your digestive system by eating at least seven servings of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are high in water content and, therefore, easily digestible. Especially beneficial are antioxidant-rich leafy greens, such as romaine lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, kale and collards. Also, to benefit from an array of antioxidants, choose an array of colors when it comes to your fruits and vegetables.  …

5. Keep your body hydrated. Our bodies are 70% water. Our cells are 70% water, and our planet Earth is 70% water. That’s no coincidence. Each day we need to drink at least eight glasses of water. At a cellular level, dehydration makes us as droopy as a neglected violet. … Drinking “liquids” won’t do. Although herbal tea, freshly extracted vegetable juice and diluted fruit juice can count in the water tally, coffee, tea, colas and alcoholic beverages actually dehydrate the body. …

We need to maintain proper fluid balance for brain and kidney function to rid the body of waste material and toxins and to maintain radiant health. …

6. Catch plenty of Zzzs. Lack of sleep undermines your body’s ability to deal with stress. That’s why it’s important to get eight hours of rest per night. One way to tell if you’re getting enough shuteye is to see if you wake at a regular time without an alarm. If you require a buzzer to get out of bed in the morning, you’re not getting enough sleep.

7. Laugh a lot. Worried about something? Maybe you’re stressed out about your relationship with a loved one, the monthly bills that are stacking up, or the poor grades your son or daughter is suddenly bringing home from school. Whatever it is, one way to mollify this stress is to make sure your life is filled with laughter.

According to researchers, laughter releases endorphins into the body that act as natural stress beaters. In fact, a good belly laugh gives your heart muscles a good workout, improves circulation, fills your lungs with oxygen-rich air, clears your respiratory passages, stimulates alertness hormones, helps relieve pain, and counteracts fear, anger and depression, all of which are linked to illness and stress. …

8. Be thankful—and reap the health benefits. Each and every day, take a moment and be grateful for all you have in life. Gratitude, after all, is a great stress-buster. What you think about consistently brings more of the same into your life. So focusing on the positive, even during difficult times, is the best way to reduce and alleviate stress and transform your life.

For more than three decades, Susan Smith Jones, PhD, has been one of the world's most recognizable names and faces in the fields of holistic health, anti-aging, natural remedies and balanced living. As the founder and president of Health Unlimited, a Los Angeles-base consulting firm, she travels throughout the U.S. and internationally as a guest on TV and radio talk shows and as an in-demand motivational speaker. Susan is also the author of 27 books and over 2,000 magazine articles. To learn more about Susan's work, or to order any of her books or audio programs, including her latest bestsellers Recipes for Health Bliss (Hay House Publishers), The Joy Factor (foreword by Wayne Dyer) and Walking on Air: Your 30-Day Inside and Out Rejuvenation Makeover, please visit www.SusanSmithJones.com.