●Silent Signals You're Stressed
●Stay-Calm Solutions From Stress Survivors
●10 Tricks to Reboot Your Brain
●20 Simple Ways to Get Happy
《生命时报》 (2008-06-03 第11版)
这是一项由心理学家 Jon Kabat-Zinn 发起，20000名来自各行各业的人们参与并取得显著成效的训练活动，叫做：八周全神贯注减压训练。现在的好消息是，你不必住在美国麻州，而是可以在当地的会员场所，或是通过 Kabat-Zinn 的书和CD光碟（或MP3）在家进行每天45分钟的训练。
音乐使人放松是我们自我体会到的，但事实上，已有权威研究对此予以证实：聆听合适的音乐可以有效的减压并帮助人们相对迅速的恢复良好的身心状态。如果听音乐对你来说不足以使你兴奋，那么试着学习和演奏音乐吧。一项对奏乐和压力的关系的研究证明在办公室的角落里放把吉他并在午饭时间奏上一曲 Stebie Ray Vaughn的 Little Wing，人们的身心状态就会改善很多。
原文：Top 10 ways to un-bake your brain – Jonathan Fields
Stress hormone - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Stress hormones such as cortisol, GH and norepinephrine are released at periods of high stress. The hormone regulating system is known as the endocrine system. Cortisol is believed to affect the metabolic system and norepinephrine is believed to play a role in ADHD as well as depression and hypertension.
Stress hormones rise in the body during any neuroendocrine reaction such as surgery and they remain high to as long as 72 hours after which all these hormones return back to their normal level, the last being cortisol. It makes your heart beat faster.
Currently there are medications available which block the release of stress hormones.
Stress is the sum total of all mental and physical input over a given period of time. The marker used to measure stress is the adrenal steroid hormone, cortisol. Stress, whether physical or emotional in origin, provokes a response by the adrenal glands. Many hormonal imbalances are the direct result of adrenal insufficiency.
The adrenal glands produce two primary hormones, DHEA and cortisol. Both are considered the major shock absorber hormones in the body. They buffer stress and the negative impact it can have on both mental and physical function. Long-term stress can have a serious impact on the adrenal glands and cause them to shrink and reduce production. This causes cellular damage, which sets off a chain reaction affecting all parts of the body, as well as accelerating the aging process.
The symptoms associated with adrenal dysfunction are diverse and can involve the digestive, circulatory, respiratory, as well as the brain and nervous systems. In addition, the adrenals can impact the growth and repair of bones, muscles, hair and nails. Research has shown that to cause a positive hormonal change, you must first normalize adrenal activity.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone made in the adrenal glands. Cortisol's important function in the body includes roles in the regulation of blood pressure and cardiovascular function as well as regulation of the body's use of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Cortisol secretion increases in response to any stress in the body, whether physical (such as illness, trauma, surgery or temperature extremes) or psychological pressures, (such as poor marriage, unemployment, etc.).
When cortisol is secreted, it causes a breakdown of muscle protein, leading to release of amino acids into the bloodstream. These amino acids are then used by the liver to synthesize glucose for energy, in a process called gluconeogenesis. Cortisol also leads to the release of energy source from fat cells, for use by the muscles. Taken together, these energy directing processes prepare the individual to deal with stressors and insure that the brain receives adequate energy sources.
The body possesses an elaborate feedback system for controlling cortisol secretion and regulating the amount of cortisol in the bloodstream. The pituitary gland, a small gland at the base of the brain, makes and secretes a hormone known as adrenocorticotropic hormone, or ACTH. Secretion of ACTH signals the adrenal glands to increase cortisol production and secretion. The pituitary, in turn, receives signals from the hypothalamus of the brain in the form of the hormone CRH, or corticotrophin-releasing hormone, which signals the pituitary to release ACTH. Almost immediately after a stressful event, the levels of the regulatory hormones ACTH and CRH increase, causing an immediate rise in cortisol levels. When cortisol is present in adequate, or excess amounts, a negative feedback system operates on the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, which alerts these areas to reduce the output of ACTH and CRH, respectively, in order to reduce cortisol secretion when adequate levels are present.
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is the most abundant hormone found in the bloodstream. When the adrenal glands are chronically stressed, your production of DHEA can be greatly reduced. DHEA in an important regulator of the thyroid and pituitary glands. Though the adrenal glands produce most of the body's supply of DHEA, the gonads (ovaries, testes) can also manufacture DHEA when the adrenals are overworked. DHEA exerts powerful effects throughout the body. Most cells possess DHEA receptors on their membranes. DHEA is vital to health. DHEA also regulates many other hormones; however it can be easily converted to estradiol and/or testosterone and therefore needs to be monitored by testing levels of estradiol and testosterone. DHEA is a good stress barometer, because when stress levels go up, DHEA levels go down. Generally, DHEA levels tend to decrease with age. DHEA peaks at age 25 then declines at a rate of about 2% per year. It is not until the 40s that we begin to feel the effects of lower DHEA levels.
The most accurate way to measure DHEA is to measure it in the stable form that the body keeps it in: DHEA-S (dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate). Measurement of serum DHEA-S is a useful marker of adrenal androgen synthesis. Abnormally low levels have been reported in hypoadrenalism, while high or inverted diurnal levels have been reported in several conditions.
Silent Signals You're Stressed
10 body clues that you need more time for calm
Are you more stressed than you think?
● 1. Weekend headaches
● 2. Awful period cramps
● 3. An achy mouth
● 4. Odd dreams
● 5. Bleeding gums
● 6. Out-of-nowhere acne
● 7. A sweet tooth
● 8. Itchy skin
● 9. Worse-than-usual allergies
● 10. Bellyaches
The occasional manic Monday is a fact of modern life.
But if you’re under chronic stress—suffering a daily assault of stress hormones from a demanding job or a personal life in turmoil—symptoms may be subtler, says Stevan E. Hobfoll, PhD, chair of the department of behavioral sciences at Rush University Medical Center. If you experience any of the signs that follow, take some time out every day, he says, whether it’s to go for a walk or simply turn off your phone.
1. Weekend headaches
A sudden drop in stress can prompt migraines, says Todd Schwedt, MD, director of the Washington University Headache Center. Stick closely to your weekday sleeping and eating schedule to minimize other triggers.
2. Awful period cramps
The most stressed-out women are more than twice as likely to experience painful cramps as those who are less tense, a Harvard study found. Researchers blame a stress-induced imbalance of hormones. Hitting the gym can soothe cramps and stress, research shows, by decreasing sympathetic nervous system activity.
3. An achy mouth
A sore jaw can be a sign of teeth grinding, which usually occurs during sleep and can be worsened by stress, says Matthew Messina, DDS, a consumer advisor to the American Dental Association. Ask your dentist about a nighttime mouth guard—up to 70% of people who use one reduce or stop grinding altogether.
4. Odd dreams
Dreams usually get progressively more positive as you sleep, so you wake up in a better mood than you were in when you went to bed, says Rosalind Cartwright, PhD, an emeritus professor of psychology at Rush University Medical Center. But when you’re stressed, you wake up more often, disrupting this process and allowing unpleasant imagery to recur all night. Good sleep habits can help prevent this; aim for 7 to 8 hours a night, and avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime.
5. Bleeding gums
According to a Brazilian analysis of 14 past studies, stressed-out people have a higher risk of periodontal disease. Chronically elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol may impair the immune system and allow bacteria to invade the gums, say researchers. If you're working long hours and eating dinner at your desk, keep a toothbrush on hand. And "protect your mouth by exercising and sleeping more, which will help lower stress," says Preston Miller, DDS, past president of the American Academy of Periodontology.
6. Out-of-nowhere acne
Stress increases the inflammation that leads to breakouts, says Gil Yosipovitch, MD, a clinical professor of dermatology at Wake Forest University. Smooth your skin with a lotion containing skin sloughing salicylic acid or bacteria-busting benzoyl peroxide, plus a noncomedogenic moisturizer so skin won't get too dry. If your skin doesn't respond to treatment within a few weeks, see your doctor for more potent meds.
7. A sweet tooth
Don’t automatically blame your chocolate cravings on your lady hormones—stress is a more likely trigger. When University of Pennsylvania researchers surveyed pre- and postmenopausal women, they found only a small decrease in the prevalence of chocolate cravings after menopause—smaller than could be explained by just a hormonal link. Study authors say it’s likely stress, or other factors that can trigger women’s hankering for chocolate.
8. Itchy skin
A recent Japanese study of more than 2,000 people found that those with chronic itch (known as pruritis) were twice as likely to be stressed out as those without the condition. Although an annoying itch problem can certainly cause stress, experts say it’s likely that feeling anxious or tense also aggravates underlying conditions like dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis. “The stress response activates nerve fibers, causing an itchy sensation,” explains Yosipovitch.
9. Worse-than-usual allergies
In a 2008 experiment, researchers from Ohio State University College of Medicine found that allergy sufferers had more symptoms after they took an anxiety-inducing test, compared with when they performed a task that did not make them tense. Stress hormones may stimulate the production of IgE, a blood protein that causes allergic reactions, says study author Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD.
Anxiety and stress can cause stomachaches, along with headaches, backaches, and insomnia. One study of 1,953 men and women found that those experiencing the highest levels of stress were more than three times as likely to have abdominal pain as their more-relaxed counterparts.
The exact connection is still unclear, but one theory holds that the intestines and the brain share nerve pathways; when the mind reacts to stress, the intestines pick up the same signal. Because of this link, learning to manage stress with the help of a clinical psychologist, meditation, or even exercise can usually help relieve tummy trouble too. However, if you have frequent bellyaches, see your doc to rule out food allergies, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, or an ulcer.
Stay-Calm Solutions From Stress Survivors
By Sarah Mahoney, Prevention
Tue, Aug 10, 2010
I'm married to a full-time soldier, so few things get my attention like a headline about post-traumatic stress disorder. I've been riveted by the recent surge in PTSD research spurred not just by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but also by terrorism and natural disasters. Government institutions, military hospitals, and universities have all stepped up efforts to understand this anxiety disorder, teasing out what makes some people vulnerable and others resilient, as well as how the brain can heal. What they're discovering about PTSD is yielding important insights into how the rest of us can manage the moderate stress we deal with every day.
"The mind needs support—we call it 'mental armor'—just as much as the body does," says Amishi Jha, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, who studies stress-fighting techniques such as mindfulness to help military personnel. "Research shows it's possible to cushion yourself against stress, and the tactics we're using with soldiers also apply to real folks and more common types of anxiety." Key to the recent breakthroughs is a much clearer picture of how destructive stress can be. Persistent anxiety can kill neurons in brain structures concerned with memory and decisionmaking, and such damage is even visible on brain scans.
Although women are less likely to experience traumatic events than men are (about half of women in the United States will encounter a trauma in their lifetime, most commonly sexual assault, followed by car crash), we're twice as likely to develop PTSD when we do, says the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Women are also more vulnerable to everyday stress—mothers, for example, are 5 times as likely as fathers to rate their stress at the highest level, says the American Psychological Association.
Fortunately, experts are learning that all along the continuum—from severe anxiety disorders to garden-variety worry—coping and even prevention tactics are highly effective. Here's what new PTSD science can teach all of us about outsmarting stress. If these solutions work for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, they can certainly help the rest of us on the home front.
For Stress Survivors:
Build Mental Armor with Meditation
Mindfulness meditation works wonders to boost stress resilience, say experts from the University of Pennsylvania who are using the practice with military personnel. "We teach them to focus on the present moment instead of catastrophizing about the future," says Jha. After 8 weeks of meditation training, Marines became less reactive to stressors—plus they were more alert and exhibited better memory.
For the rest of us:
Take Short Mindfulness Breaks
"Even I get too busy to meditate," says Jha. "Then I remember the Marines in the study calling my colleague while they were deployed to ask for mindfulness pointers, and I think, If they can do it in a war zone, I can do it in my office!" Try this technique Marines use anywhere: Sit upright, focus on your breath, and pay attention to a physical sensation, such as the feel of air in your nostrils. When your mind wanders, notice the disruption, then return your attention to that simple sensation. Jha herself now meditates 5 to 10 minutes at a time, several times a day.
For Stress Survivors:
Remember the Tough Stuff
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)—which helps you recognize and change knee-jerk reactions to stress triggers—is one of the most effective methods of managing PTSD. In the military, such training can include a technique called "exposure therapy," in which soldiers relive disturbing past experiences in small doses with a therapist until the memories become less overwhelming. Along the same lines, doctors have achieved promising results by asking patients who developed PTSD following an illness to imagine a relapse.
Such intense visualizations should be undertaken only with a licensed professional, but "practicing" feeling stressed can help anyone cope day to day, says Elizabeth Carll, PhD, a trauma specialist on Long Island, NY. "If you learn to recognize how your body feels when anxiety starts, it's easier to intervene and calm yourself."
For the rest of us:
Imagine a Moment of Tension
Fortify yourself against anxiety by trying an at-home exercise, says Susan Fletcher, PhD, a psychologist in private practice in Plano, TX. Picture yourself in a stressful place, such as your commute, and imagine the tension you feel. Write out the realities of the situation: If I don't leave by 7:30, I'll be late. On the other hand, I'll be in traffic about 60 minutes, so I can listen to a book on disc. This lets you feel the stress and know it's not debilitating, and helps you devise solutions. If you want to try formal CBT, which encompasses a range of methods, you can find a certified practitioner through the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists (nacbt.org).
For Stress Survivors:
Bike for Long-Term Resilience
Researchers are learning that exercise doesn't just soothe stress, it also fortifies brain cells so they're less vulnerable to anxiety in the future. Neuroscientists at Princeton University recently discovered that neurons created in the brains of rats that run regularly are less stress-sensitive than those in rats that don't exercise.
While all exercise adds to your resilience, PTSD experts find that outdoor activities are particularly beneficial—especially cycling, says Melissa Puckett, a recreation therapist at the VA Palo Alto Healthcare System in California. "It's so effective because of the fresh air and the fact that it can be a group activity," she says. "We've seen people who were once afraid to leave the house make tremendous strides."
For the rest of us:
Sweat Outside for 5 Minutes
Break from the gym and try something outdoorsy, like hiking or a simple walk. Even 5 minutes outside—especially if spent near water, like a fountain or stream—is enough for a mental boost, found a 2010 study from the University of Essex in England.
For Stress Survivors:
Pets Can Reduce Your Use of Meds
New research shows that owning an animal is an even more powerful way to cultivate calm than previously thought. An astonishing 82% of PTSD patients paired with a service dog reported a significant reduction in symptoms, and 40% were able to decrease their medications, in an ongoing study at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The specially trained pooches can sense before their owners do when a panic attack is coming, and then give them a nudge to start some preemptive deep breathing. "While we don't yet understand why, we know the dogs' presence affects serotonin levels and the immune system," says lead study researcher Craig Love, PhD. "The animals are so helpful, one soldier named her dog Paxil."
For the rest of us:
Bond with Fido
Pet owners can reduce stress by building extra playtime into the day, says Carll. If you don't own a pet, offer to take a neighbor's dog for an after-dinner walk or cat-sit for a friend—even short outings provide enough "pet exposure" to lessen anxiety.
For stress survivors:
Sleep to Rebalance Sneaky Stress Hormones
Sleep suppresses stress hormones, such as cortisol, and spurs the release of others, like DHEA, which plays a key role in resilience and protecting the body from stress. Yale University researchers tracked the hormone levels of a group of elite Special Forces soldiers who operate in treacherous underwater conditions and confirmed that higher DHEA levels predicted which divers were most stress hardy. Among women with PTSD, those with higher levels of DHEA have fewer negative moods, other Yale researchers found.
For the rest of us:
Do a Nightly Stress Scan
To boost DHEA naturally, get more sleep. Before you set your alarm, take stock of your stress status, says Fletcher. The more demanding your days, the more sleep you need to handle them. If the recommended 7 to 8 hours isn't possible, at least plan for an early night or two during a rough week or, if nothing else, a weekend nap. "And get anything that reminds you of work—laundry, your laptop—out of your bedroom," Fletcher adds. "It's psychologically noisy."
These coping skills don't just make it easier to manage stress, they help you thrive in general. "People who beat chronic stress often develop positive shifts in their outlook," says Elissa Epel, PhD, a stress researcher at the University of California, San Francisco. Cliched as it sounds, surviving a stressful event can open a new philosophical window on life. "People don't just cope, they grow," says Carll. "And the experience makes them stronger overall."
10 Tricks to Reboot Your Brain
Feel sharper, concentrate better, and stop brain fog.
Ever walk into a room and forget why you entered? Or completely space out during an important meeting at work? It’s frustrating, but usually normal.
Your brain is naturally primed to wander whenever it can, according to a joint study by Harvard University, Dartmouth College, and the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. Using MRI, researchers found that brain regions responsible for "task-unrelated thought" (that is, daydreaming or mind wandering) are almost constantly active when the brain is at rest or performing a task that doesn't require concentration.
Fortunately, brain experts say it's possible to corral that brainpower, filter out distractions, and master any task by improving your concentration. Here are their top tips for refocusing during key moments when your mind starts meandering, but shouldn't.
By: Ann Hettinger
Unless you love everything about your job, you're bound to zone out occasionally, according to one study: Among 124 people, mind wandering occurred about 30% of the time, even during crucial tasks--adding up to many hours of lost productivity. Boredom, fatigue, and stress all spur mind wandering, says study author Michael Kane, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
And although women were no more likely than men to lose focus, they reported general worrying and anxiety when their attention drifted. Fear not: Some mind wandering is simply your brain taking a healthy break, although sometimes it's best left for another occasion.
Here’s what to do about it.
●At Work: Get Organized
If you have several to-dos, decide what to tackle first, and clear all other projects off your desk and computer screen. "Out of sight, out of mind applies," Kane says. "Get rid of memos, e-mails, and anything else that reminds you you're behind."
And go easy on your cubicle's decor. "Even family photos are potential thought stealers," Kane adds, because they're people you're prone to worry about.
●At Work: Participate
If you daydream during meetings, challenge yourself by thinking of questions and actively joining the discussion, suggests Jonathan W. Schooler, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. You may miss a moment if you're formulating a question, but you'll stay focused on the current topic.
●At Work: Change Your Scenery
When you start to lose concentration, leave your desk and take a walk outside or to the office common space for a mental breather. This way, your brain associates your desk only with work, not mind wandering.
Warns Schooler: "If you don't take regular breaks--especially when you're not enjoying your job--your brain will take them for you."
In the Car
We're most likely to space out during activities we can do automatically, according to a 2006 study. This is dangerous when you're behind the wheel: If a car ahead stops suddenly, your reaction time may not be fast enough to prevent an accident.
Here, 2 tricks to avoid it ...
●In the Car: Tie a String on the Steering Wheel
When you think about the same things during your commute--anticipating the day's workload, or what to cook for dinner--your brain begins to associate the car with zoning out, says Kane. A novel, visual cue such as a colored string or dashboard sticker can snap you out of your "dream-driving" habit.
●In the Car: Play a Game
Those involving counting and geography are great ways for kids to pass the time en route--for good reason: The contests use items that you should be aware of while driving. Try tallying all the states represented by the license plates of the cars in front of you.
When You Read
Do you keep rereading the same passages in your novel? Don't blame a poor memory. "Mindless reading" is common and requires considerable effort to control, says Schooler, who found that readers are actually mind wandering about 20% of the time: "Their eyes move across the page, but they're not thinking about the text," he says.
Fix it with these steps：
●When You Read: Take a Break
Take time-outs to process the material; mentally recap plot points or a character's motive, for example. "Periodically think over what you've read--it can improve comprehension, probably because it reduces mind wandering," Schooler says.
●When You Read: Go Backward
If you glossed over a few paragraphs, read them in reverse--reordering small packets of information can sometimes change how much of it you absorb. It may feel odd at first, but the extra effort required will force your brain back into focusing.
●When You Read: Join a Club
A little peer pressure to finish a book by a certain date can go a long way, especially if you're expected to talk about the content. Budget the number of pages you'll need to read daily, and if you own the book, write notes in the margin and mark meaningful passages to boost both concentration and comprehension.
If You Have a Personal Problem
People who report being unhappy, usually because of a difficult problem, have more intense mind wandering during tasks than their carefree counterparts, according to studies by Jonathan Smallwood, PhD, a lecturer at the University of Aberdeen's school of psychology. These feelings limit your ability to focus on anything else, he says: "You may spend a lot of time thinking about a problem when you're upset, but this type of ruminating is actually quite unproductive."
●If You Have a Personal Problem: Get It Off Your Chest
Talk about your worries with a friend or family member, either in person or on the telephone, to clear your head. Writing down your thoughts may be as effective as saying them out loud: List ways to address the problem and then move on, recommends Eric Klinger, PhD, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Minnesota, Morris, who has studied thought patterns during daydreams. "Committing a plan to paper helps put the problem on the back burner, so you can shift your attention to other things," he explains.
●If You Have a Personal Problem: Meditate
Meditation, a proven stress reliever, may also let you tune out distractions, found recent research. Amishi Jha, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, studied attention control in people before and after they learned mindfulness meditation (sitting quietly for 30 minutes a day, focusing on breathing; when the subjects noticed their minds drifting, they gently guided their thoughts back to their breath).
After 8 weeks, they showed significant improvements at "orienting," or staying on task and quickly refocusing their thinking after being distracted. "Meditation trains you to put your attention where you want it and make sure it stays there," Jha says.
20 Simple Ways to Get Happy
Take control of your mood and improve your health.
State of Mind
Happiness is ephemeral, subject to the vagaries of everything from the weather to the size of your bank account.
We're not suggesting that you can reach a permanent state called "happiness" and remain there. But there are many ways to swerve off the path of anxiety, anger, frustration, and sadness into a state of happiness once or even several times throughout the day. Here are 20 ideas to get you started. Choose the ones that work for you. If tuning out the news or making lists will serve only to stress you further, try another approach.
1. Practice mindfulness. Be in the moment. Instead of worrying about your checkup tomorrow while you have dinner with your family, focus on the here and now -- the food, the company, the conversation.
2. Laugh out loud. Just anticipating a happy, funny event can raise levels of endorphins and other pleasure-inducing hormones and lower production of stress hormones. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, tested 16 men who all agreed they thought a certain videotape was funny. Half were told three days in advance they would watch it. They started experiencing biological changes right away. When they actually watched the video, their levels of stress hormones dropped significantly, while their endorphin levels rose 27 percent and their growth hormone levels (indicating benefit to the immune system) rose 87 percent.
3. Go to sleep. We have become a nation of sleep-deprived citizens. Taking a daily nap or getting into bed at 8 p.m. one night with a good book -- and turning the light out an hour later -- can do more for your mood and outlook on life than any number of bubble baths or massages.
4. Hum along. Music soothes more than the savage beast. Studies find music activates parts of the brain that produce happiness -- the same parts activated by food or sex. It's also relaxing. In one study older adults who listened to their choice of music during outpatient eye surgery had significantly lower heart rates, blood pressure, and cardiac workload (that is, their heart didn't have to work as hard) as those who had silent surgery.
5. Declutter. It's nearly impossible to meditate, breathe deeply, or simply relax when every surface is covered with papers and bills and magazines, your cabinets bulge, and you haven't balanced your checkbook in six months. Plus, the repetitive nature of certain cleaning tasks -- such as sweeping, wiping, and scrubbing -- can be meditative in and of itself if you focus on what you're doing.
6. Just say no. Eliminate activities that aren't necessary and that you don't enjoy. If there are enough people already to handle the church bazaar and you're feeling stressed by the thought of running the committee for yet another year, step down and let someone else handle things.
7. Make a list. There's nothing like writing down your tasks to help you organize your thoughts and calm your anxiety. Checking off each item provides a great sense of fulfillment.
8. Do one thing at a time. Edward Suarez, Ph.D., associate professor of medical psychology at Duke, found that people who multitask are more likely to have high blood pressure. Take that finding to heart. Instead of talking on the phone while you fold laundry or clean the kitchen, sit down in a comfortable chair and turn your entire attention over to the conversation. Instead of checking e-mail as you work on other projects, turn off your e-mail function until you finish the report you're writing. This is similar to the concept of mindfulness.
9. Garden. Not only will the fresh air and exercise provide their own stress reduction and feeling of well-being, but the sense of accomplishment that comes from clearing a weedy patch, watching seeds turn into flowers, or pruning out dead wood will last for hours, if not days.
10. Tune out the news. For one week go without reading the newspaper, watching the news, or scanning the headlines online. Instead, take a vacation from the misery we're exposed to every day via the media and use that time for a walk, a meditation session, or to write in your journal.
11. Take a dog for a walk. There are numerous studies that attest to the stress-relieving benefits of pets. In one analysis researchers evaluated the heart health of 240 couples, half of whom owned a pet. Those couples with pets had significantly lower heart rates and blood pressure levels when exposed to stressors than the couples who did not have pets. In fact, the pets worked even better at buffering stress than the spouses did.
12. Scent the air. Research finds that the benefits of aromatherapy in relieving stress are real. In one study people exposed to rosemary had lower anxiety levels, increased alertness, and performed math computations faster. Adults exposed to lavender showed an increase in the type of brain waves that suggest increased relaxation. Today you have a variety of room-scenting methods, from plug-in air fresheners to essential oil diffusers, potpourri, and scented candles.
13. Ignore the stock market. Simply getting your quarterly 401(k) statement can be enough to send your blood pressure skyrocketing. In fact, Chinese researchers found a direct link between the daily performance of the stock market and the mental health of those who closely followed it. Astute investors know that time heals most financial wounds, so give your investments time -- and give yourself a break.
14. Visit a quiet place. Libraries, museums, gardens, and places of worship provide islands of peace and calm in today's frantic world. Find a quiet place near your house and make it your secret getaway.
15. Volunteer. Helping others enables you to put your own problems into perspective and also provides social interaction. While happy people are more likely to help others, helping others increases your happiness. One study found that volunteer work enhanced all six aspects of well-being: happiness, life satisfaction, self-esteem, sense of control over life, physical health, and depression.
16. Spend time alone. Although relationships are one of the best antidotes to stress, sometimes you need time alone to recharge and reflect. Take yourself out to lunch or to a movie, or simply spend an afternoon reading, browsing in a bookstore, or antiquing.
17. Walk mindfully. You probably already know that exercise is better than tranquilizers for relieving anxiety and stress. But what you do with your mind while you're walking can make your walk even more beneficial. In a study called the Ruth Stricker Mind/Body Study, researchers divided 135 people into five groups of walkers for 16 weeks. Group one walked briskly, group two at a slow pace, and group three at a slow pace while practicing "mindfulness," a mental technique to bring about the relaxation response, a physiological response in which the heart rate slows and blood pressure drops. This group was asked to pay attention to their footsteps, counting one, two, one, two, and to visualize the numbers in their mind. Group four practiced a form of tai chi, and group five served as the control, changing nothing about their lives. The group practicing mindfulness showed significant declines in anxiety and had fewer negative and more positive feelings about themselves. Overall they experienced the same stress-reducing effects of the brisk walkers. Better yet, the effects were evident immediately.
18. Give priority to close relationships. One study of more than 1,300 men and women of various ages found that those who had a lot of supportive friends were much more likely to have healthier blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar metabolism, and stress hormone levels than those with two or fewer close friends. Women, and to a lesser extent men, also seemed to benefit from good relationships with their parents and spouses. Studies also find that people who feel lonely, depressed, and isolated are three to five times more likely to get sick and die prematurely than those who have feelings of love, connection, and community.
19. Take care of the soul. In study after study, actively religious people are happier and cope better with crises, according to David Myers, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. For many people faith provides a support community, a sense of life's meaning, feelings of ultimate acceptance, a reason to focus beyond yourself, and a timeless perspective on life's woes. Even if you're not religious, a strong spirituality may offer similar benefits.
20. Count your blessings. People who pause each day to reflect on some positive aspect of their lives (their health, friends, family, freedom, education, etc.) experience a heightened sense of well-being.