Calm Down! Calm Down! – 5 Good Reasons to Relax the Brain and Body
Today’s world is an exciting place and time to live in. There are almost limitless opportunities available to us. We can study to have the career we want, work anywhere in the world, travel, save to buy the things we want, have relationships as we desire and start and care for families of our own.
Digital communication and social media mean that there is no necessity for us to be alone. We can shop online whenever we want to and become involved in games and virtual reality at the press of a button. We are truly part of a 24 hour, 7 day a week active society.
Every hour of every day can be used productively to better our lives. Downtime is no longer expected or normal, as it was in years gone by. For many years, our ancestors enjoyed ‘time-out’ either after dark or on religious days. This has become a thing of the past – for good and for bad.
Although there are certainly benefits of our active society, the costs and consequences must also be considered. The reality is that, just like a computer, our brains aren’t designed to be constantly active. Apart from our nightly sleep, we still benefit from taking time to calm down and relax during waking hours. Being able to ‘unplug’ from the constant demands around us can help us to lead more healthy and rewarding lives.
Yes, it does feel good to be able to conquer our problems each day. However, sometimes the sheer volume of the decisions we make can lead to confused thinking and skewed perspectives. Clearing the mind of clutter and eliminating unnecessary distractions enables us to focus. In a focused state, we can make better decisions, avoid mistakes and function with more mental clarity.
Taking time to relax the brain and body, perhaps using meditation or mindfulness techniques, can help us to see a clearer path through life’s challenges. Relaxation enables us to put problems into perspective and to prioritise. Some things just aren’t worth worrying about in the grand scheme of things!
Protect your Heart
It’s now well-known that stress can seriously increase our risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks and other heart problems. “There are studies to show that stress is comparable to other risk factors that we traditionally think of as major, like hypertension, poor diet and lack of exercise,” says Kathi Heffner, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Rochester Center for Mind-Body Research in New York.
Prolonged periods of stress cause hormones to be released in the body that impact on how the heart works. This can cause long-term damage if not addressed. Intense stress can trigger so much adrenaline to be released that a person can suffer from heart attack like symptoms or even cause physical heart failure.
Taking steps to reduce and manage stress by learning how to relax the brain and body is key to looking after the heart.
Catch Fewer Colds
Many of us are aware that we seem to succumb to more illnesses – colds, coughs, tummy bugs and sore throats – when we feel run down or exhausted.
A leading name in research into the effects of stress, Sheldon Cohen PhD, a psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has shown that chronic ongoing stress actually doubles a person’s risk of catching a cold or similar virus.
Cohen’s research suggests that this is down to the body’s ability to fight inflammation, which is adversely affected by stress.
If you find yourself constantly fighting off viruses or you seem to catch everything that’s going around, reducing your stress levels could help. Learning to effectively relax the brain and body is key to reducing stress and could enable you to lead a more productive and healthier life – which in turn helps to break the cycle of stress which contributes to your illnesses.
Protect Against Depression and Anxiety
The World Health Organisation estimates that 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Depression and anxiety are now the leading cause of disability. Experts in the field think that it’s no coincidence that our rates of depression and anxiety have increased comparatively to our stress levels. Stress is increased by an inability to relax the brain and body.
As well as making the sufferer’s life feel unpleasant, depression and anxiety can seriously affect a person’s ability to function. Normal daily decisions and tasks may feel impossible. Sufferers may stop looking after themselves and their dependents properly and may find it impossible to work. In serious cases, self-harm or suicide are very real possibilities.
It’s important we protect ourselves against these debilitating psychological conditions, especially if there is a medical history of either. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that learning to relax the brain and body is the best method of limiting stress. Avoiding depression and anxiety can literally be a matter of life or death.
Help with Slimming
An increasing percentage of the population are becoming overweight or obese. It’s becoming apparent that our weight is directly linked to many health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and strokes. It’s vital to our health that we are able to maintain a healthy body weight.
When we are unable to relax the brain and body, our stress levels increase. Stress causes a hormone called cortisol to be released into the bloodstream and this increases the appetite. This is why many of us comfort eat. As well as increasing the appetite, it’s been shown that cortisol makes us reach for unhealthy foods – foods high in fat and sugar. Foods in this group are even more likely to cause us to pile on the pounds.
Taking time to relax the brain and body can help us keep our bodies slim. Not only will relaxation reduce the amount of comfort eating we engage in, it will also help us to see the situation with more clarity. Clarity enables us to plan our diets more effectively and address our negative eating habits.
Relaxation has many, many benefits – both physical and psychological. Our busy lives make it easy for us to overlook the importance of ‘time-out’ and being able to relax the brain and body. However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that learning to calm down and relax properly can help us to live longer and happier lives. Make it your priority to learn this vital life skill and prepare yourself to reap the many benefits.