Exercise your mind, not just your body.
We all want to perform at our best. And not only do we want to be our best physically, it’s important to be at our best mentally as well. Throughout the day, we get stressed, overwhelmed or even feel anxious about what’s next. From business meetings, to big projects and making it home for dinner, there is no shortage of daily happenings affecting our mental state.
Routine exercise, breathing techniques, fresh air and meditation can reduce stress and promote a healthy mind throughout the entire day. Here’s how you can do it …
1. Move Your Body
It’s no secret that movement does the body good. According to research reported by Mayo Clinic, virtually any form of exercise — from yoga to aerobics — can promote stress management. And another study reports working out before heading into the office actually gives you more mental energy to power through the day.
One of the direct benefits of exercise is an increased production of endorphins, the brain’s feel-good hormones. After a run or a game of tennis, you might forget about what you were stressed out about before your workout, as you’re focusing on your body’s movements, not your stress. Finally, working out can increase your confidence, lower the symptoms of mild depression, help you relax, improve your sleep and even promote your optimism and focus.
Take action: The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. So get outside and walk, run, swim or bike to get your heartrate up and your headspace clear.
2. Breathe In, Breathe Out
You have to breathe anyway, so why not make it an effective stress reliever too? Take action with these three simple breathing exercises.
Basic pranayama: Inhale four counts, exhale four counts. Once you’ve got this down, increase to a six count.
Belly breathing: Deep inhale through your nose to inflate your diaphragm (not your chest) with air. Exhale slowly. Repeat this for a few minutes daily. This method stretches out your lungs and lowers your heart rate.
Guided visualization: Take deep breaths while focusing on a pleasant or positive image. It seems easy, but mindfulness requires a quiet inner critic, focus and mental energy.
3. Get Some Fresh Air
Research published in the medical journal Diabetologia shows that the average adult spends up to 50 to 70 percent of his or her time sitting. If you’re a working professional, you might be part of this sitting majority. Research shows the longer we sit, the more likely we are to develop diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer.
Take Action: Stand up and take a walk. Whether you opt to walk to work or go for a brisk afternoon jaunt during your lunch break, fresh air and mild exercise will refresh your attitude, clear your mind and reduce brain fatigue.
4. Reflect with Meditation
In a partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard researchers found that just eight weeks of meditation can alter the brain’s gray matter, improving memory, sense of self and empathy, as well as promoting stress relief. Winding down after a stressful day at the office by practicing meditation can not only help you feel more relaxed but feel better overall.
Take action: Sit in silence, paint, write or take a yoga class to get out of your own head. If you need help, consider guided meditation. Check out the Headspace app.
Remember, mental agility is just as essential for your well-being as it is for your physical health. Keep your mind sharp by giving your brain the food it needs to keep clear and positive.