Research into the mind-body connection has paved the way for an old motto, with a new twist: You are what you feel.
Feeling stressed not only puts you emotionally on edge, it raises blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, and contributes to all sorts of physical ailments. Likewise, feeling peaceful and happy can go a long way toward good health.
So Discovery Health Online asked some "feel good" experts to share their trade secrets. But try not to whip through these tips like another batch of daily chores. They're to be savored consciously, like a relaxing cup of tea.
"This isn't a feel-good checklist or report card," says Deborah Issokson, a licensed psychologist in Watertown, Mass. "If you're not slowing down enough to acknowledge what you're doing, it won't work."
Start Your Day with Wheaties for the Soul
Before getting out of bed, resist the impulse to propel yourself into the day's frenzy. Instead, lie still and take a few moments to experience how you feel and the sensations around you — how your head feels resting on the pillow, how the comforter feels on your body, or how the sun feels on your face.
"Mindful awakening" is how Eva Selhub, medical director of the Mind/Body Medical Clinics at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, puts it, and while the concept may sound corny, it can help set the tone for the rest of the day.
"Mindful awakening helps elicit the relaxation response, which calms the mind and the body to a point where any stresses that come your way, you can deal with them rather than freaking out," says Dr. Selhub.
Dr. Selhub says stress is usually the result of "negative babble"...so by quieting the mind, you can quiet the negative thoughts so that the stress response isn't elicited in the first place." She says the average American experiences the fight-or-flight response, characterized by an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tension, 50 times a day.
Try to remember how your feelings as you awoke felt, so that if anxiety starts creeping into your day, "you can go back to that feeling." Or use mindfulness (which is simply being aware and present in the moment) throughout the day to keep you better grounded. It'll help you communicate better with others, too.