A new year is upon us! For some, January is a time of relaxation and renewal, providing a much-needed respite from the busy holiday schedule of the past few months. But for others, the crashing halt of “the most wonderful time of the year” can initiate a downward mental spiral that may result in stress, anxiety, and depression.
When chronic stress begins to rule your life, the stress hormone cortisol can wreak havoc throughout your body. Too much cortisol contributes to a slew of health issues, triggering everything from the common cold to cancer to serious mental illness. Important brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine can also take a hit and send your mind into a depressed state. The key to keeping your hormones and brain chemicals under control is to prevent the downward spiral before it starts. And here’s something to smile about right now—there are simple, effective ways to put an end to stressful feelings and boost your mood so you can hold on to good cheer the whole year through!
#1 – Practice Daily Meditation
It’s an age-old stress reliever in eastern countries like India, but practicing daily meditation has only recently started to gain steam in the Western world. Maybe it’s because celebrities like Katy Perry, Oprah, LeBron James, and Clint Eastwood are touting the benefits of 20 to 30-minute meditation sessions to create a sense of balance in their daily routines. The truth is, mindfulness meditation is a beneficial practice that anyone can learn as a way to lower stress levels, combat anxiety, support a positive mood, and contribute to a healthy mental outlook.
In a nutshell, meditation is the practice of clearing the mind and focusing on your breath, a mantra, or an object, while gently brushing all other thoughts out of your consciousness. Experts recommend sitting or lying down in a comfortable position, focusing on deep, steady breathing, and bringing your attention to the present moment. In addition to being a free, effective, and safe stress reliever, meditation is also believed to improve everything from sleep quality to pain tolerance to memory loss. In a study of approximately 3,500 participants, mindfulness meditation helped to reduce psychological stress and stress-related health problems. People experiencing anxiety and depression also showed improvement.
Looking for a community of like-minded people who also want to chill out through meditation? Many yoga studios and fitness centers offer guided classes. Or you can check out apps like Calm, Headspace, and Insight Timer for on-demand meditation sessions that can help you relax before bed each night, or renew your mind each morning.
#2 – Laugh Out Loud
Recent studies show that using a little jocularity to manage depression and anxiety can help reverse the damaging effects of stress hormones. Laughter has been found to alter dopamine and serotonin activity in the brain, boosting levels in those with depression. It also triggers endorphins, those feel-good brain chemicals that can improve mood. In a study that appeared in the journal BioMedica, depressed seniors undergoing “laughter therapy” saw significant improvement in their mood and outlook on life. What’s more, researchers at Indiana State University in Terre Haute have found that a good belly laugh boosts natural-killer cell activity and increases overall immune function.
To get these benefits, try to spend 5 or 10 minutes every day looking for the funny side of life. Create a humor bulletin board and tack up cartoons and jokes that make you chuckle. Collect silly things that make you laugh. Or rent movies that leave you rolling on the floor. It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as it makes you laugh—the harder, the better.
#3 – Adopt an Adaptogen Regimen
Sometimes you simply aren’t able to take time out of your busy day to actively improve your mood. When you need to cope in the midst of chaos, consider adaptogens. These special herbs can help your mind and body resist the effects of stress and anxiety naturally. In essence, adaptogens help you “adapt” to your current situation. Part of their beauty is their ability to give you energy when you’re lagging and to calm you down when you’re feeling anxious or stressed. Two of the most effective adaptogens are ashwagandha and rhodiola.
Ashwagandha is a versatile adaptogen whose benefits date back thousands of years. It supports a seemingly endless list of benefits for the body, including healthy sleep, increased energy, enhanced libido, and improved muscle strength. In the face of stress, ashwagandha can help you sustain your mental and physical energy, without any unwanted side effects like jitters or insomnia. The most effective ashwagandha available is a standardized extract called KSM-66. In a 2016 study, participants under chronic stress were given KSM-66 daily, which significantly reduced their cortisol levels in just eight weeks.
Rhodiola is another popular adaptogen known for its amazing ability to be stimulating at low doses and calming at higher doses. Traditional uses for rhodiola include anxiety, depression, and other emotional imbalances, which makes it the perfect supplement for someone dealing with the symptoms of stress. In a clinical study on stress-related fatigue, participants received rhodiola extract or a placebo for 28 days. At the end of the study, the rhodiola group experienced improved mental performance with significant reductions in fatigue.
#4 – Stock Up on Echinacea (for anxiety!)
Not to be confused with the echinacea recognized for fighting cold and flu viruses, this special echinacea extract, known as EP107, is extremely effective at relieving stress, anxiety, and nervous tension. How? It contains echinacosides (brain-specific compounds with the unique ability to safely bind to brain receptors) that trigger feelings of calm and relaxation. This amazing extract has been shown to match the symptom relief of prescription anti-anxiety medications—without the side effects!
One of the best things about EP107 echinacea extract is that the results are fast-acting, which makes it a favorite solution for people suffering from chronic stress. In one published human clinical trial, this special echinacea extract was tested with individuals experiencing increased anxiety and tension. After just one day, the participants noticed a significant reduction in stress and anxiety, with an even greater reduction in just seven days. If you’re looking for a safe, natural way to say goodbye to stress, anxiety, nervousness, and tension in the new year, try EP107.