If you are like most people living in the modern world, stress has become part of your day to day life. When we are stressed, it’s quite easy to develop negative thinking patterns because we become frustrated by our challenges and frequent feelings of being overwhelmed. This negative outlook then makes it even harder for us to manage those challenges and move forward and break through the stress cycle.
Practicing positive thinking helps to focus on our strengths and accomplishments, which increases happiness and motivation. This, in turn, allows us to spend more time making progress, and less time feeling down and stuck.
Top 7 tips that can help you shift into more positive thinking patterns:
- Make Time to Exercise
- Remind Yourself of the Things You Are Grateful For
- Refrain from Using Absolutes
- Squash the “ANTs”
- Increase Your Social Activity
- Use Pattern Interrupts to Combat Rumination
Regular exercise gets your blood moving which releases endorphins and can instantly improve your mood (i). Regular exercise enhances your sleep quality which can be negatively affected by stress (ii). Exercise has also been shown to make you crave a healthier diet (iii). It’s much easier to be positive when you take good care of yourself and are eating well, exercising, and getting enough rest.
Stresses and challenges don’t seem quite as bad when you are constantly reminding yourself of the things that are right in life. Taking just 60 seconds a day to stop and appreciate the good things will make a huge difference.
Have you ever told a partner “You’re ALWAYS late!” or complained to a friend “You NEVER call me!”? Thinking and speaking in absolutes like ‘always’ and ‘never’ makes the situation seem worse than it is, and programs your brain into believing that certain people are incapable of delivering.
In his book “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life,” Dr. Daniel Amen talks about “ANTs” – Automatic Negative Thoughts. These are the bad thoughts that are usually reactionary, like “Those people are laughing, they must be talking about me,” or “The boss wants to see me? It must be bad!” When you notice these thoughts, realize that they are nothing more than ANTs and squash them!
You don’t have to be an expert to know the benefits of a good hug. Positive physical contact with friends, loved ones, and even pets, is an instant pick me-up. Positive physical contact can help release oxytocin and lower cortisol which can help lower blood pressure and heart rate (iv). One research study on this subject had a waitress touch some of her customers on the arm as she handed them their checks. She received higher tips from these customers than from the ones she didn’t touch!
Social support from friends and family can help get you through stressful times (v). By increasing social activity, you decrease loneliness. Surround yourself with healthy, happy people, and their positive energy will affect you in a positive way!
If you find yourself ruminating, a great way to stop it is to interrupt the pattern and force yourself to do something completely different. Rumination is like hyper-focus on something negative. It’s never productive, because it’s not rational or solution-oriented, it’s just excessive worry and stress. Try changing your physical environment – go for a walk or sit outside. You could also call a friend, pick up a book, or turn on some music.
Stress Busting Foods
What are some of the best foods to eat for stress?
- Fatty fish such as wild salmon and sardines contain omega-3 fats which have anti-inflammatory properties that may help counteract the negative effects of stress (vi).
- Dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach and Swiss chard are rich in folate that is needed to produce dopamine and serotonin- pleasure inducing neurotransmitters that helps keep you calm (vii).
- Fermented foods such as kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut contain beneficial bacteria that may positively impact your mood and brain health (viii).
- Seeds such as flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds are great sources of Magnesium, which acts as a precursor for neurotransmitters like serotonin, important for improving mood (viiii).
To find out more about how nutrition impacts your health, Koru offers comprehensive individualized nutrition programs.
The key to busting stress is making sure that you look after YOU. Have a look at your work life, your personal life and social life to see if there are any areas you can create more happiness. You might be surprised on what you find.
PASSION FLOWER & LAVENDAR TEA RECIPE
Sipping a warm cup of herbal tea can help tame stress. Try the recipe below next time your mind and body need calming.
- 2 parts passion flower
- 1 part lavender blossoms
- 2 parts catnip
- 1 part chamomile
- 2 parts hibiscus flowers
- Mix the herbs together, making the batch as small or as large as you would like.
- Boil water and pour it into a mug. Place 1 teaspoon of your blend in a tea ball and place it in the mug.
- Allow to steep for 5-7 minutes.
*recipe from mommypotamus.com
i. Regular exercise, anxiety, depression and personality: A population-based study. M.H.M.De MoorA.L.BeemJ.H.StubbeD.I.BoomsmaE.J.C.De Geus. Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit, van der Boechorststraat 1, 1081 BT, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
ii. Sleep Med. 2010 Oct;11(9):934-40. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2010.04.014. Epub 2010 Sep 1.
Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia.
Reid KJ1, Baron KG, Lu B, Naylor E, Wolfe L, Zee PC.
iii. Wasantha P. Jayawardene, Mohammad R. Torabi & David K. Lohrmann (2016) Exercise in Young Adulthood with Simultaneous and Future Changes in Fruit and Vegetable Intake, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 35:1, 59-67, DOI: 10.1080/07315724.2015.1022268
iv. Biol Psychiatry. 2009 May 1;65(9):728-31. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2008.10.011. Epub 2008 Nov 22. Intranasal oxytocin increases positive communication and reduces cortisol levels during couple conflict. Ditzen B1, Schaer M, Gabriel B, Bodenmann G, Ehlert U, Heinrichs M.
v. J Natl Med Assoc. 2009 Mar;101(3):243-50. The association between perceived social support and health among patients at a free urban clinic. Cadzow RB1, Servoss TJ.
vi. Antidepressant-like effects of uridine and omega-3 fatty acids are potentiated by combined treatment in rats Carlezon, William A. et al. Biological Psychiatry , Volume 57 , Issue 4 , 343 – 350