Slashing your Stress Level in the Great Outdoors

As a culture, we are used to accepting stress as part of life. What we don’t often recognize are the physical effects of allowing stress to accompany us throughout our days. Your entire (BodyMind) system is directly affected by the physical, mental and emotional stresses of your daily life. Spending time outside enjoying nature is one of the most basic ways to help reduce your stress level and boost your immune system, a critical aspect to overall health and well being. Studies show that our environment contributes up to 70% of our stress. Unfortunately, most people spend over 90 percent of their waking hours indoors. In today’s automated world of technology and urban living, our bonds with nature have been fractured and people are more rushed, stressed, overweight and depressed then ever before. Seldom do people find themselves enjoying the outdoors and reaping the health benefits of serenity and calm that nature has to offer.
Take a moment to think about peace and tranquility. Really sit back and allow yourself to meditate on what serenity looks and feels like to you. What kinds of images came to your mind? Did you think about watching television, or shopping, or traffic? Highly unlikely! For most people, thinking about tranquility and peace brings forth images of nature. Maybe you imagined yourself in a mountain meadow, or alongside the crashing surf. Nature soothes our mind and calms our senses. This is a deeply rooted comfort. For as long as we have been evolving as a species, Mother Nature has been nurturing us by helping us to maintain our psychological, physical and emotional health.
Real Relaxation Isn’t Found on the Couch
Some people think relaxation and stress reduction consists of lying back in an easy chair and watching TV, or having a cocktail with friends, or perhaps taking in a movie. All this may seem and even feel relaxing—but there is a big difference between this kind of and the ability to reach much deeper and revitalizing state of relaxation. Regular exercise, with attention to your mental and physical fitness—especially in the outdoors, surrounded by nature’s calming effects—can bring you deep, restorative relaxation. This restorative relaxation is the immune-system boosting, stress-reducing kind—the kind you’ll never get on the couch, or even at the gym.

Stress Reduction Exercises
Use the following exercises when you find yourself feeling tense, anxious, and stressed. These exercises can be especially useful at the outset of a workout, when you’re trying to shake off the effects of your busy day.
Body Clench
•    Clench your fists, arms chest, abs, glutes and legs.
•    Hold for a count of ten.
•    Slowly release, and let your whole body go completely limp. Repeat three or more times.
Fist Clench with Diaphragmatic Breath
•    Clench your fists tightly as you take a deep diaphragmatic breath, and hold it for a count of ten.
•    Exhale thoroughly and completely, as you let your body go limp.

Tip: To help find a rhythm of deep breathing and positive emotion, try using this mantra as you inhale and exhale: “Positive in, Negative out”

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