Taking a moment to regain perspective before reacting to a stressful event may not only make you feel better at the time—it may also contribute to better health over a lifetime. Researchers at Pennsylvania State University, University Park, studied the relationship between people’s reactions to stressful events and their overall health 10 years later.
Mind-body fitness pros who are trained in relaxation techniques may want to teach clients these skills as part of a comprehensive wellness strategy. Stress impacts both physical and mental well-being. Excess stress can be a causal factor in certain health issues, or it can worsen conditions that are already present. Research findings support using relaxation techniques as part of an overall treatment for stress-related disorders.
Think of a recent time you felt stressed. Maybe it was during an argument with your spouse, or a meltdown with your kids. Maybe you were stuck in traffic and late for an important meeting. Or maybe you were lying in bed, worrying about work. Whatever the cause of your stress, your body and brain were almost certainly experiencing the same thing: boiling blood pressure, a churning stomach, tight muscles and a racing mind.
Massage therapy after open-heart surgery can improve patients’ mood and may reduce medication use to curb stress and anxiety. Reducing stress is an important consideration in preventing exacerbation of a heart condition after surgery.
In the first study to tease out the effects of different components of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, researchers have identified yoga and sitting meditation as particularly beneficial practices for promoting health among older adults.
“The next time you are stuck in traffic or are experiencing some other type of stress, you might try to hold your face in a smile for a moment,” says Sarah D. Pressman, PhD, from the University of Kansas, a study author of research on the potential health benefits of smiling. Findings published in Psychological Science (2012; doi: 10.1177/0956797612445312.), the journal of the Association for Psychological Science, show that the act of smiling, independent of feelings of happiness, can reduce stress.
Mind-body movement professionals may want to suggest mindful exercise for their clients with arthritis, since research is showing that mind-body practices can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. A study published in the journal of the American College of Rheumatology, Arthritis Care & Research (2012; doi:10.1002/acr.21685), noted that one-third of U.S. adults aged 45 and older who have arthritis also experience anxiety or depression. In this population, anxiety is almost twice as common as depression.
The emerging field of yoga therapy is gaining more support from current research efforts. In the journal Medical Hypothesis ( 2012; doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2012.01.021), investigators from leading U.S. medical schools have proposed a theory to explain why yoga practice is beneficial for diverse medical conditions. This theory can serve as a basis for including yoga-based practices as a complementary therapy in prevention and treatment programs for a number of stress-related conditions.
When you feel unwell a lot of the time, it can be a challenge to take the healthy steps you know would benefit you. New studies suggest, however, that people with chronic diseases can better succeed at making healthy choices if they apply techniques to help them create happy feelings (positive affect) and to affirm their self-worth (self-affirmation).