According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression affects approximately 14.8 people and is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for those between 18-44 (http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtml).
Numerous studies have demonstrated a direct correlation between our moods and ability to effectively express our emotions and our physical health. Strong evidence exists that negative mood states and/or suppression of negative feelings increases one’s susceptibility to illness, while improved mood and use of adaptive coping skills to deal with life difficulties lead to fewer illnesses, faster recovery, and a longer life span (Salovey, Rothman & Steward, American Psychologist, 1/00). It seems plausible, then, that achieving our most vibrant self is simple and logical, right? Improve our mood, don’t use cigarettes, drugs, or food to deal with problems, and vibrancy abounds! Well, for a few it may be that easy, but for the majority of us it is a journey that requires patience, compassion, and a willingness to explore uncharted inner territory.
Rest assured, however, that reaching wellness isn’t as daunting a task as it may seem. The path to vibrancy begins with nurturance and self-care. Follow these five simple tips and you’ll be spring-boarded toward an exhilarated spirit, healthy body, and overall sense of vibrancy:
1. Get outside–Nature calms the storm in us and offers us a sense of wholeness and connection like no other force. Take advantage of spring: go for a walk on the beach, have a picnic lakeside, or just listen to the songs of springtime birds. Fresh air and spring breezes will invigorate your senses and help you to reconnect with your inner spirit.
2.Use your body–Numerous studies continue to prove that exercise increases positive feelings and decreases negative ones. As we increase our heart rate and get our blood flowing, we release endorphins–chemicals in the brain that are responsible for positive moods. So, if you’ve got a body, use it! Join a gym, take a dance class, go for a walk, practice yoga, or stretch while on your coffee break. Whatever you do, just get moving.
3. Express yourself–Many of us have difficulty dealing with and expressing unpleasant emotions. Stored up, forgotten feelings and experiences often manifest as physical blockages in the body. Self-expression, then, is the key to overall health. Use the creative arts–paint a picture, write poetry, keep a journal of thoughts and feelings throughout day, sing in the shower, or talk to a trusted friend. Whatever you do, don’t keep feelings bottled up inside. The more often you express yourself through creative and healthy means, the easier it will be to deal with life’s many challenges.
4. Slow down and breathe–Save time in your day, even just ten minutes, to practice deep breathing and meditation. Breathing more deeply increases the balance of blood flow throughout your body, while meditation has been linked to increased feelings of happiness. Clearing your mind and listening to your body is one of the best ways you can nurture yourself and connect to your core.
5. Make connections–Get together with friends or make new ones. Social relationships promote health and well-being and lead people to feel positively about themselves and their surroundings. Join a club, visit a museum, or try a new activity and be open to engaging in new social circles.