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3 Daily Habits to Boost Mood and Reduce Stress



This past week has not been easy for me. I hurt my back on Friday morning and was down and out all week long. I hadn't had back pain for years, and there I was on the ground not able to get back up because of a spasm, or a pulled muscle, or something! After a few minutes I gathered my composure and crawled to a nearby railing to help myself stand back up. I wasn't able to do much at all for the first five or six days and then things started to improve over the past few days.

I had to cancel classes, reschedule a workshop, and put on hold some upcoming projects because of this injury, which I think was mostly caused by an increase in time spent sitting! I had also felt a slight 'tweak' a few weeks prior but I didn't do anything about it, that is until it got so bad everything just went out on me! We'll talk about the importance of looking after your body and avoiding injury and burnout in another blog post..

Today, I want to talk about what I did this past week to help me cope with feeling down because of this injury and the sadness I felt for having to put my work on hold. I usually practice these habits on a daily basis anyway, but these habits became even more important over the past week, except for the last one which I couldn't really do until yesterday.

I encourage you to choose even just one habit to try over the next week and see how you feel. 

Practice Morning Pages 

Morning Pages are three pages of long hand writing done first thing in the morning. You can write about anything that crosses your mind, especially things that may be bothering you. The pages are only ever viewed by you and you don’t need to worry about perfect spelling or grammar. 

This writing exercise was developed by Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist's Way. She explains that practicing morning pages can allow you to approach your day with more clarity and less anxiety. They can be a place to rant or express your emotions. They can also increase creativity and generate ideas. 

I have been practicing morning pages for years and this daily practice has truly become a habit and part of my morning routine. I often find that writing down my thoughts first thing in the morning allows me to clear my mind and set positive intentions for the day ahead. I’ll often have a burst of inspiration during morning pages and I’ll generate new ideas and new ways to approach certain situations. I love starting my day on this foot with a coffee and a quiet house, just as the sun starts to rise. 

Grab a notebook and pen, and just start writing. You can also write, “I don’t know what to write” if you feel stuck. Try it for a week and see how you feel, it has helped me in so many ways over the years and I highly recommend giving it a go! 

Express Gratitude
Expressing Gratitude is strongly associated with increased levels of happiness and positivity. Studies have shown that practicing daily gratitude can provide significant shifts in mental and physical health. 
When we are thankful for what we have, crucial neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin, are released which are responsible for boosting mood. Positive psychology research shows that those who write about gratitude delight in good experiences, are more optimistic and feel more content in their lives. 
You can practice gratitude in a variety of ways. You can write three things you’re grateful for each day, tell someone close to you how much they mean to you, thank someone for something with a letter or a call, notice the beauty of nature each day, give thanks before a meal, and the list goes on.
I use a gratitude journal each morning called the 5 Minute Journal where I write down 3 things I’m grateful for each day. The journal also provides space for daily affirmations and intention setting for the day ahead. The daily habit of writing what I’m grateful for has allowed me to focus on the positive things in my life and helps to shift my mindset to be more optimistic as I approach the day. This practice is part of how I cultivate a happier, more present life.
Grab a notebook and pen and start by writing down 3 things you're grateful for each day. 

Go for a Daily Walk

Going for a walk outdoors, especially in green space, has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety and improve overall mood. A recent study shows that walking in nature provides increased mental restoration and relaxation than walking indoors. Additionally, walking as a form of exercise, both indoors and outdoors, has been shown to reduce stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and increase endorphins, chemicals in the brain that act as natural mood boosters. 

I know I always feel better even after just a 15 minute walk around the block, and now this concept is also backed by science. I know it can be difficult to motivate yourself to get out the door when you’re not feeling your best, but I think seeing that science reinforces this concept helps to motivate me to take action even when I don’t feel like it. 

Next time you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or having a bad day in general, get out the door for a short walk and know that this helps on a cellular level!

 References:

Cognitive benefits of walking in natural versus built environments

Does spending time outdoors reduce stress?

Gratitude and depressive symptoms: the role of positive reframing and positive emotion 

 


5 comments


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  • Cindy Savoy

    This is very good information, Kaitlyn Thank you. I’m going to do it. I know walking is helpful, I used to walk a lot.


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