We all know that stress can be harmful, but did you know that stress can also cause you to hang on to extra, unwanted pounds? Not only does stress cause us to make poor food choices, it can also influence how our bodies decide to process and store fat.
Problems arise when our daily stressors trigger our stress response. This means that we’re constantly on alert, and too much stress for too long can result in an imbalance in our metabolisms.
There are few situations in modern life (unless you have just come face to face with a hungry bear in the mountains) where a full-fledged stress response is optimal. Taking a final exam requires sitting in a chair, not running away from an enemy. The focus on survival that stress and hormone release causes generally results in poor decision-making and concentration—the very things that help you to be successful at work, sports, and in your personal relationships.
In the short term it is important to manage the “fight or flight” response. A step to take in coping with stress is identifying and then taking action to reduce your stressors. If you are constantly overscheduled and being run ragged you must do one of two things: Either change your mental response to your busyness by reminding yourself that you are choosing to and looking forward to participating in these commitments or release some of the commitments and choose to honour your life.
Chronic, unmanaged stress is linked with weight gain. Stress induces secretion of cortisol (a hormone produced by the adrenal gland), which increases abdominal fat. The connection between weight gain and stress is just one more reason to take control of your happiness and reduce the effects of stress.
Our happiness is linked with our health; happier people are healthier and have stronger immune systems. Making a commitment to becoming happier and reduce stress will give you the inner strength to manage your weight and ward off illness and disease at the same time. A double win!
Here are three ways to reduce stress and increase positive feelings:
1) Keep a gratitude journal. Every night write down five things you are grateful for that happened during the day. Give thanks for all the wonderful things in your life. Give thanks that you have a bed or a computer or a bus pass. Anything you currently have is worth giving thanks for! Just think how you would feel if you lost everything to a theft or fire and you will discover that you are lucky to have them.
2) Practice positive visualization. Use your imagination to propel you to a more compelling future. Have a job interview coming up? Imagine answering and asking questions in a calm and intelligent way. Create rapport with the interviewer in your mind. See yourself and them smiling, interested and open.
3) Practice daily forgiveness. Letting go of grudges and becoming a more forgiving person increases your happiness and reduces stress. Your desire for revenge will increase your cortisol and stress chemicals. Forgiveness is not something you give away; it is a gift you give yourself. If one does not do the necessary forgiveness work, the hurts of the past compile and lead to more anger, resentment and increase physical and emotional ailments. Forgiveness is not condoning wrongdoing or bad behaviour. Forgiveness frees you to lead a happier and more joy-filled life.
Suffering is optional. Suffering is stress. Anger and jealousy are bad for your heart and blood vessels. When you are happy, your body creates soothing chemicals. These chemicals inspire you to eat more healthfully and take care of yourself physically. All of this self-care allows you to release unwanted weight. Practicing these potent tools will help you to improve your health, help you to achieve a healthy weight, and will improve your life as a whole.
About the Author: Elizabeth Manuel is Canada’s leading happiness expert and the founder of Metamind Consulting. She prides herself on banishing your inner grouch and enhancing your greatness. www.elizabethmanuel.com