Mind & Body

Stressed Out?...Slow Down.

All the dashing around we do doesn't just make us feel frantic, it also ages us faster and can lead to illnesses like heart disease and diabetes.

Stressed Out?...Slow Down.
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Research published in the last two years shows that certain slow activities–like gentle yoga or gardening–can reduce your stress level and blood pressure and improve your body's ability to regulate sugar. Past studies have shown that other habits like meditation can help reduce chronic pain and enhance mental clarity. The first step to finding "slowness"is to clear some room in your life–watch less TV or spend less time browsing at the mall. "Jettison the clutter that clogs up your schedule,” says Carl Honoré, author of In Praise of Slowness (HarperOne, 2004). "When you focus on the things that are important at work or at home you can enjoy those things more,"he says. You can also take a more relaxed approach to the things you already do and adopt new habits that require mindfulness. "It's one thing to say you're going to slow down, but a slow hobby helps you put those words into practice,” says Honoré. To get you started we've come up with seven ways to destress and reenergize.

1. Become a Gardener
Caring for flowering plants may help you relax and get grounded. Researchers at Japan's Utsunomiya University found repotting plants lowered fatigue and promoted physiological relaxation in study participants, and that working with flowers seemed to have a stronger positive effect than working with nonflowering plants.
HEALTH BENEFITS Research shows that exposure to plants–and even just looking at them–can reduce blood pressure, increase concentration and productivity, and help you recover from illness, says Andy Kaufman, Ph.D., assistant professor of tropical plant and soil sciences at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. He cites a classic 1984 study, published in Science, which showed that even the view of a green garden helped surgical patients recovering from gall bladder surgery. Among a group of 46 patients in a Pennsylvania hospital, the 23 who had rooms with windows facing greenery had shorter postoperative stays and needed fewer pain–relieving analgesics than the 23 whose windows faced a brick wall.
GETTING STARTED If you live in an apartment or don't have much room to garden, invest in the EarthBox (earthbox.com), a self–watering container garden that comes with potting soil and fertilizer. "Even if you have a brown thumb, you can grow things [in it],"says David Ellis, American Horticulture Society spokesperson. You could also join a community garden; visit ahs.org, the American Horticulture Society's website, for more info.