For many of us, stress and anxiety are chronic afflictions that require daily management. One approach to stress management is to be considerate about sensory stimulus and how it affects your brain. All five of your senses can contribute to stress-relief, and we’ve got the science to prove it. Read on to find out about the best things to put into your eyes, ears, nose, and mouth to reduce chronic stress.
For centuries, humans have used pleasant-smelling essential oils to accentuate yoga practices and massage therapy rituals. And while aromatherapy has serious old-school roots, modern science confirms the stress-relieving effects of certain odors. For instance, a 2005 study by the Medical University of Vienna found that the scent of both lavender and orange oils alleviated anxiety in patients awaiting dental exams. When scent molecules from essential odors meet the smell receptors in your nose, the hypothalamus (the brain’s emotional control center) releases hormones that calm you down. So follow your nose towards lower stress!
Our visual environment has an impact on our stress levels - looking at clutter and other unfortunate visual stimuli can raise anxiety. Additionally, exposure to different kinds of light over the course of the day has consequences for our sleep cycle. And lack of sleep is the cousin of stress! It might seem intuitive but here’s a good rule of thumb: sunlight = good, blue light = bad. Fifteen minutes of sunlight in the morning will help reset your circadian rhythm, leading to better sleep at night. On the other hand, a Harvard study found that looking at blue light waves that radiate from screens and interior lighting suppresses melatonin production and can shift circadian rhythm by up to three hours. That’s a serious chunk! Avoid screen time at bed to wake up well-rested and de-stressed.
Science confirms what grandma always told you - a hug from a loved one will turn that frown upside down. Gentle touch and physical acknowledgement from the people we care about releases feel-good hormones that keep us calm and resilient in the face of stress. But if mom isn’t around for a reassuring embrace, consider turning towards mother nature. This sounds far out, but think about it - never before in human history have we been subject to a constant stream of unnatural frequencies emitted by technology (WiFi, Bluetooth, our cell phones...you name it). These frequencies disrupt our body's natural cycles and lead to a general feeling of physical anxiousness and discontent. But direct contact with earth (by walking barefoot or even hugging a tree!) normalizes these severe frequencies in our body and helps our brain cells function as they should. The result? All-natural tranquility.
You may have encountered binaural beats on music and video streaming apps - these mellow tones have racked up millions of plays. As it turns out, they’re not just a passing internet fad. There’s serious science that supports these calming sounds. A binaural beat occurs when two different frequencies are played - one in each ear. Your brain splits the difference of these distinct frequencies and processes that sound as a new tone. Let’s say your right ear hears one beat at 220 Hz and your left ear simultaneously hears another beat at 210 Hz. What your brain actually registers is a 10 Hz tone. A 10 Hz frequency produces alpha brain waves, which allow your brain to slip right into a flow state!
When we’re stressed, we might have the impulse to turn to salty and sweet comfort foods to alleviate our sour mood. And while this might feel good in the moment, an over reliance on food as a coping mechanism can backfire, leading to insulin spikes which disturb our brain chemistry. Instead, consider choosing a favorite flavor of mint or gum. Pop one to center yourself in times of stress. You might also want to carry a bottle of lemon water or herbal tea which brings you happiness. Speaking of tea...we’d be remiss to not mention that Happy Being® is formulated to promote gut health and fight inflammation, which both impact stress levels. So drink up & calm down because stress-relief is a bottle away.