Attractive woman holding her headThe more researchers investigate how stress destroys the body, the more they realize it is one of, if not the, greatest risk factors for disease and death. That’s why many healthcare experts say reducing stress is the best thing we can do to improve our health, even more important than diet and smoking.

Scientists tell us there is a direct link between stress and cancer, heart attacks, and stroke. Stress also leads to obesity and the fallout from being overweight such as diabetes and arthritis. Stress even contributes to Alzheimer’s disease. It also weakens our immune system, so when we’re stressed-out we’re more likely to get sick from a cold or the flu.

The reason stress is so deadly is because when we experience negative emotions our body releases adrenaline and cortisol, which over time, shut-down our body’s ability to function normally. Stress also increases damaging inflammation.

Stress comes from feeling negative emotions like worry, fear, and anger. However it may surprise you to know that the most destructive form of stress is the combination of grief and loneliness, including depression.

The good news is that there are many ways to effectively reduce stress.

Exercise

Exercise is one of the best ways to effectively reduce the deadly effects of stress. Exercise increases oxygen levels throughout the body, which relieves stress and stimulates endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. Exercise also increases brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, which help to reduce anxiety and minimize feelings of depression. This really can be anything that gets you moving. My wife and I for instance, have taken up bike riding. We happened to live on the West Coast, so we just have beach cruiser bikes. We will ride 10 miles but it is flat. Still you are getting a lot of good exercise. It does not have to be at the gym or running 5 miles.

Prayer

You can also reduce stress by regular prayer. This is just a personal recommendation from me. I am religious and feel this definitely helps me out during the day when I can’t climb on a bike or do all the other things that help. A quiet and quick prayer slows me down and re-centers me.

In one experiment, people who meditated over an eight week period made more antibodies than those who didn’t. they also maintained a stronger immune system four months later.

Forgive

Un-forgiveness is a powerful form of stress. It destroys you from inside. Therefore, some medical facilities actually use forgiveness therapy as a form of treatment for diseases like cancer. Many people have difficulty forgiving others because they think in doing so, they are condoning, or approving-of, whatever the person did to them. The truth is, if you were wronged, forgiveness does not mean agreeing with what has been done to you. Forgiveness means LETTING GO of it, not dwelling on it, or holding it against the person.

Connect

Interacting with others in a way that lets them know you care about them is an excellent stress-reducing mechanism. When we are in social situations, such as care giving or volunteering it provides us internally with a sense of well-being. If you are lonely or grieving, getting your focus off of yourself and onto others less fortunate is a great way to lift your spirit and alleviate stress. A study of people between the ages of 18 and 55 found that those who had six or more close friends were four times better at fighting off viruses than people with fewer connections.

Touch

A simple touch from another person reduces stress. A gentle hug releases the stress-relieving hormone, oxytocin.

Laugh!

According to various studies, laughter activates disease-fighting T-cells and increases the production of immune-strengthening antibodies. Even just thinking about a funny even can have a positive effect. In one study, men were told three days in advance that they were going to watch a funny video Their stress levels dropped immediately. This is my favorite because one time during an extremely stressful moment, I literally left the public area to a private area and then just started laughing. Over nothing. But it worked!

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The more researchers investigate how stress destroys the body, the more they realize it is one of, if not the, greatest risk factors for disease and death. That's why many healthcare experts say reducing stress is the best thing we can do to improve our health, even more important...