Try these techniques to release happy hormones and live a happier and fuller life.
The stress hormone, cortisol, is important to keep you safe in stressful situations. This hormone, also known as the fight or flight hormone, is produced by your body when you sense a danger near you like a car accident about to happen or a glass falling from a cupboard. What happens exactly? Cortisol signals your brain to plan an exit route to escape the danger. But with time, such heightened cortisol levels can cause several health issues, such as chronic stress, fatigue, immunity disorders and high blood pressure. If you’re wondering how you can control this stress hormone, here are the top five proven ways I practice and recommend to balance your cortisol levels.
1. Focus on your happy hormones
To reduce stress, focus on increasing your happy hormones in the body, such as dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins. When you indulge in self-care or complete an important task, you release dopamine. When you receive or give love, hold hands, get a compliment and play with your pet, you release oxytocin. Serotonin is released when you spend time in nature or calm yourself down through cycling, sitting under a tree, running or swimming. And finally, endorphins help deal with pain. You can release this hormone by laughing, eating dark chocolate or smelling nice fragrances.
2. Prioritize your sleeping schedule
Your body undergoes restoration and rejuvenation when you sleep. So, when you are sleep deprived, i.e., getting less than seven hours of sleep, your brain and endocrine system face malfunctions, which contributes to increased stress levels in the body. Make sure that you routinely get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Also, when you feel your cortisol levels are rising, go for a quick nap to calm your mind and body. You can put on calming and meditative music as you sleep.
3. Focus on unprocessed foods, dark leafy greens and probiotics
Many of us tend to overindulge when stressed. Well, once this becomes a habit, it’s highly challenging to break. The food that you were once consuming to calm yourself has now become the reason for your rising cortisol levels and is negatively impacting your health. To keep stress hormones in check, cut out as many processed foods as possible. Include dark leafy greens in every meal, add 4-6 servings of probiotic-rich foods (trust us—it's doable, kombucha counts as 2 servings, a tablespoon of kimchi is 1 serving, and in some yogurt).
4. Drink up
But only water or fermented drinks. It’s important to let go of alcohol, soda and sugary drinks like mixed drinks at Starbucks until your body recovers from high cortisol levels. Such beverages add to the production of the stress hormone, whereas water does the opposite. When you consume 7-8 glasses of water every day, your body functions well by helping you digest better and removing toxins. But when you are dehydrated, it takes it as a stress trigger and increases cortisol levels. So, even if you feel your stress levels are rising, drink a glass or two of water to ground yourself.
5. Let nature take care of you
Nature is known to be one of the best stress busters. So, when you feel panicky or stressed, take a walk in a park, barefoot on the grass. You can also take a light walk for 20-minutes around your block to cool down and feel well again. Make this a part of your daily routine to keep cortisol levels under check.
High cortisol levels can shrink brain cells, cause premature aging of your brain, lead to memory loss and increase inflammation. So, use these techniques to prevent such situations and enjoy a healthier and happier life.