In our journey to live a happy and fulfilling life, where we seek to avoid pain and to gain pleasure (and hopefully to leave the world better than it was when we started), we often get caught up in the day to day tasks of basic survival and in fulfilling our hierarchy of needs. We often neglect taking the time to learn about and to create a body and mind that will take care of us as we grow older and one that helps us to achieve our goals.
We become so bogged down, or so stressed, that we easily lose focus from day to day and stop focusing on our dreams and on the outcomes we are truly after for our vision for life. Instead, we end up focusing on Facebook, games for distraction, negativity in the media, the latest gossip, or worse, we turn to drugs/alcohol to change our state.
While there are certainly many physical stressors out there that we must learn to avoid and work through, most of life’s stressors are mental and emotional. These emotional stressors cause our bodies to release a hormone called cortisol. When large amounts of cortisol are secreted by the adrenal glands during the high peaks and long duration of dealing with these emotional stressors, not only do they have an impact on our physical bodies by affecting our muscles, joints, bones, fat gain, blood pressure, immune system, and how we age, but also on our state of mind and how we interact with the world around us. It will literally start to cannibalize our bodies and breakdown non-essential tissues and organs in order to feed the vital organs. Mentally, we start to develop irritability, mental fatigue, depression, and anxiety. Now a little bit of this hormone is good, it helps us deal with the stress and allows us to focus on the stressful task at hand by slowing down the other lower priority systems of the body. Correct and controlled amounts of it also helps to control blood pressure, our immune system, and it acts as an anti-inflammatory. Too much, however, like anything, can quickly become a detriment… and one that unfortunately, can easily turn into a chronic cycle. Most often, these emotional stressors are related to:
- Our jobs
- Romantic relationships
- Physical pain
Almost everyone has experienced some level of stress in at least half of these areas; if not all of them. However, those people who tend to feel the happiest and most fulfilled, are the ones who have learned to keep their stress levels down through exercising their calm and in-control muscles to a level where they won’t rise up and take over.
There are various ways to do this, including meditation, physical exercise, and practicing kindness and gratitude. Many people have learned various exercises for developing stronger, more defined, toned, and efficient muscles. Stretching exercises help keep the muscles, ligaments, and tendons supple, strong, and flexible. Cardiovascular exercise is known to be great for our heart, improving respiration and lung capacity. Breathing exercises not only help our lungs stay healthy, but also assist in cleansing the lymphatic system of toxins and the body’s waste products. Besides keeping our bodies healthy and strong, these physical exercises help us to age more gracefully and are also great for producing endorphins that provide positive energy and help to reduce negative stress. There are even exercises for the brain, to improve memory, learning, creativity, and quick thinking skills.
Meditation exercises can also allow one to reduce their heart rate, blood pressure, as well as stress and anxiety levels. All of these things are great for the body and mind, and just a few minutes focusing on improving these each day, can work wonders on allowing us to live a healthier and more fulfilling life. So where does kindness come in? Well, just like emotional stress produces the stress hormone cortisol, positive emotional comfort will often produce its counterpart, oxytocin, the calming hormone. This hormone is often increase during kind interactions, moments of trust, connection, and yes cuddling.
Often times these two work in tandem to produce the “just right” amount of chemicals for the body to function optimally. However, at times of high stress, they are more likely to battle. So, which one wins? Well that depends on how well you manage stress and which chemical is most prominent. Scientists have found that exercising kindness is one way in which we can create more of this helpful calming hormone; leaving you feeling loving and more tranquil. Not only that, but acts of kindness have been linked to an increase in the happiness hormone serotonin, and the pleasure and focus hormone, dopamine. This often occurs for the person receiving the kindness as well as the person performing it.
So this is where we ask, if you were training for superhero kindness, what exercises would you be doing to stay in shape and to make the world a better place?
What are some exercises you can practice for kindness?
-Now go forth and exercise your kindness muscles. Make acts of kindness a daily habit. Make someone’s day and help to create a better world by being a Superhero for Kindness.-
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