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Best options for finding stress relief

June 27, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The economy, natural disasters, unrest overseas: Americans are stressed out. And it's wreaking havoc on our health. New research shows 43 percent of Americans surveyed suffer from adverse health effects due to stress.

Traditional methods of stress relief like eating comfort food or becoming a couch potato can end up adding to health woes.

That's why trying an unconventional approach to de-stressing might be a better solution. Some companies are trying to sell unusual stress solutions.

Dr. Claire Wheeler, author of "Ten Simple Solutions to Stress," says we need to turn to non-traditional, positive ways for stress relief, versus the ways many of us turn to.

"Stress relief for most people involves fast food, sitting on the couch, surfing the Internet, watching television, smoking cigarettes, drinking too much," said Wheeler.

A better option? What about "laughter yoga"? It's a discipline created by a medical doctor in India and now practiced all over the world.

"Laughter is very, very healthy," said "Laughter Ambassador" Alex Eingorn. "It's very aerobic. It engages every single organ system in the body."

Researchers with the American Physiological Society found even anticipating a laugh could produce endorphins and shut down production of the stress hormone cortisol.

Tina Thonnings prefers a quieter way to de-stress, in the form of walking labyrinths.

"When I'm walking this labyrinth I don't even remember what my worries were," said Thonnings.

Labyrinths have only one path in and one path out, perfect for peaceful reflection.

"Psychologists say when you walk the labyrinth, your left brain gets engaged in following that path and that leaves your right brain free just for the intuitive to happen," says Diane Kozlowski, a Dominican sister at Shepherd's Corner, a farm and ecology center in Ohio.

If that doesn't appeal, try a louder form of stress relief: drumming.

"What we've found is that people are able to relieve their stress just by hitting a drum, by playing it. They stay in the moment, they're in the here and now," said Robert Lawrence Friedman, author of "The Healing Power of the Drum."

Whether it's laughter, walking, drumming away stress or something else entirely, experts say make sure it's something you enjoy.

"It's got to be something that you know you're going to feel better after you've done it and you really want to do it," said Wheeler. "Otherwise it's just another chore and your life is going to be more stressful."

The best thing about these stress relief ideas? None of them costs a lot of money. But a simple meditative walk can substitute for a labyrinth, and you can even find meditative music downloads that are free to help you de-stress.


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