Keeping your stress bucket empty goes hand in hand with living a healthy life
Humans are designed to move and to spend time outside. At least, our brains are!
I often talk about our ancient ancestors when I talk about a healthy lifestyle. This is because the part of our brain that deals with stress – the amygdala – hasn’t changed much at all since the days of early humans. In fact, it’s a part of the brain that we share with almost every other animal!
When our ancestors encountered stress, it would often be life threatening, but brief. A sabre toothed tiger for example.
The tiger would appear, threaten to kill and eat the tribe, either succeed or not, and that would be that. Cue a big feast and dancing through the night, with stories and laughter.
In our modern world, we are exposed to stresses almost all day, every day. Stress from other people, work, traffic, noise, expectation, living indoors, finances, relationships, exams, appraisals. You name it, it causes stress.
Stress creates cortisol and adrenaline, and fills the bucket.
In general, we deal with these things alone, with not enough time, and they don’t go away. They are there again the next day. So there’s no party, dancing or singing to dissipate the stress.
So we have to do SOMETHING to get rid of all that tension.
When we exercise we begin to lose the tension. Any exercise that increases your heart rate for a reasonable length of time (let’s say 20 minutes) does the job.
During the time that you are exercising, you get rid of some of the chemicals that have built up as a result of stress.
You also produce some serotonin, which is calming for your brain and makes you feel happy. If you enjoy the exercise, you’ll also produce dopamine, which is good for motivation.
In addition, any exercise which increases our heart rate also helps create new neural pathways in the brain, making us cleverer, better decision makers, and clearer thinkers.
And what about the benefits for sleep?
Whilst you are exercising, you are emptying your stress bucket. If you go to bed with a bucket that is only half full, your brain will have less work to do overnight while you sleep.
Less work = less heat and activity = a more peaceful night for you and hopefully more sleep cycles so that you get all the REM you need.
All the REM = an EMPTY bucket when you wake up in the morning!!
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