By WIN Contributor: Dr. Laura Imola, Naturopathic Doctor

Stress can be a major influence on chronic illness, especially heart disease.  A great way to neutralize stress is to find ways to increase our feeling of wellbeing and happiness day to day.

The little things we can do each day may seem like David going up against Goliath… but we know how that story ends.  It’s true that the small things do count.  Stress can be cumulative through the day or week.  Taking stress out at the knees with small karate chops can have a tremendous effect on how you feel in addition to protecting and preserving your heart health.

1) Drink Water

Staying properly hydrated is health promoting, but it can also make a difference in our disposition.  There have been studies that link bad moods and dehydration.

2) Yes!  Do That Thing You Want To Do!

Is it a cooking class?  A yoga class package?  A camping trip?  Skiing?  A trip to the beach?

Pick something you want to splurge on that is an experience that you would love.  Make plans and provisions to see it through.  The anticipation of attending that musical you’ve always wanted to see, that super fun excursion, that ballroom dancing class, is enough to dramatically lift your mood.

3) Smile In Your Mind, Smile In your Heart, Even Smile In Your Liver

Ok…  I got that Liver part from Ketut in Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat Pray Love”… but this is a very authentic statement.  When we smile like we mean it, and this might involve putting that smile not only on our face but also where it resonates most with us (e.g. our heart, our mind and yes, some of us could do with some smiling in our Liver, which in Traditional Chinese Medicine is the organ that is said to store Anger).

This helps our own feeling of wellbeing and it can also completely change another persons’s day, even a stranger’s, for the better.

4) Hit The Gym

Countless studies have found that regular exercise helps release endorphins, our happy hormones, from the brain.

5)  Stop Networking

In the age of social media, email and instant messaging, it is easy to get caught up in constant virtual communication.  This is not humanistic.  Humans thrive on actual relationships and conversation.  Filling up our sense of wellbeing through time spent with friends, talking about life in person, making our kids laugh, even spending time with our pets can help us destress and re-connect.

6) Do Something Selfless

Maybe it’s scraping the snow off a co-worker’s windshield before you leave for work, volunteering to help the elderly, offering to bring a working mom some food or helping out at the humane society.  Giving back in a way that you truly enjoy can help build a strong sense of meaningfulness for you and for others.

7) Do Nothing

In this wild, busy, messy and full modern day life it’s hard to disengage from it all.  However when we do, and we allow time for calm, we can recharge our batteries.  What springs forth from this if we allow ourselves to feel it?  A Happy Heart.

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