Calm Stress By Adding Serene Moments of Pleasure Written by: Patti Essig, Response Center, NLU Lisle Campus

RelaxSlowDownHow to Manage Stress. It seems like so many of us today experience stress in our lives. As a yoga teacher I know practicing yoga regularly helps to manage stress. However, there are some very simple techniques to manage stress and lessen its negative effects.

Look Inward: Spend a few quiet minutes every day meditating or practicing mindfulness; this will help ease anxiety and lower stress hormones.

Get Moving:  Be physically active for 20 to 30 minutes each day, says Ronald Petersen, MD, PhD, director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. Choose an activity you enjoy, such as walking, jogging, dancing, swimming, practicing yoga, bicycling, kickboxing, aerobics, or doing tai chi. Anything that gets you moving vigorously will help reduce stress – but check in with your physician before starting any exercise program.

Binge on Big Bang Theory Reruns. Anything that makes you laugh makes you feel good – and some evidence even suggests that laughter can deactivate stress hormones.

Tune In To Mellow Music. Music has a powerful effect on the brain, and can release calming hormones, reducing stress, says Mark Gudesblatt, MD, a neurologist at South Shore Neurologic Associates in Patchogue, NY.

Strengthen Friendships. There is strong evidence that being socially active boosts cognitive ability, says Gary Small, MD, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences. “Interacting with other people helps us avoid feelings of loneliness, which may protect the brain, since associating with others appears to decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, even if you like being alone,” Dr. Small said.

“Becoming and staying socially engaged may reduce your risk for dementia by as much as 60%.” (Reference adapted from Neurology Now, April/May 2015.)

Also, new research shows that if you pick a meaningful goal that takes months or even years to reach, your life will feel more purposeful and gratifying. But if we don’t give our brains small daily rewards, stress levels build up and motivation decreases.

The solution: a few seconds of pleasure will refresh the brain and increase productivity.
Here are six ideas of one-minute pleasure breaks you can do every hour throughout the day to increase motivation and success.

  1. Do something physically pleasurable. Slowly stretch. Run your fingers through your hair. Wash your face. Or yawn: It’s a great way to massage your brain.
  2. Recall a pleasant memory. Visualize someone you love or an event that brought you deep satisfaction. Think about a beautiful place you’ve been. Immerse yourself in the memory, and you’ll notice that your body relaxes and your mind becomes serene.
  3. Think about something you’ve accomplished in the past year and savor the satisfaction it brought you.
  4. Think about one thing you feel grateful about and notice how it makes you feel.
  5. Meditate on a word that captures one of your deepest personal or spiritual values. Repeating that word will turn on 1,200 stress-reducing genes!
  6. Give yourself a compliment.

Sixty seconds of pleasure once each hour–that’s all it takes to increase motivation, happiness, satisfaction and success.

Thanks to Mark Waldman from Loyola Marymount University and Andrew Newberg from Jefferson University Hospital for these simple but powerful techniques. These two gentlemen are world-renowned for their neuroscientific research and authors of “Words Can Change Your Brain.” They also write for Science of Mind Magazine ( where this information was published.

Enjoy your successful and stress-free journey.

Danielle Laban

About Danielle Laban

Danielle is the Director of Student Experience at National Louis. She's an experienced student affairs professional who is focused on student success. Danielle earned her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Northern Colorado and her Master of Arts at Roosevelt University.