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As the weather warms up and our energy levels increase, it can be a great time to reevaluate our intentions for the year. My favorite way to press the reset button? Podcasts. By creating an atmosphere of growth and learning, I can tune into some added wellness inspiration to boost my happiness in a big way.
Start your mental spring cleaning with these six inspiring podcasts, each of which explores different components of wellness. The best part? You can listen to them while doing other good-for-you activities, like finding your zen in yoga, going for a walk, meal prepping, or during your evening skincare routine.
Launched last year, this newer podcast already has me hooked. Hurry Slowly tackles the great struggle around having enough time. Host Jocelyn K. Glei offers thoughtful advice on how to boost productivity, concentration, and creativity while reducing stress. The secret? Slowing down, occasionally unplugging from our devices, getting outside, and paying attention to our surroundings. Paired with insightful interviews with psychologists, researchers, and other thought leaders, Glei’s astute observations are definitely worth a listen.
A self-described “happiness bully,” best-selling author Gretchen Rubin and her co-host/sister, Elizabeth Craft, discuss happiness hacks for everyday life. From creating weekly phone dates with your best friend to setting aside a “power hour” to get all your errands done ASAP, these ladies will have you rethinking your routine. Each episode contains easy, try-this-at-home tips to create lasting healthy habits, how-to’s for habit change, and ways to tackle difficult problems based on your personality type. When you need a little motivation to get more sleep, eat better, procrastinate less, or make time for fun (who doesn’t?), this one’s for you!
Another star newcomer is Well Now, by natural wellness brand Saje and hosted by Meghann Shantz. Focused on empowering listeners to take control of their health and advocate for themselves, Well Now is opening the dialogue between traditional and alternative medicine. With personal stories as well as conversations with doctors, wellness practitioners, and integrative medicine experts, Well Now explores root causes, treatment options, and alternative perspectives on a variety of health-related topics, from anxiety to antibiotics. This podcast highlights the undeniable connection between mental health and physical well-being.
After suffering a panic attack on live TV, ABC news anchor Dan Harris turned to meditation to help heal the underlying causes of his anxiety. Initially a skeptic, his experience was transformative and led him to write a book, create this podcast, and develop an app, all called 10% Happier. Determined to bring meditation into the mainstream, Harris’ conversations with everyone from the Dalai Lama to RuPaul provide relatable advice and useful tools for how to reap the benefits of mindfulness and to create a meditation practice for yourself—even if it’s just one minute a day.
This one tugs at your emotional heartstrings and really makes you think. Before the success of her memoir Wild, Cheryl Strayed was “Sugar,” the anonymous author of an advice column in which she answered letters from readers struggling with issues, from heartbreak and family drama to gender identity and financial problems. Strayed and co-host Steve Almond read select letters aloud, offering heartfelt, non-judgmental, and deeply insightful advice with an incredible sense of humor. When you need a little perspective on your own obstacles, Dear Sugar is the antidote.
Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat Pray Love fame) adapted her most recent book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, into this inspiring podcast. If you’ve ever started a creative project and gotten stuck halfway—or maybe have been too scared to get started at all—Magic Lessons is your answer. Each episode, Gilbert speaks with a listener who is struggling with their creativity, offers her wisdom, and then calls on fellow writers, artists, and musicians for further insight into the creative process. She gives her protégées “homework assignments” to help them get unstuck and move past their fears, all with her signature wit and nurturing encouragement.
Whether you want a little pick-me-up or need some healthy habit hacks, there’s a wellness podcast for that. Plug in your headphones and turn the volume up on some inspirational (and realistic) insight!
Have you been feeling it? The big emotion floating around the last few weeks is the Big Anxiety. Coupled with the stress of what the COVID-19 pandemic has bought for millions of people, disturbed wellness routines, and worry, we have a recipe to create massive damage to ourselves.
Adjusting to the new normal, with social distancing practices in place and adapting to precautions and routines, may be the root of even more anxiousness for many as we’re navigating uncharted territories.
During times of high stress, our bodies experience a physiological strain, where essentially everything from our heart, muscles, blood, and energy have to work harder than needed in order to keep functioning at a minimum. Our body’s natural processes, like breathing, can get compromised, lessening the healing functions of the nervous system, and overworking our adrenal system. Stress management is almost non-existent. This overtaxing of the body disrupts the natural flow of energy and resources, and puts us in something known as the “fight or flight” mode. In this mode, we are constantly deciding if there is some kind of real danger and how to survive it. We feel these signals when our heart rate and blood pressure rise, our stress responses like sweating and either constricted or super fast breathing occur, and our feel-good hormones become compromised.
As we process anxiety, not only do we mentally and emotionally feel the repercussions, we also physically confuse our systems that are doing their best to naturally heal us. Staying in a state of continued anxiety with an overactive sympathetic nervous system can be incredibly damaging to your health, even if it is a small amount of stress that collects over time. Stress suppresses our immunity, digestion, deep breathing, disrupts sleep, and eating patterns, impacts mood, energy levels, and much more.
Studies show that over 50% of adults are essentially holding their breaths. They do a shallow type of breathing known as thoracic breathing, where you breathe lightly into your chest instead of into your diaphragm. For example, notice how you’re breathing right now. You’re likely holding your breath to some extent and you’re probably not breathing much at all. If you’re asked to partake in a deep breathing exercise now, you’ll puff up your chest and shoulders, and empty out your stomach. Guilty?
If you’ve ever seen a baby breathe or the breathing technique of someone in deep sleep, you’ll notice that their bellies rise and fall; the oxygen goes directly into a natural deep belly breath. Adults, however, have become acclimated to holding our breaths without meaning to. When we can slow down and practice deep breathing, we send physical and neurological signals through our entire body that asks us to rest.
The great news is that there are easy breathing exercises we can do at home that do not take a lot of time or effort. An incredible tool that anyone can use in times of high stress is remembering to inhale and exhale. Yes, breathing. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also recommended breathwork not simply as an immunity building tool, but as a way to balance emotional and mental wellbeing. Deep breathing and other breathwork improves the body’s overall functions; improves the respiratory system, builds protective mucus in the nose, oxygenates and blood and brain, improves digestion, alkalizes the full body, and much more. Each style of breathwork sends special physiological signals—some ask us our bodies to slow down and chill, to get out of fight mode, and bring us back to equilibrium where our body’s natural healing systems can be activated; some styles of breathwork ask to pump up and energize.
It’s common to find yourself rushing through breathing practices or feel like you need to set aside special time for it. But that’s the point. We get to slow down, and we get to implement these practices even if there are distractions, business, and no perfect zen meditation corners in our homes. We can do these anytime, anywhere.
If you’ve been feeling any small symptoms of anxiousness or stress, now is the perfect time to incorporate some incredibly easy and effective breathwork techniques into your day-to-day.
This breathing technique can be done at any time of the day, for as long as you want. It’s recommended to practice this for at least 30 seconds to start and several times throughout the day. It’s a breath technique to practice before going to sleep as well. As you’re doing this breath, imagine your stomach like a big pump. As you breathe in, you’re expanding; as you breathe out, you’re emptying out.
1. Put your hands on your belly/abdomen area.
2. Take a big breath through the nose and PUSH your hands away from the belly as you breathe in. Expand your stomach as much as possible and try not to puff up your chest.
3. Slowly exhale through the mouth and constrict your belly inwards. Feel free to make a sound with the mouth when you do this.
4. Repeat for a minimum of 30 seconds.
The 6-7-8 breath can be done at any time of the day to calm anxiousness and stress, especially before doing to sleep. It’s a self-soothing technique that helps relax and calm the nervous system. You can do this practice sitting up or laying down.
1. Close down your eyes.
2. Relax your mouth.
3. Take a deep breath in through your nose for 6 full seconds. Count in your head and maintain an even pace.
4. Hold this breath for 7 seconds.
5. Pucker your mouth and exhale out through the mouth with a “whoooooossh” sound for 8 seconds.
6. Repeat this 6-7-8 breath for at least 5 rounds, or as long as you wish.
You can adjust the 6-7-8 counts to accommodate your pace. You can try a 4-5-6 sequence, or an 8-9-10 sequence. Play around with the length of time that feels good for your body. Some people love to sit by an analog clock for the ticking sound to help keep pace; some love to incorporate music.
This is another easy technique that can be done at any time of the day.
1. Breathe in for 4 seconds through the nose.
2. Hold for 4 seconds.
3. Exhale for 4 seconds through the nose.
4. Hold for 4 seconds.
5. Repeat at least 5 times.
You can play around with the timing for 6 seconds, 8 seconds, and so on to see what works best for your body.
These are the top three breathwork techniques to manage anxiety and stress. Plenty of other techniques work on sleep, inner healing, subconscious programming, altered states of consciousness, and more. Play with the three techniques above and see what feels great for you. It’s common to find a sense of calm almost immediately, some gentle tingling, and relaxation! As we’re adjusting to the new normal, let’s all contribute to creating peace both inside and out.