12 Simple Practices that Activate Your Relaxation Response | The Health Sessions

12 Simple Practices that Activate Your Relaxation Response

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We all love to chill out after a tiring or stressful day. But true relaxation encompasses more than lounging on the couch with a game of Wordle. It’s not just about keeping physical activity to a minimum, real rest also means letting go of tension in your body and quieting your racing mind.

At the same time, relaxation does have to be – nor should it be – an elaborate practice you only do occasionally, by getting a massage or taking a mental health day.

Real rest refers to any activity that activates your body’s natural relaxation response. The relaxation response acts like a built-in tranquilizer: it helps your autonomic nervous system to return to a calm state after being exposed to stress.

You see, whenever your body perceives any kind of danger, it prepares itself to run away or fight back if necessary. Your sympathetic nervous system gets activated, releasing cortisol and adrenaline into your bloodstream and increasing your heart rate and blood flow to your arms and legs, so you’re ready to take action.

This fight-or-flight response worked really well when our ancestors lived among dangerous animals, but nowadays, more innocent events like deadlines at work, traffic jams and arguments with loved ones trigger the same stress response. And the problem is, these modern stressors also don’t go away as easily as wolves and snakes did – they keep lingering in the back of your mind. This stops your body’s natural relaxation response from kicking in (in time), building up to chronic stress, which in turn leads to all kinds of physical, mental and emotional health problems.

Thankfully, there are ways you can activate the relaxation response, during which your parasympathetic nervous system takes over and lets your blood pressure, heart rate, digestive functioning and hormonal levels return to normal. All you need are 3 key ingredients:

  • relax your muscles in your body
  • slow down your heart rate and breathing
  • calm your mind.

Let’s take a look at 12 simple practices you can easily add to your routines – even if you’re chronically ill – that activate your relaxation response.

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18 Sweet and Savory Recipes with Berries You Should Try This Season | The Health Sessions

18 Sweet and Savory Recipes with Berries You Should Try This Season

Berries are a beloved ingredient in healthy recipes, sweet or savory, all around the world – and for good reason. From strawberries and blueberries to the exotic açaí berry, these juicy superfoods are packed with antioxidants, fibers, vitamin and manganese.

Despite being sweet, studies show that a handful of berries can improve blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity. Raspberries and strawberries have been shown to help lower cholesterol and improve arterial function, two important factors of heart health. Consuming cranberries reduces your chances of developing a urinary tract infection with 26 percent. And thanks a compound called anthocyanidins, eating 1 to 2 cups of blueberries every week can help you keep mentally sharp in old age.

All the more reason to regular snack on nature’s colorful candy!

Of course you can eat any kind of berry straight up, no recipe required. But who does’t like to add a little sweet & sour taste to their smoothie, yogurt bowl, healthy baking and even salads and dinner?

So let’s take a look how you can enjoy even more strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries this season with these 18 sweet and savory berry recipes!

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12 Light Pasta Recipes Packed with Flavor - And Veggies! | The Health Sessions

12 Light Pasta Recipes That Are Packed with Flavor (And Veggies!)

Ah pasta. It’s the ultimate comfort food: it warms you up, satisfies your carb cravings and – depending on the recipes – it can be quick and easy to make after a tiring day.

But sadly, spaghetti, macaroni and lasagna don’t have the best reputation when it comes to healthy eating. Pasta tends to be heavy in carbs and calories, especially if you add a creamy sauce like carbonara or high-fat meat balls.

Thankfully, nowadays you can find plenty of light pasta recipes online, from Paleo and vegetarian versions to gluten-free twists packed with vegetables. Ok, maybe the Italian nonnas won’t approve of deviating from their traditional dishes, but at least you can still enjoy your bowl of pasta while sticking to your health goals!

Take a look at these 12 light pasta recipes that are still full of flavor – and veggies! 

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14 Healthy Brunch Recipes for Slow Sundays

14 Healthy Brunch Recipes for Slow Sundays

Isn’t brunch the ideal mealtime on weekends?

You can still take it slow in the morning and work up an appetite. You can have savory and sweet dishes, both hot and cold. And depending on your health and daily rhythm, meeting friends over brunch may work better for your energy levels than late night dinner and drinks.

No matter if you want to celebrate Mother’s Day in style, crave a hearty start of the day or you’d love to organize an elegant but easy brunch party, here are 14 healthy brunch recipes that are perfect for slow Sundays.

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5 Online Exercise Programs for Rebuilding Fitness with Chronic Illness | The Health Sessions

5 Online Exercise Classes for Rebuilding Your Fitness with Chronic Illness

Moving your body has many benefits for your health and happiness, even if you’re chronically ill. Gentle exercise strengthens your muscles and supports healthy joints, lowers your blood pressure and cholesterol for better heart health, and improves your glucose levels. As a result, regular movement can ease chronic pain, increase energy levels and mobility, and help you function better in your daily life. What’s more, exercise improves your cognitive functioning and reduces anxiety, depression and negative mood.

But getting started with exercising can be hard if climbing the stairs already leaves you breathless and in pain. Or worse, when you struggle to leave the house or you’re stuck in bed most hours of the day. Even if you do function relatively well with chronic illness, you may still have to overcome obstacles for physical activity. Maybe the commute to the gym already takes up much of your precious energy, or you get so tired from your workout that you don’t have enough spoons left for your other obligations.

And good resources for rebuilding your strength and fitness with chronic illness can also be hard to find. Most (online) exercise programs start at a level that’s already challenging and taxing for many ‘spoonies’. For example, ‘From couch to 5K’ schedules sound accessible, but not if simply getting out of the door for a daily walk is a goal in itself.

When you struggle with limited energy, mobility and pain, how can you start exercising without increasing your symptoms and limitations?

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