Research proves that engaging in enjoyable activities can help you live longer.Spending more time outdoors can help you fight off depression.Laughing boosts your immune system by increasing white blood cell production.
Remember George's father on Seinfeld? He tried to relieve stress by yelling, "Serenity now!" It didn't work for Mr. Costanza or for me either. Nor do tantrums, eating a half-gallon of ice cream, or maxing out my credit card. I have found a few other things that work for me and keep my head out of the freezer--usually.
My mother taught me to sew, but before she ever let me work on an actual machine, she instructed me in the fine art of hand embroidery. I started on pillowcases. As I practiced, the time flew, my fingers grew nimble, and my poor mother caught a break. It was a win-win situation. Since then, I have picked up knitting, crocheting, and cross-stitching. While doing these crafts, I find my breathing slows, and my mind--usually caroming about like a pinball--quietens. A miracle, really.
I found another truly surprising way to relax and let the cares of the day ease away in my own backyard. Never a gardener or even much of an outdoors person, I found myself married to Mr. Green Thumb. With his expertise and patience, we grew a garden filled with vegetables. Now, even in winter, I pull weeds, bending and stretching, and breathe fresh air. Once again, with these somewhat mindless, repetitive tasks, my whole body and mind seem to relax. Life is good.
Perhaps the easiest way to shake off stress is to watch a Monty Python movie, listen to Garrison Keillor on A Prairie Home Companion, or pick up a book that makes me laugh out loud. (Authors Clyde Edgerton and Carl Hiaasen are excellent at this.) Laughter usually cures what ails me if nothing else works. I save up jokes to tell my coworkers, who, thankfully, do the same for me. And if all else fails, I'll catch a rerun of Seinfeld. That cracks me up every time.
This article is from the January 2006 issue of Southern Living.