10 things to do at your desk to improve your health and balance your nervous system
Breathing is the only bodily function that is both conscious and unconscious. You breathe whether you think about it or not. However, if you think about your breath, you can alter it. It is this ability to alter your breath that lets you consciously control your stress response. For example, deep breathing can be used to induce a relaxed state, which may include feeling calm, a slowed heart rate, muscle tension release, and tranquil thoughts.
There are many different types of “deep breathing” and many have their roots in ancient practices from the East. Here are 3 evidence-based breathing techniques you can try.
You have probably heard the saying sitting is the new smoking. Some studies have found that sitting for more than six hours a day can decrease your life by up to fifteen years as compared with individuals who sit for less than 3 hours a day. You may want to replace some percentage of your sitting time with standing and see how you feel. Here are 3 standing techniques you can try. See if and how they fit into your day!
- Block out the blue light
The blue light emitted from our electronic devices can damage the retina. As a result, too much screen time, especially later in the day, can alter our circadian rhythms and interfere with sleep. Here are a few simple ways to protect your eyes: wear blue light blocking glasses or download a plug in like FLUX that you can set up to block the blue light on your screen later in the day. Warning: Flux will make your screen a pinkish color!
- Connect to nature
The benefits of connecting to nature are obvious. However, doing this while working may not be as obvious. While you can spend a few moments looking outside if you have a view, many of us may not have that privilege. Other options include keeping a plant in your office. Another simple option is looking at a picture of nature like any of these that calms you and makes you smile. You can even set a reminder on your phone to spend 30 seconds a few times a day nature gazing at your desk.
- Move your spine in all 7 directions
The spine is a crucial part of the body, allowing us to stand up straight. There are seven ways to move the spine: front and backward, leaning to the left and right, twisting to the left and right, and extending upward from the ground. We have 26 vertebrae and 18 muscles that are used to move the spine in all directions. Moving the spine in all 7 directions invigorates and resets us. Here are 3 spine movement exercises you can try.
- Drink tea (green or black):
Both green and black tea contain polyphenols that have strong antioxidant effects, potentially reducing the risk of heart disease. Both have caffeine to increase alertness and focus and L-theanine, which releases stress and calms your body. A recent study showed that regular tea drinkers’ brain structures are better organized, which is associated with healthy cognitive function.
Acupressure is acupuncture without the “puncture.” Acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that treats the whole person by balancing interrupted, blocked, excesses or deficiencies of energy through the use of hair-thin needles inserted on specific points (known as acupuncture points) on the body.
Disruptions in the flow of this energy (qi) result in an imbalance, or disharmony in the body and manifest as illness, pain, anxiety and other symptoms. Needling specific points on the body (there are over 360 points) related to the symptom or disharmony, restores balance to the body, mind, and emotions. You can get some of the same results using acupressure on yourself. Here are 3 evidence-based acupressure practices you can try.
- Chair Yoga
Yoga is a system of exercises for attaining well-being and bodily and/or mental control. Yoga involves moving the body into various postures and coordinating these movements with the breath. If the mind wanders from focusing on the posture, the yoga practitioner brings the mind back to the posture. Some important benefits of yoga include a stronger, more flexible body and a focused, calmer mind. Yoga can be helpful in the alleviation of several mental and physical problems including anxiety, arthritis, heart disease prevention, depression, high blood pressure, and chronic pain. Here are three 2-minute evidence-based yoga practices you can try.
Laughter is your physiological reaction to hearing or seeing something funny.
Laughter involves the contraction of fifteen different facial muscles. The brain’s parietal region, amygdala, and cerebellum are all impacted by laughter. Most importantly, during laughter, regions of the prefrontal cortex are activated, releasing endorphins, which are famous for decreasing pain and increasing euphoria. This Mayo Clinic article lists the full benefits of laughter. Laughter is a whole person workout: mental, emotional, and physical. So it seems important to laugh every day, do you?
- 10 second resets
Everyone has 10 seconds to decompress, right? Check out Twenty 10-Second Resets you can use anywhere, anytime to reset your nervous system, body, mind, and your perspective!