There are several benefits of yoga for mental health. Everyone’s mental health has its ups and downs. What may surprise you, though, is that the holidays are the most stressful time for most adults. While seasonal stress may seem like no big deal, it can be harmful to your mental health.
Luckily, yoga is a powerful tool for boosting your mental health. With a consistent practice, you can keep your holiday stress—and mental health—in check.
Why are the holidays so stressful?
Ask people why the holidays stress them out, and you’re bound to get many different answers. For most people, the main stressors are buying gifts, planning events, decorating, and seeing family.
Above all else, though, is the financial strain. 56% of Americans identify finances as their main source of holiday stress.
How does holiday stress affect mental health?
Holiday stress, like any stress, may start out mildly. However, if left untreated, it can damage your mental health. Long-term, prolonged stress can develop into chronic issues like depression or anxiety. In some cases, it can even lead to substance abuse.
When your brain detects a stressor, it releases stress hormones. These hormones affect the areas of the brain responsible for memory and emotions. Over time, repeated exposure to stress can weaken these neural systems, causing chronic mental health issues.
Mental health is also closely linked to physical health. As a result, mental health problems can have physical consequences. For example, prolonged stress may cause muscle pain, inflammation, and headaches. It is therefore crucial to manage holiday stress before it spirals into something more serious.
Benefits of yoga for mental health
Holiday stress is no match for yoga; your practice can help protect your mental health.
Yoga deeply relaxes the mind. Doing yoga requires you to slow your breathing, release tension, and focus on the present. As a result, your brain flips a sort of neurological switch. It shuts down your sympathetic nervous system, and then activates your parasympathetic nervous system. This switches your body from “stress” mode to “calm” by decreasing your heart rate and blood pressure.
As you move through a yoga session, you increase blood flow to your organs. At the same time, your brain begins to pump serotonin as its pleasure centers activate. It also releases an anxiety-reducing chemical called GABA. All of these make you feel happier, decreasing harmful stress activity in your brain.
Moreover, just as your brain has pleasure centers, it also has regions that generate negative feelings. For example, the sympathetic part of the hypothalamus drives stress, rage, and fear. Studies show that yoga inhibits this part of the brain. In the long term, a consistent practice may help regulate your hypothalamus, boosting your mental health.
On a spiritual level, yoga helps to ground you, which is vital for mental health. Yoga invites you to locate stress in both your body and mind, and release both in tandem. Our bodies often store stress in the form of localized tension. For example, if you tend to feel tension in your back, a standing forward fold can help release that tension—and your stress.
Further, yoga requires intense presence of mind. You set your intention, focus on it, and calmly push away distracting thoughts. By placing your attention on your practice, you can more easily disregard negative feelings. With a consistent practice, you can train your mind to manage stress more easily before it affects your mental health.
Don’t stress—do yoga!
Don’t let the holiday blues become something worse. Even just 20 minutes of daily yoga can help reduce holiday stress and boost your mental health. Head over to flowell.co today and check out classes personalized for you! It’s free to sign up, and there’s no better time to start than now.