You may have never bothered to wonder why a cat grooms itself all day. But you should. The answer could impact your health.
Princeton researchers inserted electrodes into the brainstems of cats, and then recorded what was happening over the course of the cats’ day. Not much. Until they started grooming themselves. Then their levels of serotonin – a feel-good neurotransmitter involved with stress-reduction and overall well-being – went through the roof. It actually increased 40-fold! How’s that for a stress reliever?
There’s a lesson here. Concentrated, repetitive motion raises serotonin activity. Which brings us to one of the best stress reducers in the world: qi gong.
Three decades ago, Herbert Benson, MD, the pioneering doctor who helped introduce the concept of mind-body medicine to the U.S., studied qi gong while he was researching what he termed “the relaxation response.” He concluded that to reach a state of deep relaxation, all you have to do is control your body, your breathing, and your mind.
Qi gong is a family of mind-body exercises that share all of those elements: regulation of the body, regulation of breathing, and regulation of the mind. In qi gong, as in many meditative practices, you control your mind by concentrating on a single thought. It can be a word, a mantra, a sound, a letter. You regulate your breathing in some controlled way (such as breathing in on a slow count of 4 and breathing out on a slow count of 4), and you add some regular, specific movement to handle the body part of it. Those three components are the trifecta of increased serotonin activity – and with it, greater energy and well-being.
At the University of Southern California, Irvine, Dr. Shin Lin (a visiting professor from Shanghai University) has found significant, measurable beneficial effects on the nervous system from doing qi gong. Other researchers have demonstrated that when you practice certain movements – such as those in qi gong – you get enhanced blood flow. Couple that with an increase in serotonin levels, and you’ve got a great prescription for lowering stress while increasing your overall energy.[Ed. Note: You can increase your energy, decrease your stress, and feel healthier just by making a few simple changes to your diet and lifestyle. Learn how to feel better and live longer right here.