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Stay young by countering stress

August 14, 2011

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Tips for reducing stress from Dr. Herbert Benson and psychiatry professor Elissa Epel:

■ Having a supportive social network of friends and family can counter emotional stress.

■ Exercising and eating a healthy diet (lots of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, including fish oils, and limited sugar) can reduce inflammation, improve levels of antioxidants - which promote cellular repair - and reduce the free radicals that damage cells.

■ Early research suggests that mindfulness meditation may help extend cells’ ability to replicate themselves, thereby slowing aging.

■ Triggering the relaxation response for 10-20 minutes a day appears to combat some of the negative effects of stress and may promote healthier aging.

To evoke the relaxation response, Benson recommends the following technique:

■ Set aside 10-20 minutes and find a quiet spot.

■ Pick a word or a phrase to focus on.

■ Breathe slowly and say your chosen word slowly and calmly with every exhale. When your mind wanders, tell yourself to focus again on the word you’ve chosen.

■ After about 10 minutes, you can stop repeating the word, but continue to sit quietly for a minute or two before starting up your daily life again.