Today I went to watch the musical Aladdin. It was a joyful experience! The genie had the audience in stitches on more than one occasion:)    The atmosphere in the theatre, the glamour of the stage, the artistry of the performers and the general cheerfulness of the theatregoers was infectious.                                                        Relaxation is not only fun but also an integral part of our health and wellness. It plays an equal role, along with good diet and regular exercise, in helping us maintain a sound physical and mental health.           When we are stressed our body releases stress hormones like ephedrine/adrenaline, cortisol which act to stimulate us by increasing our heart rates, increasing our blood pressure, increasing blood sugar levels ( remember that ‘crash’ you always feel when an important and urgent task is done?), diverting attention away from ‘non urgent’ body responses like immune system (and making it weaker in the process – may remind you of the tendency to catch every cold going when you’re overworked) stimulating energy levels – this explains how we seem to get superhuman strength and stamina at times of stress like preparing for exams or meeting important work targets, or just the simple daily routine ( but stressful nevertheless) of early morning rush of getting the kids and yourself ready, fed and dropped to school in time & somehow managing to get yourself to work in time! And so on and on…..                              What should normally happen is that after the stressful event the hormonal change in the blood should go back to normal. But if there is constant stress, as we tend to experience in most of our lives nowadays, then this normal fight or flight response always stays active. This results in us experiencing various physical effects of persistently high levels of these hormones, such as headaches, concentration and memory disturbance, sleep disturbance, abdominal disturbance, depression, anxiety, weight gain.                     That’s why it’s very important to find ways to counter the continuing effect of these stress hormones. Exercising and relaxation stimulates release of happy hormones such as endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin. That heady feeling we feel when we win first place in a race or competition is dopamine, that mushy feeling we get when we are with a loved one is oxytocin, that ‘I own the world and the world is a happy place’ feeling we get after sweating it out for an hour in the gym is endorphins and serotonin. So make sure that in your pursuit of health, you don’t just focus on the latest fad in the diet but also on an enjoyable form of exercise and having some down time doing something you totally love – it may even be doing nothing! Or try spending an afternoon in the company of a genie who behaves like a pop diva at every given opportunity:)

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