MASON CITY -- Don’t worry. Be happy.

Sounds simple, right? But a growing amount of research says relieving stress in our more mature years can strengthen not only emotional health, but physical health, too.

Relieving stress, some studies have shown, may even slow aging and the onset of dementia.

Controlling the factors around you can do a lot to reduce stress in your life, say Susan Nagle and Kalliope Jolas, who facilitated “The Brain Gym” as part of North Iowa Area Community College’s Lifelong Learning Institute.

“Who is the master of your fate?” asked Jolas. “You are.”

In addition to providing tips to exercise your brain, the mini-conference provided information on how physical and mental health impacts the brain.

Taking a simple stress survey can reap surprising results, said Nagle.

“I thought, I have a job I enjoy, my children are gone, I have a nice life — but even then, I was surprised at the stress” that the survey showed, said Nagle.

There is help. Here are some easy, quick tips they suggested to help relieve stress.

• Laughter: Sounds too easy, but its effects are profound, Nagle said.

“One of the very best stress relievers is laughter,” she said. She suggested “finding those things that make you laugh.”

• Deep breathing: Stress can result in “short breathing”: short, less expansive breaths that can throw off the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Deep breathing — taking intentional full breaths — can increase circulation and the sense of well-being.

Shake your hands, scrunch your shoulders: Stress reduces circulation and can produce cold hands and feet. Circulation can increase by shaking your hands. “Scrunching” and lowering your shoulders helps relax key muscles.

Control your surroundings; be positive: Make a point to surround yourself with positive people. Positive energy encourages; negative people are emotional drains.

To take a stress assessment with some other tips for relaxation, go to: www.buzzle.com/editorials/6-20-2006-99850.asp.

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