Cortisol can be good and bad for us. Too much cortisol keeps us up at night, prevents us from falling asleep and gets our mind over active. It can also lead to serious medical issues - so it's important to lower cortisol. Once we do, we'll be able to sleep better, think clearly feel less stressed and less anxious.
There are many ways to naturally lower our cortisol levels some are effective and some not so effective.
We did the research for you and put together 7 proven and recommended ways to lower cortisol naturally. It's important to understand what cortisol is and what role it plays in our body before we decide to lower cortisol.
What is Cortisol?
Cortisol is released by our adrenal glands which are small glands located on top of each kidney.
The adrenals release cortisol when we feel stressed or when we’re in a stressful situation. The shot of cortisol gives us the boost we need to fight or run away in that situation. It also helps us make that choice quickly.
Why Do We Need to Lower Your Cortisol If It Is Too High?
Our cortisol levels should be higher in the mornings so we can start our day and drop in the evenings so we can fall asleep and stay asleep.
Why is it important to have lower cortisol levels at bed time? Lower night time cortisol levels means the mind is less active. It also allows the body and mind to relax so we can fall asleep easily and stay asleep.
Our cortisol levels should be higher in the morning so we have more energy to start our day and deal with life’s challenges. During the day, cortisol levels drop so that we're tired when it’s time to sleep.
When we have too much on-going stress, our cortisol levels are thrown off. The body doesn't have a chance to deflate and lower cortisol levels naturally like it’s supposed to. As a result, there's too much cortisol in our body and so we can't sleep and could run into health issues.
Health Risks Associated with Chronically Elevated Cortisol Levels
- Sleep problems and fatigue - cortisol interferes with other hormones that support sleep and energy (3)
- Weight gain - as cortisol increases appetite and tells the body to shift metabolism to store fat (2)
- High blood pressure (1)
- High blood sugar/Type 2 diabetes (1)
- Negative mood
- Low energy levels Issues with memory function (4) - cortisol interferes with memory and causes ‘brain fog’ (where your brain feels cloudy and you can’t think clearly)
- Infections (5) - cortisol affects the immune system increasing the chances of infections in the body.
Having high cortisol levels can really mess up our internal system and lead to health issues down the road, that’s why it’s important to reduce the levels, especially if it's difficult to sleep at night or if we feel stressed and anxious.
7 Natural Ways To Reduce Your Cortisol Levels
1 - Get the Right Amount of Sleep
Studies show that the time we go to bed, how long we sleep and the quality of sleep all affect our cortisol levels.
Chronic lack-of-sleep causes high levels of cortisol and can throw our body out of balance which can lead to serious medical issues.
To reduce cortisol levels and keep them in check, make sleep a priority. Here are some suggestions:
- Stick to a routine sleep schedule
- Get 7-8 hours of sleep
- Get quality, uninterrupted sleep
Here’s our article on Sleep Tips if you need more suggestions.
2 - Be Mindful of Your Thinking
Surprisingly, what we think about during the day also effects our cortisol levels.
A recent study was done on a group of 122 adults who were asked to write about a past stressful situations. The same group was then asked to write about a positive life events/experience. Results showed higher cortisol level in the group when they wrote about stressful events. This shows what we focus on impacts our cortisol levels. So avoid negative thinking.
How do we reduce your cortisol levels naturally using mindful thinking?
Be aware and recognize when your thoughts are going down a slippery slope. Combat negative/stress inducing thoughts by changing what you think about so that we're not having negative or stressful thoughts. Focus on the present moment or think of something pleasant instead and it will prevent the cortisol from rising.
Here are a few things we can do:
- practice deep breathing before reacting to a situation
- turn to your support network - talk to someone who you know will help you see things from a positive perspective
- Change the negative thoughts to positive thoughts or choose to focus on something pleasant that may have happened or recalling a fond memory.
3 - Practice Relaxation Exercises
A number of relaxation exercises have been proven to lower cortisol levels naturally. (6).
Think of what you like to do to relax and do that more often. Here are some ideas on how to reduce your cortisol levels naturally:
- Go for a massage or enjoy some spa-time
- Practice deep breathing
- Practice Yoga, Tai Chi
- Listen to relaxing music
- Go on hikes / spend time with nature on a daily basis
- Try gardening which is known for helping reduce stress
These relaxation techniques are proven to reduce cortisol levels naturally. Give one of more of them a try and see which one works for you.
4 - Enjoy Life
What activities score high on your ‘Happiness Index’? Figure that out and then do them more often. Choices will vary based on your preferences but here are some suggestions to get you thinking:
- Go on Vacation or take a break even on a weekend, a day or a few hours
- Watch funny movies (laughter is the best medicine and free!)
- Take up gardening or spend time in nature
- Find a hobby that you enjoy
5 - Be Around Positive People
Friends and family make us happy - but truthfully they also can stress us out from time to time.
We’re not talking about the normal arguments that may arise, our cortisol levels naturally increase but our body drops the levels back to normal after the argument is resolved.
However, constantly being around friends and family that stress us out is detrimental to our health and can increase cortisol in our body.
Choose your tribe wisely and invest time with supportive, positive people and keep a distance from anyone who tends to constantly rattle your cage.
6 - Practice Spirituality
If you belong to a faith, practicing rituals and attending a place of prayer can help lower your cortisol. These also help reduce anxiety and depression (8).
Research has shown that adults who practice their faith experience lower cortisol levels when faced with stressful challenges in life. Having social support from these groups has shown to be helpful. (7) It's not about being religious, it's about being positive and optimistic.
Practicing meditation and being involved in charitable causes is also beneficial. Get involved in local community events to engage with people who help you feel better.
7 - Take Natural Supplements
Studies have proven that one natural supplement can lower cortisol levels naturally: Ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha is an Asian herbal supplement and an adaptogen. It has been used for centuries to treat anxiety and reduce feelings of stress by reducing cortisol levels naturally.
A study of 98 adults taking KSM-Ashwagandha supplements for 60 days showed that taking 600mg of Ashwagandha twice daily reduced cortisol levels (9). Another study of 64 adults with chronic stress showed that those who took 300mg of KSM-66 Ashwagandha supplements experienced reduced cortisol over 60 days compared to those who took a placebo.
If you’re looking for a sleep supplement with KSM-66 Ashwagandha that is proven to work, check out Shanti which contains KSM-66 Ashwagandha.
You must keep your cortisol levels in check so you can sleep better and live a healthy, happy life. These simple 7 tips are lifestyle changes that’ll help you lower cortisol levels naturally, give you more energy and improve your health and help you feel good.