In today’s stressful world, it’s vital that you take charge of your well-being. Your physical, mental, and emotional health depend upon it.
A good self-care routine can have a positive impact on your overall well-being. And we’re talking more than massages and pedicures. It goes deeper.
What is self-care and why is it important?
The number of Google searches for “self-care” has quadrupled since 2018.1 So it’s top of mind for many of us.
Self-care comes in all different forms that can enhance a person’s emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. Engaging in weekly meet-ups with a friend; getting daily exercise, eating healthy foods, and getting regular, scheduled sleep; and keeping a gratitude journal are all part of a good self-care routine.
Regularly making healthy choices can help you manage your stresses, thus increasing your energy and lowering your chances of becoming ill. Engaging in self-care is an essential ingredient to a healthy lifestyle that encompasses good mental hygiene. Ultimately, it can lead you to emotional, psychological, and social well-being, affecting your thoughts, feelings, actions, choices, and relationships.2
Know that practicing good self-care is not selfish or self-indulgent. It’s vital for a healthy, happy life. One in which you’re able to care for yourself and others, manage stress, be productive, and meet your daily goals.1
Here are some ideas to help you get started.
Get outside and be active
Taking a walk, grounding, forest bathing, or eating alfresco are all good ways to connect with nature.
Studies show that a wide variety of diseases were less prevalent among people who live close to green space. In one study, people who had more exposure to green spaces boasted a 12 percent lower mortality rate. Cancer, lung disease, and kidney disease saw the biggest improvements.3
Take up a hobby (or pick one back up)
Hobbies don’t have to be expensive or time-consuming (unless you want them to be). Having one can do wonders for you because they are known to increase positive moods, self-esteem, and social connections.
And if you’re revisiting an old hobby, one that fell by the wayside, you can rediscover parts of yourself that you might have long forgotten.
They can also aid in the recovery from mental health problems (music- and creative art-related hobbies are especially helpful in this area) as well as help with one’s physical heath, such as lowering blood pressure and decreasing cortisol levels.
When engaging in one, it’s like giving your brain a break. You can go on a mini vacation.
Doing something frequently — just for fun — might include gardening, painting, sewing, reading, singing, playing an instrument, woodworking, baking, writing, biking, and hiking. Having a creative hobby helps you focus on your feelings, which is good for those creative juices and even your productivity.
Schedule specific times in the day or week to engage in your hobby. That will keep your hobby top of mind.4
If you’re at a loss for how to choose the “right” hobby for you, consider how you’d choose to spend your days if you didn’t have to make money. Would you travel, learn how to play guitar, or study a topic you love? Then find a hobby that aligns with your values and replace the time you spend on social media (or other mindless activities) with your new hobby and even set aside time each week for it (and put it on your calendar).5
It might take a bit of training to get your mind around mindfulness — but it’s worth the effort. Mindfulness can be practiced while sitting in a quiet space or while going about your day, just walking, eating, or interacting with others.
It helps you focus on being in the present moment by gently acknowledging what’s going on inside — and outside — of yourself, i.e., your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and environment. And you do so without judgment.
You might see an improvement in your blood pressure, sleep, and some chronic illnesses, such as PTSD, eating disorders, addictions, and depression. The latter because it helps you stay grounded in the present moment rather than being overly focused on the past or the future. One professional describes mindfulness as de-centering yourself from unproductive, painful thoughts, such as “It’s always going to be this way” or “Nothing ever works out for me.”
Being mindful can help a person make better decisions when it comes to making healthy food choices, setting goals, and so much more. A teacher or an app can help you get started. You just need a few minutes a day.6
Communicate with loved ones
Creating and maintaining healthy connections is so important to our well-being. That’s because they can help create in us a greater sense of belonging and purpose, boost self-confidence and self-worth, help coping with difficulties, and encourage us to change unhealthy habits. They can even help us to live longer.
When it comes to the amount of friendships, less is more. Close and meaningful relationships with just a few people goes a long way.7
While social media may help you maintain threads of communication, more personalized communication is better. Think: In-person visits, a phone call, an “I’m thinking of you” text, or even an old-fashioned handwritten letter.
In fact, composing a handwritten letter to a loved one benefits your mental health. There are many reasons why. It increases clarity, helping you reflect on how you feel about something or someone. It gives you a greater sense of accomplishment than sending an email or text — and the recipient of your letter will feel good knowing you took the time to choose the stationery (or card), physically write out your sentiments, and address and mail the letter. And it makes us feel good to express our gratitude through a compassionate connection. In fact, when we do, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the feel-good chemicals.8
Perform a random act of kindness
It’s good to give to others. Showing kindness can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Benevolent and helpful actions that are motivated by a pure desire to treat someone kindly go a long way in improving our life satisfaction and self-esteem.9
Being altruistic produces in us a “helper’s high” and reduces depression symptoms. It also gives us a greater sense of community. Interestingly, one study showed that it can even reduce the blood pressure of hypertensive people. Those who spent $40 on others (instead of themselves) had lowered their blood pressure by the end of the six-week study. Even physical pain is lessened when a person shows a giving spirit.10
The wide variety of kind acts you can do for others are endless. For ideas on what to do, go to the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation website, which will show you just how simple and easy it can be to bring joy to another person’s day. Examples include donating a book to your neighborhood’s Little Free Library, holding the door open for someone, giving a sincere compliment, and writing a positive message on a sticky note to leave behind.
Visit a museum, or a park
See the world from a different perspective with a visit to a museum or park. According to a university psychologist, consuming and reflecting on art in a beautiful museum enact flourishing, which boosts feelings of well-being and engages you with your life and other like-minded people.
A guided tour can add depth to the experience, but so can being mindful about what you’re seeing. Ask yourself such questions as, “Why do you or don’t you like the artwork? Does it remind you of anything or stir up certain emotions?”. Do a deep dive.11
An outing to a neighborhood park can also perk you up. Be mindful of the sights, the sounds, and the smells all around you.
Go to the library
Reading about different worlds expands your world. So be sure to create an expansive reading list and borrow books from your local library. If your list is long enough you’ll probably always have a good book in your queue — one you can look forward to reading — and in rotation.
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive. There are a plethora of cheap, nutritious foods in various categories that are chockful of health benefits.12
Here are a few:
- Vegetables: Broccoli, onions, spinach, russet potatoes, sweet potatoes, canned tomatoes, carrots, green cabbage, and butternut squash.
- Grain and legumes: Brown rice, oatmeal, canned beans, dried lentils, edamame, quinoa, and air-popped popcorn.
- Fruit: Bananas, oranges, frozen berries, apples, cantaloupe, and kiwi.
- Fish and meat: Canned fish, pork, and chicken breast.
- Dairy: Cottage cheese, yogurt, and milk.
It’s also fun to explore new cuisines and flavors — and new recipes. You’ll add fresh cooking techniques to your arsenal, and learn about a new culture and community.
We’ve just scratched the surface as to what fun choices you can make to boost your health. It’s your turn to explore more ideas.
Just remember to take time for yourself. Your mental wellbeing and physical health will thank you.