Since the month of August (a.k.a. National Wellness Month) has come to an end, I’ve been thinking a lot about self-care and what that looks like in my own life. Typically I do a fairly decent job staying on top of the practices that fill me up and keep me sane, but with the recent transition from summer to school year I’ve realized just how quick and easy it is to lose focus and let it all slide a bit. For me, August became more a month of chaos and stress than anything else. Getting back into a daily wellness routine has never felt better, and these 7 simple practices help me stay more grounded, joyful, and at peace.
7 Ways To Better Days
1. Start with gratitude.
Wake up in the morning and say “thank you”…every. single day. That simple. If you want to get a little more serious, think of 5 very specific things for which you are thankful. Write them down in a gratitude journal. Speak them out loud if you need to. This process flips the script from focusing on the negative to focusing on the positive and actually affects the brain for the better. When it comes to gratitude, some days are harder than others, but the more you practice the easier it becomes. Even…especially…in the times you have to search far and wide, take time to identify your blessings. No matter what turmoil you find yourself in, there is always something, no matter how small, for which to be grateful.
2. Breathe intentionally.
Of course as long as you are living, you are constantly breathing. But most of the time this happens on autopilot. Take time every day to breathe intentionally. Inhale deeply through the nose all the way down into the belly. Then slowly and completely empty out, exhaling through the nose or mouth. Not only does conscious breathing help you stay present, but it also helps you balance out your central nervous system. You will spend less time in that primal “fight or flight” response mode and more time in “rest and digest,” therefore becoming more capable of making thoughtful choices and demonstrating higher level responses to stress.
3. Be still.
If you are like most people, you are constantly on the go, from the time your feet hit the floor in the morning to the time your head hits the pillow at night. You feel overwhelmed by your to-do list and bombarded by the constant influx of information coming at you every single day. Finding a few minutes of quiet stillness each day can give you much needed relief. It allows you to check in with yourself…mind, body, and spirit…giving you the chance to listen to your thoughts and feelings and to practice observing them without judgement or expectation. It is a wonderful opportunity to set aside the “doing” for just a moment and to thoroughly embrace the “being.” Set a reminder if you need to, but enjoy this state of stillness daily. Savor the space and freedom you find there.
4. Consume wisely.
Your diet is not just what you eat and drink. It is everything you take into your body (physically, mentally, and emotionally), including the TV you watch, the music you listen to, the books you read, the people you hang around, the words you tell yourself, and so on and so forth. Yes, you know you should eat well and drink lots of water. But being mindful of EVERYTHING you consume, day in and day out, can have an enormous positive impact on your overall wellbeing. Be careful to consume only the things that serve you and fill you up. As the old saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
I used to think that in order to “exercise” I had to go out and pound the pavement…the more miles the better. Well let me tell you, I’ve run a lot of miles in my life and hated just about every single one of them. And guess what? That’s ok! While consistent cardio activity is important for a healthy heart, understand that movement comes in a lot of different forms. Figure out what you love and what keeps you interested. For me, that’s most often long walks and yoga. I try to sprinkle in light weight training and forms of cardio that I find more exciting (I love a trampoline class!) here and there. Make time for it, especially if you have a sedentary job. A body that moves a lot is much healthier, and the effect on the mind is incredible.
6. Stay inspired.
Avoid burnout by doing activities that keep you inspired and that get your creative juices flowing. I personally love prayer, meditation, cooking, blogging, journaling, manifesting, listening to podcasts and music, and spending lots of time outdoors. Decide what lights your spirit up, and dedicate a little time each day to doing just that. If you are strapped for time, even just a couple minutes goes a long way.
7. Begin again.
Remember that you are human and are therefore, by default, not perfect. So first off, let that knowledge remove any pressure you feel, and give yourself grace when you fall off track. Understand that you have an amazing opportunity in each and every moment to choose to begin again. Learn to recognize when it’s time to make that choice, and be gentle with yourself. We are all works in progess.