Jumping for Joy and Other Ways to Improve Your Self-Care Routine
Taking care of yourself can often fall to the bottom of the to-do list.
But especially after this last year, it has never been more important. It’s impossible to pour from an empty cup, so if you want to have anything to give: to your family, your friends or your work, you have to make sure to be recharging yourself on a regular basis.
Fortunately, there are so many easy ways to do just that! And the real, documented health benefits are significant! So add some of these joyful ideas to your self-care routine today.
1. Schedule some Playtime
Add some movement into your day. But not just any movement. Choose movement that makes you smile: jumping, skipping, swinging, splashing in the pool, dancing to the radio, hula hooping. Move in a way that makes you feel good!
We tend to make exercise into a chore. Take a lesson from the kids in your life: make it more fun! The benefits of play are numerous: from stimulating brain function and creativity to increased emotional well-being.
2. Reduce decision fatigue
We only have so much energy available to us each day. And the average adult uses a great deal of that energy to make up to a whopping 35,000 decisions daily. (Whether you agree with this specific statistic or not, I think we can all agree that the number of decisions we have to deal with is significant on any given day.) Reduce the amount of energy you use making a few of those daily decisions by either:
Alternately, establish what the Modern Mrs. Darcy calls Hard Edges in your day and Elise Blaha Cripe (in her book Big Dreams Daily Joys) calls Time Zones. (They aren’t the exact same idea but are simliar.) Look at what you do regularly. Then look over your day/week and decide when it makes the most sense to accomplish each task based on your energy level, who you else is present at the time and what needs to be done. Then plan to hold to that time schedule moving forward from.
Just eliminating a few items from your daily list of things to decide can free up your decision making muscle for more important things.
3. Get some sunshine
Over half of Americans suffer from a Vitamin D deficiency from so much time spent indoors. Since the sun is our primary source of Vitamin D, spending a little more time in the sunshine is literally good for your bones! Sunshine may also help reduce your risk of osteoporosis and certain cancers and speed up recovery time from illness.
Sunshine is also responsible for improving your levels of serotonin, which is the hormone associated with improved mood. Moderate exposure to the sun has a variety of health-boosting benefits, so go outside!
4. Schedule all your health care appointments at the same time
This could take some tweaking to accomplish if your appointments are currently spread out through the year, but choosing one month to schedule all of your health care can make it easier to keep track of. (See reducing decision fatigue #2 above.)
5. Do nothing
Relaxing and letting your mind wander allows the brain to process information and make connections. There is a whole network in your brain (the Default Mode Network) that gets to work when you are daydreaming aimlessly, which is why you may suddenly find yourself remembering that colleague’s name you forgot earlier.
This part of the brain is linked to ethics, creativity and memory, and giving it time to do its work can reduce stress and chronic health problems. But this sort of downtime doesn’t include watching tv or scrolling on your phone. Anything that engages your brain may be leisurely, but isn’t restful. Try watching (or even quietly walking next to) the ocean or sitting in the sun with your eyes closed instead.
Resting the mind this way can improve your mood and increase your ability to concentrate. So go ahead and do nothing for a while!
6. Adopt some houseplants
Houseplants can improve the quality of your air and lift your spirits. Science bears it out, incorporating nature into your environmental design has a positive impact on your health.
Seeing greenery and nature improve our sense of well-being. If you don’t have a green thumb, or houseplants are too great a commitment, bring in some fresh flowers. A bright bouquet will add energy to your space and reduce stress.
7. Hug someone
Touch is an important part of the human experience from our first moment at birth and all throughout our lives. A compassionate touch soothes our stress levels by releasing the hormone oxytocin. It may also increase our pain tolerance and reduce inflammation and blood pressure. A 20 second hug is all it takes to get the oxytocin flowing.
If you don’t have someone you can hug, I don’t recommend choosing someone off the street, but I do recommend getting a massage or a pet. Even a weighted blanket or a body pillow will simulate being held and can relieve anxiety.
We absorb so much from our information dense world. Where does it all go once we take it in? Morning pages are a great way to offload some of what is taking up space in your mind. Julia Cameron made Morning Pages popular in her book The Artist’s Way. Writing a few pages of stream of consciousness thought can free up some mental space and unlock creative blocks whether you are an artist or not.
A few tips: Write it all out without censorship. Don’t let anyone read it. (I throw my notebooks away when they are full.) Let pouring all that is inside onto the page free you up for your actual life.
Acts of kindness and generosity can be a quick mood-boost. Taking the focus off of ourselves and placing it on others is a proven way to lift your spirits.
But there are other, less obvious benefits as well. Generous people are more satisfied with their lives. They are often in better mental and physical health. Generosity can also improve symptoms of depression and isolation and may even increase your life expectancy.
10. Make a joy list
Can you list 5 things that bring you joy? When was the last time you thought about what adds joy to your life? Does your life currently hold any of the things on that list?
Sometimes we need to stop a minute and think about what actually brings us joy. And here’s why: increased joy can increase your immunity and ability to manage pain AND decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke. Choosing joy may also increase your life expectancy. It will certainly increase your overall life satisfaction.
Be intentional about identifying what brings you joy and adding more of those things into your life.
Small changes can add up to big results.
When we think about ‘improving’ our health we often think in terms of the BIG stuff, like the fast food we need to cut completely out of our diet or the exercise class we should be attending every day.
But making improvements to our health need not be made up of only giant steps. Obviously, those things would be good as well, but just regularly adding in the small things listed above can improve your mental health, give you more energy and increase your protection against disease! Baby steps still move you in the right direction.
Let’s not make it harder than it needs to be to begin taking better care of ourselves today. A healthier, more joyful life is waiting!