Today I would like to talk about five simple ways to self-care. We live in a busy world with increasing amount of information to process and more and more responsibility resting on our shoulders. We seem to be living in a more comfortable and technologically advanced world. We can travel around the world and soon we might even be able to travel for holidays to space. Yet, according to many reports, we are still not happy. The amount of mental health problems is growing. Depression is a commonly used word. Many business gurus aim to address the more and more popular experience of a burn-out.
So I thought it would be useful to look at simple tips for self-care – things you can do right now to avoid falling into those darker moments in life or possibly to help you in less positive moments in life. I am actually going to base them on a report published in 2008 by the New Economics Foundation in London which was used by the UK Government as a basis to elements of the current mental health provision in the UK.
- Connect with others – socialise and invest in deep, healthy relationships: humans are social creatures and we really need something from each other, we need the validation of our feelings which obviously is pretty impossible without a friend or a family member. We need to feel the sense of belonging to a group. We need to feel safe. We need to feel that our take on life does not go unnoticed. So evaluate your current relationships from that point of view and invest in people who make you feel good about yourself, who lift you up from a dark moment and who help you thrive in good times.
- Stay active – I am not expecting you to get up and go to the gym, but it is indeed recommended to find a way to move and stay active. Go for a walk to the local park and then sit on a bench and read your book. Walk to the shop instead of driving. Do some patio gardening. Go for a bike ride or just get a dog – you won’t even notice those miles you’ll walk. Plus you will make friends too. When we move our bodies release hormones that keep us fit but also happy. Plus to be honest we only have one body – we better keep it in a good shape as we won’t be able to get a replacement, right?
- Be mindful – mindfulness is a huge trend at the moment and many people I talk to switch off, but for me, my morning coffee time is my meditation: I take time to stop, switch off the busy brain and simply breathe in the scent of coffee. That’s how I wake up. It’s me-time and I treasure it so much that I struggle on days when I have to rush out of the house. Mindfulness is about noticing the little things and putting our sometimes really overwhelming, or even unresolvable issues, into perspective. Close your eyes and enjoy the sun on your cheek. Cuddle your child. Play with your pet. Enjoy the moment. Being just for a second in the “here and now” can be really powerful. Be selfish and take time for yourself. It’s OK. Despite what many of us think, time is actually a very subjective concept.
- Do something new – introduce a bit of variety into your life and use the rules of positive psychology: what makes people truly happy is completing tasks that are easily achievable, measurable and most importantly chosen by them. So decide on a small project today: plan a tree or learn to doodle something new. When we learn new things our brains fire up in new areas and our brain is alive. As long as your new tasks are not too overwhelming and you are happy to do them (you choose your goals) it is actually that little amount of effort that makes us happy.
- Do something nice for others – volunteer or simply smile at another person, pay them a compliment, carry their heavy shopping. Focussing on others helps to gain perspective. It gives us a quick sense of accomplishment, well-deserved pride and a lot of other positive feelings. Unlike negative emotions, positive feelings are very gentle and fleeing so we need to collect a lot of them to feel good. Collect those moments of positivity through small acts of kindness. Don’t expect anything for them. Just enjoy the feelings resulting from giving and helping.
That’s the top five. There are three other areas that the NEF report flagged up but did not support with enough of evidence but I would really like to mention here, simply because oftentimes we don’t think about them. First of all, consider working in a healthy environment – by that, I mean supportive management, respectful colleagues and a thriving environment. Go out and connect with nature – parks, nature reserves or even an allotment. And finally consider your diet too: you are made of what you drink and eat. Eat healthy foods and drink a lot of water.
I know those tips sound really basic. Many of my clients and friends start to implement them when something goes terribly wrong in their lives but do you really want to wait that long? What if instead of waiting for an illness we could cultivate a healthy lifestyle (both physically and mentally) and build up our resilience in advance of darker, harder times? If you look back at the above list of tips, they are not so hard to implement, really. Make a few small tweaks and you will feel so much better!