Taking Care of Yourself

One of the most difficult things about being an adult is having to take care of yourself. When you were little there was always someone there to kiss your scraped knee, soothe you when you got dumped, and make you chicken noodle soup when your nose was too stuffy for you to breathe. Now it’s your own responsibility to do all that for yourself, and that’s easier said than done. It’s really hard to pick yourself up in the middle of a rough patch. That’s why self care is so important.

Self care is not something you do only when you need it. It is something that should be a regular part of your routine. Preventative medicine is the best medicine – think of self care as preventative medicine for your soul. There are even bonus points because practicing caring for your soul also helps with caring for your body.

Here are some tips for how to take care of yourself regularly. A number of these were originally published on Greatist, and I’ve added some of my own. You don’t have to do them all at once, but if you make a point to regularly include these steps in your routine I bet you’ll notice a difference.

  • Get outside.
    Ditching the comfort of your home is a great way to improve mental and physical health. Similar to meditation, spending time out of doors benefits the brain [1]. Other research suggests that being outside in nature also makes us feel more alive. Even living in an area with more green space (i.e. parks and gardens) is associated with greater life satisfaction and less mental distress.

    2. Try an outdoor workout.
    Consider taking your sweat session into nature, too. Research shows that working out in the Great Outdoors boosts mental health, and may decrease tension, anger, and depression [2] [3].

    3. Pay it forward.
    By helping others, we actually help ourselves, too. Lending a hand not only boosts mental health, but may also lead to a longer life [4]. Volunteering also positively affects self-confidence, self-esteem, and general wellbeing.

    4. Breathe the right scents.  
    We know that breathing techniques can help us relax. But what we breathe might be just as important ashow we breathe. While the benefits of aromatherapy are debated, research suggests that citrus scents — orange essential oil in particular — can help slash stress and anxiety, and getting a whiff of rosemary may boost memory [5] [6].5. Stress less.
    By now, we all know that stress is really bad for our health. Research suggests that stress may be contagious, and the more stressed we think we are, the worse it might be for our heart health [7]. But between work, relationships, family, and whatever else life throws at us, it’s difficult not to succumb to it. Use these strategies, which range from drinking tea to practicing progressive relaxation, to keep the stress monster at bay.

    6. Be mindful.
    Focusing on the present — without judging how we feel and what we think — can be both a liberating and healthy practice. Studies show that getting in-tune with ourselves through mindfulness slashes stress and depression, helps us see ourselves in a truer light, and may even help keep our minds from wandering [8].

    7. Be happy!
    We all know that happiness feels good, but it’s also great for our health. Research suggests that feeling happy may even prevent disease, including heart disease [9] [10]. But being happy is easier said than done, right? Turns out there’s actually a simple way to feel more upbeat: Just crack a smile!

    8. Meditate.
    Meditation is proof that it doesn’t take a ton of time to do a mind and body good. Just a few minutes of quieting your mind can help relieve stress [11] [12] [13]. Other benefits include a boost in compassion and emotional stability, and some research suggests that meditating could even keep winter illness at bay [14]. The best part? Its benefits continue even when we’re not meditating — consider it the gift (to yourself) that keeps on giving. Sneak some meditation into day-to-day life with these 10 awesome techniques.9. Dance around.
    Shaking your booty doesn’t just make for a fit physique. It may also improve both mood and body image, lead to a better outlook, is associated with a lower risk for dementia, and even help you make friends [15]. Consider this your cue for a silly impromptu dance party.

    10. Turn up the tunes.
    If you’ve ever noticed that certain songs bring a smile to your face, you’re not alone. As it turns out, science has taken note, too. Research shows that listening to music makes already positive emotions even more intense, and upbeat music in particular can do great things for your mood. Plus, jamming out can also improve heart health [16].

    11. Eat more fruits and veggies.
    Adding more fruits and veggies to our plate is a great way to practice self-care all throughout the day. Research shows that eating berries boosts brain health while noshing on peppers prevents Parkinson’s[17]. And in case we needed another reason to load up on nature’s goodness, filling up on seven portions of fruits and veggies per day might make us happier.12. Swear it off.
    Though a potty mouth isn’t appropriate in a lot of scenarios (work… church… on a date… you get the picture), dropping an F-bomb might be an easy way to blow off some steam. Research also shows swearing can reduce physical pain, and may even boost confidence and self-esteem [18]. But, as they say, timing is everything — so be sure to filter your expletives to avoid adding embarrassment to stress.

    13. Indulge in some retail therapy.
    Shopaholics, rejoice! Hitting the mall can help ease mild depression and make us more confident, according to some researchers. Another study suggests that purchasing new clothes can lift a person’s mood. Science aside, treating yourself to something shiny, special, and new (it doesn’t have to be expensive!) is a pretty surefire way to put a smile on your face.

    14. Have a spa day.
    One of my favorite ways to care for myself is to put on a detoxifying face mask and give myself a manicure. It allows me to unwind, take a break from any stress I may be experiencing, and has the added bonus of making my skin look damn good.
    15. Become a bookworm.
    Contrary to what some middle school bullies believe, reading is cool. Plus, it’s actually really good for our health. Research suggests that reading on a regular basis keeps the mind sharp as it ages, and reading fiction in particular makes for more creativity and a more open mind. Cracking open a book may alsoimprove sleep and make us more empathic [22].

    16. Laugh out loud.
    There’s a reason people say laughter is “the best medicine”: Chuckling and giggling benefit our mental and physical health, especially when combined with exercise [23]. Giving into a case of the funnies canimprove our overall quality of life, while getting goofy with other people can help us connect with the people we laugh with and foster our relationships. Your plan of action: Watch a funny movie or a comedy on television—those reruns of How I Met Your Mother may actually be good for your heart [24].

    17. Look at something cute.
    Instant mood booster: looking at pictures of baby animals. Thanks to Pinterest, that’s incredibly easy (Just take a look at this board — it’s chock-full of super cute furry friends.). Plus, browsing through these photos may even help you when you’re on the job. Research suggests it may boost your productivity at work [25]. Just, uh, don’t let the boss catch you.18. Get enough Zzz’s.
    There tons of things that can sabotage our sleep, whether it’s a late night at the office, a wild night with friends, or just catching up on Scandal. The problem is, skimping on shut-eye can hurt job productivity,make us choose to eat larger portions, and may lead to diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Prioritize snooze time for a healthier, happier you — even if it’s just a quick cat nap during your lunch break.

    19. Declutter.
    Some researchers believe that clutter can stress us out and bring us down. On the flip side, sorting through and purging unorganized papers, clothes, knickknacks, or whatever else is crowding our lives may help us be more productive, cheerful, and calmer. I personally reorganize my house whenever I have a big project coming up that is keeping me from sleeping.

    20. Pound the pavement.
    Not only does it torch calories, but running is a mood-booster that can help reduce anxiety [26]. Long-distance running in particular may even provide pain relief. Exercise in general is linked to decreasing symptoms of depression, so lace up your sneakers the next time you need a mood lift [27]. Walking works too, and for added benefit invite a friend. You can catch up while getting happier and healthier. What’s better than that?21. Indulge in a massage.
    Set aside some time to experience the complete and total bliss of a massage. It soothes both the mind and muscles, improves sleep quality, and reduces stress [28].

    22. Cuddle.
    Whether you’re the big spoon or little spoon, cuddling is good for you. Studies show that physical contactreduces stress and releases a hormone called oxtocin that boosts happiness. Even if you’re cuddling with your dog or petting your cat you can reap the benefits.

    23. Get your Om on.
    It comes as no surprise that yoga is a healthy practice. It helps relieve anxiety, stress, and depression, all while boosting energy levels and improving our overall sense of well-being. Don’t think you have to commit to a full-length yoga class to reap its health benefits. Just 20 minutes on the mat improves focusand boosts the brain [29] [30]. Try these restorative yoga poses to erase any built-up tension.24. Unplug.
    These days, it feels like everyone’s glued to a phone, laptop, or both at the same time. Deliberately taking a break from social media, e-mail, blogging, and so on can help us recharge and gives our brain the downtime it needs to work at an optimal level.

    25. Get out of town.
    When it comes to taking vacation, most Americans don’t do a lot of it. But skipping out on time away from the 9-to-5 does more harm than good: Studies show that skipping the family vacay is associated with ahigher risk of heart disease in both men and women [31]. Whether booking a trip to an exotic location or going somewhere nearby, time away from work can help refresh our focus, and being exposed to a new location or experience may boost creativity. Plus, everyone deserves a break!

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