Taking time out for yourself is an essential part of any healthy living strategy.
Life can be stressful. Between work, home and everything in between, you may feel run ragged some days. Your mental peace can start to fray. With that, your body may start to get run down, too.
When the pressures of life start to squeeze, you may try to focus less on yourself and more on everything else. Unfortunately, neglecting self-care can further aggravate your stress and exhaustion.
Self-care activities provide a chance to renew and regroup. They offer a breath of fresh air that can feed your spirit, even in the middle of a busy day. Your mood, your attention and your energy level will be better for it.
Whether you have five minutes or a few hours, you can take steps toward recharging your body and your mind. The key is making it a regular practice.
Looking for ways to start taking better care of yourself? Here are seven creative ways to recharge.
#1) Embrace (or cultivate) your green thumb.
Take yourself on a self-care field trip to your local garden center or plant nursery. Let yourself stroll the aisles on a quest for a new houseplant. As you browse, take a minute to appreciate the scent of the dirt, the feel of the leaves and the beauty of the blossoms.
The self-care associated with plant shopping doesn’t end when you leave the store. Tending to your new plant can become a peaceful part of your daily routine. Many people find comfort in simple activities like watering houseplants, sprinkling fertilizer or pruning brown leaves.
You can also gain several physical and mental health benefits from bringing nature indoors. Research suggests that houseplants improve sleep quality, reduce dry skin, lift spirits, calm overworked minds and relieve fatigue.
#2) Punch up your daily hydration.
You know that drinking enough water every day is important for good health. Motivating yourself to chug all that water can be a challenge, though. Instead of slogging through cup after cup of plain water, treat yourself to a splash of flavor. This is easy to do with a handful of fresh fruit.
There are countless fruits that work well for this, including limes, strawberries, oranges and mangoes. You can also add herbs like rosemary and mint.
Fruit-infused water is an easy way to elevate a daily practice. Also, the routine of washing and chopping your ingredients can induce a sense of calm. It’s a methodical activity that commands your attention and can help clear the clutter from your brain.
Adding fruit to your water might not sound thrilling, but small changes like this add up over time. Introducing something new into your life may have a net positive effect in the long run.
#3) Refresh your sleeping area.
Getting a good night’s sleep can make all the difference in your mood and outlook. If you’re not getting the kind of sleep you need, your bedroom setup might be to blame. Treat yourself to self-care in the form of a bedroom refresh.
One step you can take is to invest in new sheets made of a breathable material. Natural fibers like bamboo, cotton and linen allow heat to flow through them so you don’t get too hot during the night.
If you haven’t purchased a new pillow in a while, consider investing in a nice durable one. You’ll want one that comfortably supports your head and your neck in your preferred sleeping position.
You could also try hanging room-darkening curtains. Some people find it easier to drift off — and stay soundly asleep — in a room with minimal to no light.
Once your bedroom transformation is complete, practice daily self-care by taking a few minutes to make your bed each morning. You’ll appreciate the effort once bedtime rolls around. The National Sleep Foundation claims that people fall asleep more quickly when they’re lying in a made bed.
#4) Explore the great outdoors in your own backyard.
According to the National Parks Service, you may feel less stressed and anxious after going on a hike. Hiking regularly can also lower your risk of depression.
Hiking is good for your body as well. It provides cardiovascular exercise, strengthens your muscles and encourages balance.
If you need the motivation to go hiking more, challenge yourself to explore new local-ish parks. Compile a list of all the city, county or state parks within a reasonable driving distance. See how many of them you can visit over the next year.
Once you make it through every one of them, start over. Hike a new trail at each park, or expand your radius to nearby states for even newer scenery.
#5) Invest in a weighted blanket.
When you’re feeling wound up or worried, a tight squeeze could help you calm down. For those times when a hugging partner is nowhere to be found, look to your linen closet for comfort.
Weighted blankets, which can weigh 15 pounds or more, surround your body with light pressure. In response, your heart rate slows down. That can help you feel less anxious. Using a weighted blanket even has the potential to improve your sleep quality.
To make this a daily self-care routine, consider sitting with your blanket for at least 20 minutes each day. Pull it up to your shoulders so that it covers you from chin to toe. Allow this to be a time when you sit calmly and let the tension of your day dissipate.
If you enjoy the sensation, it’s generally considered safe for adults to sleep under a weighted blanket all night long. (Just avoid letting your kids sleep under one.)
#6) Soak in the steam.
Sitting in a sauna for 15 minutes may be good for your heart health. It’s also an opportunity to unplug and unwind.
Research on the benefits of sauna bathing is still ongoing. Scientists can’t say for sure that this practice will improve your cardiovascular system. They do know, though, that your body responds in similar ways to a sauna session as it does to a brisk walk.
Sitting in a sauna may help lower your blood pressure or reduce the stiffness of your arteries. It could also bring down inflammation in your body or help you breathe more easily. There’s even some evidence that saunas may improve your mental health and reduce your risk of dementia.
There’s another reason that sauna bathing makes for excellent self-care. The practice encourages your body to pump out endorphins. At the same time, your cortisol level may go down. In other words, you’ll have more feel-good hormones coursing through your body and fewer stress hormones.
If you’re going to add saunas to your self-care routine, be sure to take some safety precautions. First, check with your doctor to make sure this practice is safe for you. Also, limit your sessions to no more than 20 minutes at a time and hydrate afterward.
#7) Take up a new, creative hobby.
When you’re engaged in a creative endeavor, your brain moves away from its regular worries as it focuses on the task in front of you.
Creative pursuits are an investment in your long-term self-care, too. They help keep your brain sharp and engaged as you age. In one study, people who were more creative generally lived longer than those who didn’t have artistic tendencies.
Art comes in many forms. If you want to infuse your self-care routine with creativity, consider an activity like drawing, painting, sculpture, knitting, photography or beading. You could also take up an instrument or join a dance class.
You don’t have to consider yourself an artist to benefit. This isn’t about the finished product but the creative process. Pursuing new hobbies as self care can help support your health and well-being.