Advertising
Advertising

5 Self-Care Practices that Are Guaranteed to Change Your Life and Well-being

5 Self-Care Practices that Are Guaranteed to Change Your Life and Well-being

Far from being some hippy-dippy buzzword, self-care is absolutely critical for anyone looking to live a balanced, healthy, and fulfilling life. (Hopefully, that’s all of us!)

At its simplest, self-care is defined as any action you take that helps take care of yourself, whether it’s reducing stress or otherwise improving your mental and physical well-being. Making a habit of self-care allows us to be more fully in touch and engaged with our lives. In the process, we undergo improvements in our physical and mental well-being, our relationships, and even our income.

Advertising

It’s normal to feel resistance to self-care if you’re new to the concept. Like strengthening a muscle, it gets easier the more you often you do it. If you’re new to self-care or you’re looking to add more activities to your routine, here are five practices that are all but guaranteed to make your life better.

1. Ditch screens first thing in the morning.

If you’re like 60 percent of adults in this country, then one of the first things you do upon waking is to consult a screen for texts, missed calls, emails, social media updates, and so on. Even though the temptation is real, it sets a dangerous precedent: one in which you begin (and, likely, continue) your day in a state of reactivity and constantly prioritize other people’s desire for responsiveness over your own needs.

Advertising

To fundamentally shift the way you start each day, make an effort to avoid all screens for the first hour after you wake up. Instead of responding to emails or browsing social media, use that time to take care of yourself. Linger over a cup of coffee, do some yoga or simple stretching, or choose from any of the other entries on this list. As a bonus, there’s evidence to suggest taking time for yourself in the mornings can actually make you more productive during the day.

2. Embrace mindfulness.

You probably expected this entry to show up on the list—much ado has been made about mindfulness in recent years. The hype is well deserved. Mindfulness practices such as meditation have been shown to relieve stress, improve our ability to be compassionate, bring clarity to our lives, improve focus and concentration, and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. What’s especially great about meditation is that it continues to benefit us even when we aren’t actively practicing. Dedicating just five or ten minutes a day to a meditation practice can help you reap lifelong benefits in the form of improved emotional and mental well-being.

Advertising

3. File away all the compliments you receive (literally).

Human beings are prone to a nasty condition called negativity bias, in which we allow negative comments aimed at our work, character, and so on to influence our sense of self much more strongly than positive comments. While the sting of criticism might stick around for weeks, months, or even years, compliments tend to go in one ear and out the other—even if we receive fifteen compliments and only one negative critique.

The good news is you can combat your human impulse to privilege negative feedback over the positive by taking time to affirm the positive feedback you receive. Whenever someone pays you a compliment, write it down and literally file it away. Then, make it a habit to refer to this file on a regular basis. Schedule a “review” on your calendar every other week, once a month, or every day—whatever timetable works for you. By returning to these compliments over and over again, you’ll reinforce their impact and gradually start to shift your own self-concept to one that emphasizes your positive traits and accomplishments.

Advertising

4. Keep a journal.

Throw away your preconceptions. Journaling is not just for middle schoolers. Well-regarded psychological research has found that journaling can improve both our mental and physical well-being.

Writing engages your left (analytical) brain so that your right (creative, feeling) brain is free to express itself. As a result, journaling can help you recognize your thoughts and feelings, identify solutions to challenges or personal disagreements in your life, cope with stressful life events, and generally get to know yourself better. It’s also been shown to reduce stress, improve immunity, and even relieve the symptoms of some physical conditions such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

5. Spend time outside.

Even spending just fifteen minutes (ideally more) in the forest or another green space has been shown to reduce stress, improve overall well-being, increase life satisfaction, improve powers of focus and concentration, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and generally help people feel more alive. Spend that time walking, and you’ll help counteract the effects of sitting all day. Plus, you’ll give your body a chance to soak up some vitamin D which is a powerful immune booster and has even been linked to improvements in mood. In short, spending time outside is easily one of the most effective ways to improve your overall well-being.

At its core, practicing self-care is just good common sense. In order to stay healthy and happy you need to take care of yourself both physically and mentally. By implementing these strategies on a regular basis, you’ll help ensure that you get some serious bang for your self-care buck.

More by this author

Kenny Kline

Entrepreneur

This Is Why You Should Sleep on Your Left Side (Backed by Science) 5 Self-Care Practices that Are Guaranteed to Change Your Life and Well-being Mattress Shopping Why You Should Be Careful When Buying a Mattress Online How To Wait For What You Want Why Rest Days are Important for Higher Efficiency at Work

Trending in Brain

1 Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts 2 What Is Unconscious Bias (And How to Reduce It for Good) 3 What is Cognitive Dissonance (And How to Dodge it) 4 How Do Memory Vitamins Work? (And the Best Brain Supplements) 5 How Not to Let Cognitive Bias Control Us When Dealing with COVID-19

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Published on July 7, 2020

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Exercise isn’t just for your body. Just as important is keeping your mind strong by training your brain with fun mental workouts.

Think of your mental and physical fitness the same way: you don’t need to be an Olympian, but you do need to stay in shape if you want to live well. A few cognitive workouts per week can make a major difference in your life.

The Skinny on Mental Workouts

Physical fitness boosts your stamina and increases your muscular strength. The benefits of working up a mental sweat and brain training, however, might not be so obvious.

Research suggests that cognitive training has short- and long-term benefits, including:

1. Improved Memory

After eight weeks of cognitive training, 19 arithmetic students showed a larger and more active hippocampus than their peers.[1] The hippocampus is associated with learning and memory.

2. Reduced Stress Levels

Mastering new tasks more quickly makes the work of learning less stressful. A stronger memory can call information to mind with less effort.

3. Improved Work Performance

Learning quickly and remembering key details can lead to a better career. Employers are increasingly hiring for soft skills, such as trainability and attention to detail.

4. Delayed Cognitive Decline

As we age, we experience cognitive decline. A study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that 10 one-hour sessions of cognitive training boosted reasoning and information processing speed in adults between the ages of 65 and 94.[2]

Advertising

Just like in physical exercise, what’s important isn’t the specific workout. To be sustainable, cognitive workouts need to be easy and fun. Otherwise, it’s too easy to throw in the towel.

Fun Brain Training Exercises for Everyone

The best about fun mental workouts? There’s no need to head to a gym. Feel free to mix and match the following activities for daily brain training:

1. Brainstorming

One of the simplest, easiest ways to engage your brain? Coming up with solutions to a challenge you’re facing.

If you aren’t good at solo ideation, ask a partner to join you. When I’m struggling to come up with topics to write about, I call up my editors to bat ideas around. Friends or co-workers are usually happy to help.

2. Dancing

Isn’t dancing a physical workout? Yes, but the coordination it requires is also great for training your brain. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

Studies suggest that dance boosts multiple cognitive skills.[3] Planning, memorizing, organizing, and creativity all seem to benefit from a few fancy steps.

3. Learning a New Language

Learning a new language takes time. But if you split it up into small, daily lessons, it’s easier than you might think.

With language learning, every lesson builds on the last. When I was learning Spanish, I used a tool called Guru for knowledge management.[4] Every time I’d learn a verb tense, I’d create a new card to give me a quick refresh before moving on.

Advertising

4. Developing a Hobby

Like languages, hobbies take time to develop. But that’s the fun of them: you get a little better—both at the hobby and in terms of brain function—each time you do them.

If you’re trying to train your brain and improve a certain cognitive skill, choose a hobby that aligns with it.

For example:

  • Attention to detail: Pick a hobby that requires you to work patiently with small features. Woodworking, model-building, sketching, and painting are all good choices.
  • Learning and memory: Choose an activity that requires you to remember lots of details. Your best bets are hobbies that require lots of categorization, such as collecting stamps or coins.
  • Motor function: For this brain function, physical activities can double as fun mental workouts. Sports like soccer and basketball build gross motor functions. Fine motor functions are better trained through activities like table tennis or even playing video games.
  • Problem-solving: Most hobbies require you to problem-solve in one way or another. The ones that test your problem-solving skills the most, however, take some investigation.

Geocaching is a good example: Using a combination of clues and GPS readings, geocaching involves finding and re-hiding containers. Typically done in a wooded area, geocaching is a fun way to put your problem-solving skills to the test.

5. Board Games

Playing a board game might not be much of a physical workout, but it does make for a fun mental workout. With that said, not all board games work equally well for cognitive training.

Avoid “no brainer” board games, like Candy Land. Opt for strategy-focused ones, such as Risk or Settlers of Catan. Remember to ask other players for their input.

6. Card Games

Card games build cognitive skills in much the same way board games do. They have a few extra advantages, though, that make them worthy of special attention.

A deck of cards is inexpensive and can be played anywhere, from a kitchen to an airplane. More importantly, a deck of cards opens the door to dozens of different games. Challenge yourself to learn a few in an afternoon.

Advertising

7. Puzzles

Puzzles are great tools for building a specific cognitive skill: visuospatial function. Visuospatial function is important to train because it’s one of the first abilities to slip in people struggling with cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s.[5]

Choose a puzzle you’ll stick with. There’s no shame in starting with a 500-piece puzzle or choosing one that makes a childish image.

8. Playing Music

Listening to music is a great way to unwind. But playing music goes one step further. On top of entertaining you, it makes for a fun mental workout.

Again, choose an instrument you know you’ll stick with. If you’ve always wanted to learn the violin, don’t get a guitar because it’s less expensive or easier to pick up.

What if you can’t afford an instrument? Sing. Learning to control your voice is every bit as challenging as making a set of keys or strings sound good.

9. Meditating

Not all cognitive exercises are loud, in-your-face activities. Some of the most fun mental workouts, in fact, are quiet, solo activities. Meditating can help you focus, especially if you have pre-existing attention issues.

Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never meditated before. It’s easy:

  • Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down.
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes, or for however long you have to meditate.
  • Close your eyes or turn off the lights.
  • Focus on your breathing. Do not try to control it.
  • If your thoughts wander, gently bring them back to your breath.
  • When the timer goes off, wiggle your fingers and toes for a minute. Slowly bring yourself back to reality. Remember the sense of serenity you found.

10. Deep Conversation

There’s nothing more mentally stimulating than a good, long conversation. The key is depth: surface-level chatter doesn’t get the mind’s wheels spinning like a thoughtful, authentic conversation. This type of conversation helps in training your brain to think more deeply and reflect.

Advertising

Choose your partner carefully. You’re looking for someone who’ll challenge your ideas without being confrontational. Stress isn’t good for brain health, but there’s value in coming up with creative arguments.

11. Cooking

When you think about it, cooking requires an impressive array of cognitive skills. Developing a cook’s intuition requires a good memory. Making sure flavors are balanced takes attention to detail. When something goes wrong in the kitchen, problem-solving skills come into play. Motor control is required to stir, flip, and whisk.

If you’re going to cook, you might as well make enough for everyone. Invite them into the kitchen as well: coordinating with other chefs adds an extra layer of challenge to this fun mental workout.

12. Mentorship

Whether you’re the mentee or the mentor, mentorship is an incredible mental workout. Learning from someone you look up to combines the benefits of deep conversation with skill-building. Teaching someone else forces you to put yourself in their shoes, which requires empathy and problem-solving skills.

Put yourself in both situations. Being a student makes you a better teacher, and teaching others gives you insight into how you, yourself, learn.

Final Thoughts

Your mind is your most important possession, and training your brain is needed to maintain its health. Don’t let it get soft.

To keep those neurons firing at full speed, add a few fun mental workouts to your schedule. And if you’re still struggling to get your brain in gear, remember: there’s an app for that.

More Tips for Training Your Brain

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next