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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Kenny Kline

Entrepreneur

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Last Updated on September 10, 2018

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

We thought that the expression ‘broken heart’ was just a metaphor, but science is telling us that it is not: breakups and rejections do cause physical pain. When a group of psychologists asked research participants to look at images of their ex-partners who broke up with them, researchers found that the same brain areas that are activated by physical pain are also activated by looking at images of ex-partners. Looking at images of our ex is a painful experience, literally.[1].

Given that the effect of rejections and breakups is the same as the effect of physical pain, scientists have speculated on whether the practices that reduce physical pain could be used to reduce the emotional pain that follows from breakups and rejections. In a study on whether painkillers reduce the emotional pain caused by a breakup, researchers found that painkillers did help. Individuals who took painkillers were better able to deal with their breakup. Tamar Cohen wrote that “A simple dose of paracetamol could help ease the pain of a broken heart.”[2]

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Just like painkillers can be used to ease the pain of a broken heart, other practices that ease physical pain can also be used to ease the pain of rejections and breakups. Three of these scientifically validated practices are presented in this article.

Looking at images of loved ones

While images of ex-partners stimulate the pain neuro-circuitry in our brain, images of loved ones activate a different circuitry. Looking at images of people who care about us increases the release of oxytocin in our body. Oxytocin, or the “cuddle hormone,” is the hormone that our body relies on to induce in us a soothing feeling of tranquility, even when we are under high stress and pain.

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In fact, oxytocin was found to have a crucial role as a mother is giving birth to her baby. Despite the extreme pain that a mother has to endure during delivery, the high level of oxytocin secreted by her body transforms pain into pleasure. Mariem Melainine notes that, “Oxytocin levels are usually at their peak during delivery, which promotes a sense of euphoria in the mother and helps her develop a stronger bond with her baby.”[3]

Whenever you feel tempted to look at images of your ex-partner, log into your Facebook page and start browsing images of your loved ones. As Eva Ritvo, M.D. notes, “Facebook fools our brain into believing that loved ones surround us, which historically was essential to our survival. The human brain, because it evolved thousands of years before photography, fails on many levels to recognize the difference between pictures and people”[4]

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Exercise

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that reduce our perception of pain. When our body is high on endorphins, painful sensations are kept outside of conscious awareness. It was found that exercise causes endorphins to be secreted in the brain and as a result produce a feeling of power, as psychologist Alex Korb noted in his book: “Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, neurotransmitters that act on your neurons like opiates (such as morphine or Vicodin) by sending a neural signal to reduce pain and provide anxiety relief.”[5] By inhibiting pain from being transmitted to our brain, exercise acts as a powerful antidote to the pain caused by rejections and breakups.

Meditation

Jon Kabat Zinn, a doctor who pioneered the use of mindfulness meditation therapy for patients with chronic pain, has argued that it is not pain itself that is harmful to our mental health, rather, it is the way we react to pain. When we react to pain with irritation, frustration, and self-pity, more pain is generated, and we enter a never ending spiral of painful thoughts and sensations.

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In order to disrupt the domino effect caused by reacting to pain with pain, Kabat Zinn and other proponents of mindfulness meditation therapy have suggested reacting to pain through nonjudgmental contemplation and acceptance. By practicing meditation on a daily basis and getting used to the habit of paying attention to the sensations generated by our body (including the painful ones and by observing these sensations nonjudgmentally and with compassion) our brain develops the habit of reacting to pain with grace and patience.

When you find yourself thinking about a recent breakup or a recent rejection, close your eyes and pay attention to the sensations produced by your body. Take deep breaths and as you are feeling the sensations produced by your body, distance yourself from them, and observe them without judgment and with compassion. If your brain starts wandering and gets distracted, gently bring back your compassionate nonjudgmental attention to your body. Try to do this exercise for one minute and gradually increase its duration.

With consistent practice, nonjudgmental acceptance will become our default reaction to breakups, rejections, and other disappointments that we experience in life. Every rejection and every breakup teaches us great lessons about relationships and about ourselves.

Featured photo credit: condesign via pixabay.com

Reference

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