If you were to ask me what I do regularly to feel good about myself I would probably talk to you about one of these five things: I exercise, I sleep long, I take time for myself, I go outside, and I allow myself to do nothing. In fact, none of these is out of the ordinary, but they should already be part of a healthy lifestyle. However, I catch myself mentioning one or the other to people because they are forgotten way too often.
At this point, I thought I’d give you a little overview of what simple changes in life are possible without too many changes. The emphasis is to think about ordinary things with more intention. Maybe you belong to the group of people who already does all five, or perhaps you don’t. In either case, now is an excellent time to think about it again.
There are so many benefits to regular exercise that it’s difficult to summarise them in a few words. And you probably know the most important ones anyway. So let me pick one that stands out for me: regular exercise makes me feel healthy, physically and mentally.
I routinely exercise at home and with a group of people at our community centre. Regardless of what I do then, I enjoy the physical exercise because I invest in myself. I tend to exercise to the point of exhaustion with the goal of sore muscles the next day. And this feeling after the training is the best feeling ever. It’s a feeling of accomplishment, of being alive, and a relief that it’s over. And when I can feel my body aching the next day, I feel more energetic, healthier, and more alert.
Exercising is time I invest in my body. After all, the time you don’t spend now on your health, you will have to pay later toward your sicknesses. And exercising gives me this sense of feeling alive and in tune with myself.
Time for yourself
Although I also use exercise as a time for myself, I also make sure to do something for myself every day that I enjoy. I take time for myself in various ways: I read a good book, I watch a cheesy TV-show or movie, or I listen to my music really loud. It’s something I enjoy, and I do it without justifying it to anyone else. It’s what I enjoy, and no one else has to enjoy it with me (unless they want to).
The idea of me-time can seem counterintuitive in our connected world. Everyone seems keen to be connected to the world at large all of the time. However, I find it essential to my mental health to turn the chatter off once in a while. I need time to think without distractions.
Sleeping … long
If it wouldn’t come with a stigma of laziness, I would always refer to sleeping as my hobby. In my time before kids, I would spend days in my pyjama and sleep all day. Those days were my interpretation of a perfect day. These days I just try to sleep as much as I can.
I aim to sleep at least 8 hours per night, and sometimes I try to nap during the day. And when it doesn’t come to that amount of sleep, I notice it very quickly. I get agitated, feel sick, and my skin looks grey. And I know I’m not alone in that. The problem is though that sleeping is all to often viewed as laziness, as unproductive time. But good sleep is essential to our health.
I currently spend a lot of time outside, and that’s not only because it’s summer. In our tiny house, we are very connected to the outside world because our space inside is somewhat limited. And to get away, or sometimes to do a chore, we need to step outside.
There are many articles and experts which point out the importance of outdoor play for kids. But us adults need just as much time in nature. Sunlight helps us to set our internal clock right, which then helps us to sleep well. Further, moving around outside helps to compensate for our stationary lifestyles inside. And even bad weather can be cleansing for our souls.
If at all possible, integrate regular outings in nature into your schedule and you will soon feel the difference. Being in nature makes me feel calm. I can breathe without the business around me and think again. And I get my best ideas for writing on walks through the countryside.
Probably the essential aspect of feeling well is to disconnect from the world every once in a while. There are multiple ways to do that. It can be a walk in the forest or along the beach. It can be sitting in the sun or enjoying a meal. The critical part here is that all distractions are turned off – no social media, no background chatter, no tasks lingering to be completed (not even the one to feel great when you get back home).
Just as there are many ways to do nothing, are there words to describe this state of mind: doing nothing, meditating, being mindful, being idle, Müßiggang, or even to look at the clouds. Whatever the exact word you choose to use, the goal is the same: to calm down.
Doing nothing inspires creativity in sometimes unprecedented ways. It might take time and practice, but the act of briefly disconnecting allows our minds to find new paths and to encourage new thoughts.
This post first appeared on Live Small – Be More.