It’s easy to let self-care slip through the cracks and put our own needs on the backburner amidst busy schedules and responsibilities. In fact, sometimes we even forget what those needs are in the first place because we’re so busy! But hurrying through our days without tuning in to our bodies and minds is a recipe for burnout, STAT, and that’s why it’s so important to think about self-care consciously.
When you make time to take care of yourself, you’ll be happier, healthier, less stressed and more energized than ever. And self-care time doesn’t mean sacrificing productivity—you’ll probably get even more done without realizing it since you’ll feel better overall! So, here are 11 of our best self-care tips for your mind and body.
#1 Reconnect with You & Be Mindful
There are some basic needs everyone must meet to stay healthy, including nutritional needs and activity, but to truly take care of YOUR mind and body you need to look deeper than that and discover what it is you need to live joyfully and feel your best.
Starting a mindfulness practice is a great way to reconnect and rediscover yourself. Instead of rushing through your days, slow down and engage. Be mindful of what you are doing and compassionate with yourself and others. Be in the moment to fully experience your days. Tune in to how you feel in both body and mind, and maybe even consider starting a mindfulness journal.
It might be helpful to set occasional reminders at first since many of us are in such a habit of scurrying through our days, but it’s worth it. A mindfulness practice will help you reconnect with yourself and the world around you, and experts say practicing mindfulness helps decrease stress, boost mood, make us more resilient, and optimizes overall wellbeing; and it’s even healthy for the brain.1
#2 Practice Gratitude Daily
You most likely say “thank you” when someone holds a door or elevator for you, but practicing daily gratitude takes it a step further. A gratitude practice goes beyond courtesy to cultivating a sense of positivity (and banishing negativity) through truly acknowledging the moments we are thankful or grateful for every day. It can be as simple as being thankful for a cookie you had at lunch to a joke from a friend that made you laugh, or a spontaneous backrub from your partner.
Reflecting on moments for which we are truly thankful every day helps bring attention to the positive things in our lives, many of which we may overlook or take for granted if we aren’t intentionally looking for those moments. People who practice gratitude daily experience positive emotions more often, sleep better, have more compassion and kindness, stronger immune systems, and report feeling more alive in general.2
Practicing gratitude and mindfulness go hand in hand. Try keeping a gratitude list and add to it daily, or make some time for gratitude during your mindfulness journaling. Another fun idea is to start a gratitude bank. Find a container you love like a big jar, vase or coin bank and write your moments of gratitude, along with the date, on little pieces of paper to add to the bank as they happen. Give it a try!
#3 Rethink How You Talk to Yourself
When you think about taking better care of yourself, the first thing that comes to mind may be related to nutrition and exercise or other activities that you see as a part of your plan for success. While those are definitely factors in feeling like your best self, it’s not the whole story.
If you find that your thoughts about why you need to do these things aren’t rooted in compassion, you might first need to consider your internal dialog. Some of us are hard on ourselves after we’ve started a wellness plan if we miss a day or eat something that wasn’t a part of the plan, but making ourselves feel guilty is not a recipe for success! It just leads to frustration and feeling down, which aren’t exactly motivating feelings.
Think about the words in your internal dialog and work on developing a kind, compassionate internal tone like that of an encouraging loved one. Find positive things to say about yourself and find your internal motivator. Adopt words and phrases like “I’ve got this” and “I believe in myself.” And look for motivation in non-scale victories too. For example, you’ll feel more energized if you eat better, your skin will have a healthy glow for hours after each workout and you may be less stressed at work because of your new self-care routine.
When it comes to self-care, start from where you are and enjoy the journey. Be kind to yourself along the way, and don’t get discouraged by bumps in the road. Focus on small intentions and be compassionate. You’ll start to see big changes before you know it.
#4 Unplug to Connect
You probably don’t need statistics to tell you that people spend a lot of time in front of electronic screens. All you really need to do is spend a little time in public spaces to see it, but studies help put it into perspective. According to the statistics, American adults spend an average of 11 hours a day in front of an electronic device.3 Whether we’re working, playing, relaxing, or simply trying to function as a human being (Hey Google, how do you get gum out of the carpet?) electronic devices are a part of our lives now, for better and for worse.
As connected as our devices make us feel to the outside world, sometimes they can get in the way of connecting with the people closest to us and to ourselves. It’s a good idea to take some time away from your devices to focus on genuinely connecting with people face to face and to devote more time to self-care! Try going on a digital detox for a day and turn off all unnecessary electronics, or set aside a block of time every day to go screen-free and spend time doing something non-digital with those you love, or do something nice for yourself. You may be surprised by how relaxing and enjoyable those moments of device-free living can be!
#5 Declutter (Not Just Your Stuff!)
Decluttering your life can make a big difference in your peace of mind and overall wellbeing. That goes for your schedule and eating habits, as well as your spaces. Donating things that you don’t need and decluttering may help create a relaxing environment so you feel less stressed and more comfortable in your space, but if you find yourself always running from one commitment to the next, you may want to reevaluate some of your commitments too.
Being over-committed is stressful and leaves little downtime for self-care. Intentionally make room for the activities and relationships that mean the most to you and let go of those that don’t add value to your life.
Also, you may want to take a similar approach to your pantry! We tend to reach for the foods we have on hand when we’re busy or stressed, so pack your pantry with nutritious, wholesome options instead of processed foods or unhealthy snacks so you’ll always have delicious, nourishing foods available at arm’s reach. Read Pack Your Pantry: How to Make a Real Food Pantry for some great ideas.
#6 Treat Yourself
Don’t wait until a special occasion or until you feel like you “deserve it” to treat yourself. Taking better care of yourself isn’t all about strict rules and sacrifice, and there are plenty of healthy ways to treat yourself. It can be as simple as putting on a favorite shirt that feels nice next to your skin, or relaxing in a warm bath, or making time for an activity you enjoy each day. Also, try adding something new to your wellness routine to help reduce stress and promote wellbeing like a full spectrum hemp oil extract.
There’s plenty of room in a balanced diet for treats too. Have a square of antioxidant-rich dark chocolate or a glass of your favorite red wine every now and then, which also provides heart-healthy resveratrol.4,5 Or find healthy hacks for your favorite recipes like these 4 Delicious, Healthy Baked Donut Recipe Hacks.
#7 Get Enough Sleep
Not getting enough sleep is hard on your body and mind. You need sleep so your body can repair tissues, grow muscles, synthesize hormones and rejuvenate, and so your brain can consolidate memories and more.6
If you get enough sleep on a regular basis it benefits your body in so many ways and you’ll feel better overall. You may even notice that you have an easier time focusing, feel less irritable and stressed, and have a better memory than when you are sleep deprived.7
If you struggle to get enough sleep each night, try establishing a nighttime self-care ritual to help your body wind down and prepare for sleep. Dim the lights after dinner and keep electronic screens out of the bedroom, since the light from devices can interfere with your body’s production of melatonin.8
Melatonin is a hormone that helps you sleep, and you can try melatonin supplements to help get your body’s sleep-wake cycles back on track.8 For more ideas, check out Zealous about ZZZs: Sleep Benefits & Sleep Hacks for Everyone and How Much Melatonin Should You Really Be Taking?
#8 Energize Your Body with Activity
While getting enough sleep helps rejuvenate your body and mind, being active really revs up your energy levels so you can make the most of every single day.
You know the feeling—you’ve been sitting at your desk all day or on the couch binge-watching your favorite show, yet somehow you feel tired despite not doing much physically. Inactivity fuels—guess what—inactivity! Our bodies were designed to move. When we aren’t in motion our circulatory system and energy production slows down.9
Thankfully, all it takes is a short walk or a stretching session to set things in motion again. So, fight the urge to stay put and get your body moving. Try to fit in at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week to help keep your energy up and promote health. And that doesn’t mean you need a gym membership—there are plenty of fun, easy ways to get in daily activity. Read Move More: How to Move More Each Day and 5 Summer Fitness Fun Ideas for some great ideas.
#9 Make Time for Hobbies
What do hobbies have to do with wellbeing? We’re so glad you asked! It’s rewarding and uplifting to lose yourself in doing something you truly love and see your passions come to life, but hobbies come with other benefits too. Whether it’s an hour a week or half an hour a day, hobbies reduce stress, promote flow, and help foster social connections and bonding (a key component of happiness), plus they enrich your life with curiosity and inspiration.10
So, what are you waiting for? Pick up your tools, paintbrush, pottery wheel or knitting needles and dream up something amazing. If you don’t already have a hobby in mind, think back to what made your 12-year-old self the happiest. If you were happier picking flowers than drawing them, start a flower garden! Be open-minded and try some new things. Making time for hobbies is a great addition to your self-care routine.
#10 Try Adaptogenic Herbs for Stress
When asked, most people say they believe managing stress is important, but are they doing it?11 And do they know how important it really is?
More than 75% of all doctor visits are for stress-related health concerns, and stress has been linked to the six most serious threats to our health, including heart problems, liver concerns, accidents and more.11,12 Given those statistics, we should be doing more to minimize our exposure to stress. But it’s tough, especially if your stress comes from sources that seem out of your control.
We may not be able to control everything that comes our way in life, but we can impact how we respond to it and recover from it, and adaptogenic herbs may have a role in that. Adaptogens help balance and protect us in the face of stress, helping to calm the body and reduce the impact of stress.13Adaptogenic herbs are not a new concept, but our increasingly stressful modern lives have caused a resurgence of interest in them, and for very good reasons. Here are a few to try:
Holy basil is an adaptogenic herb with roots in Ayurveda. Also known as Tulsi, this popular herb may be one of the most powerful adaptogenic herbs for alleviating the mental and physical effects of stress, helping to modulate stress hormones and more.14
Also known as “velvet bean” or “dopamine bean,” research shows this exotic legume is surprisingly effective at managing stress levels. It contains a substance known as L-DOPA, which is a precursor to dopamine, a neurotransmitter and feel-good hormone.15
Studies show ashwagandha fights the negative effects of stress on the body.16 It promotes a sense of calmness and relaxation as well as a healthy, natural response to daily stress.
Eleuthero root, also known as Siberian ginseng, helps fight the effects of stress while energizing mind and body. It’s a distant relative of Asian ginseng and use to help promote immune health, cortisol reduction and to support healthy blood pressure within normal ranges.17
Check out our full range of supplements for managing stress.
#11 Make Self-Care a Habit
Embracing a self-care routine is one of the best things you can do for your mind and body health. What that routine includes is up to you, and you don’t have to do it all at once. Introduce one new habit at a time until taking better care of yourself becomes second nature.
You can start with adopting an energizing morning routine to start your day fresh, exploring new ideas to include in your bedtime ritual, beginning a 5-minute daily meditation practice, or simply making a commitment to staying hydrated.
Whatever you do, start from where you are and make it solely about your health and wellbeing. Add layers to your self-care efforts as you go and build up a self-care practice that works for you.
How to Take Better Care of Yourself
We hope these 11 self-care strategies will help you find new ways for taking good care of yourself. Self-care practices can help bring more joy to your life and inspire you to bring joy and compassion to others. Good luck on your journey and we look forward to hearing about it below.
What are your favorite ways to take care of your mind and body health? What makes you feel most in tune with yourself and your wellness needs? Share your thoughts in the comments. And be sure to check out Say Om: 6 Tips to Help You Relax and Reduce Stress or Take Care of U: 6 Ways to Take Care of Yourself.
About Lindsey Toth, MS, RD
Registered Dietitian, Swanson Health Products
Lindsey is a nationally-recognized registered dietitian and nutritionist with a soft spot for pie. She empowers people to take charge of their health by finding the balance between the pleasure and nourishment in food. Her philosophy is that you should take care of your body because it’s the only permanent home you have. It’s what inspired her to pursue a career in nutrition and, ultimately, led her to Swanson Health.
1 The 23 Amazing Health Benefits of Mindfulness for Body and Brain. Positive Psychology Group. https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/benefits-of-mindfulness/ (Accessed 06/18/2018)
2 The Science Behind Gratitude (and How it Can Change Your Life). Happify Daily. https://www.happify.com/hd/the-science-behind-gratitude/ (Accessed 06/18/2018)
3 Addicted: Americans Spend 11 Hours a Day on TV, Phone, Radio and Gaming. Time. http://time.com/16458/nielsen-electronic-media-study-11-hours-a-day/ (Accessed 06/18/2018)
4 7 Proven Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-health-benefits-dark-chocolate (Accessed 06/18/2018)
5 Red wine and resveratrol: Good for your heart? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/red-wine/art-20048281(Accessed 06/18/2018)
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7 How is the body affected by sleep deprivation? https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/sleep/conditioninfo/sleep-deprivation (Accessed 01/05/2018)
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9 Rev Up Your Energy. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/rev-up-your-energy#1 (Accessed 06/18/2018)
10 Six Reasons to Get a Hobby. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/happy-trails/201509/six-reasons-get-hobby (Accessed 06/18/2018)
11 Stress in America: Our Health at Risk. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2011/final-2011.pdf (Accessed 06/18/2018)
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13 Adaptogenic Herbs: Nature's Solution To Stress. The Chiropractic Resource Organization. http://www.chiro.org/nutrition/FULL/Adaptogenic_Herbs.shtml (Accessed 06/18/2018)
14 Tulsi - Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons. US National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4296439/ (Accessed 06/19/2018)
15 Mucuna pruriens Reduces Stress and Improves the Quality of Semen in Infertile Men. US National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2816389/ (Accessed 06/18/2018)
16 A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults. US National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23439798 (Accessed 06/18/2018)
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.