Want to feel good? Of course you do!
Okay, let's do this together. Take a deep breath in for 1...2...3. Hold it for 1...2...3. Now exhale all the way out. Annnd a little more. Ah! Feels nice, right?
Living well means treating yourself right, but there’s no one right way to do it. So we wanted to share some of our favorite facts and hacks for covering our feel-good bases–mind, body, and soul.
Start with your head: Mind
Science has acknowledged the mind-body connection for centuries. We know that a stressed mind can lead to sick body. So, to keep yourself healthy, get into your own head.
Meditation is gaining widespread acceptance as an effective stress-reduction tool. Just being able to slow your thoughts and focus can give you a reassuring, relaxing sense of control in stressful situations. Science has also proven the effectiveness of progressive muscle relaxation and relaxation response. Progressive muscle relaxation involves clenching and releasing muscle groups one at a time over the whole body–this is the same sort of thing a yoga teacher may do right before the best part of class (Savasana!). The squeeze not appealing? Relaxation response is another option that entails mentally focusing on a word or phrase when stress hits. Both are thought to stop mental tension by forcing the mind to think about something else.
Your hacks: Having a tough day at work? You did some breathing a second ago so you're ahead of the game. Take another moment to lift and relax your shoulder muscles as you take your gaze away from your computer screen. Go ahead, give them a wiggle. Have trouble shutting off your brain? We do too. We’ve found that breathing meditation–where you practice breathing patterns for a few minutes a day–can really help. No wonder our Moms used to tell us to take deep breaths! Meditation apps also help make the whole thing less daunting–we love Headspace and Simple Habit.
The main event: Body
The body is a complex machine, so taking care of it can seem pretty complex, too. It doesn’t have to be. Move it, feed it, love it. Simple. Studies show that physical activity is the most significant factor in leading a high-quality life—and that benefits are measurable both physically and mentally. Move—in any way that you enjoy—and feel good.
Of course, expending energy makes you hungry, right? So body-care part two is to feed yourself like the amazing human you are. Low-fat, plant-based diets are shown to increase cardiovascular health. The occasional brownie is scientifically a-ok, too (Yuss!). Third, show your body some love, no matter what. Science tells us that comparing yourself to idealized images is the short road to disorder. Remember that every single magazine image you see is the work of a team of highly trained optics people. You are not an image. You’re an interesting real-life person, and people dig the stuff you call flaws.
Your hacks: Hate running? Make one meeting a day a walking one. We like to (attempt) to plank during brainstorms. Bad weather? Download a yoga or fitness app and turn your living room into a mini-gym. Try setting aside a few days a week to eat lean and clean. We try to keep it green(ish) on Mondays and make sure we allow ourselves to enjoy on the weekends. Get scented bath salts and treat yourself to a relaxing or energizing soak. And candles–never underestimate the power of a good candle.
The hidden factor: Soul
Whether or not you believe in spirituality, even science says you need to nurture your “soul.” That is, you need passions and focuses outside of your day-to-day to help you feel good. Studies show that taking your mind off your concerns and focusing on helping others actually lowers your stress. Having a hobby or taking a moment to take stock of things in you're life you're greatful for–can do the same thing.
Your hacks: If you can’t draw, try an adult coloring book–we’ve been working our way through this one (you’re welcome). If you can draw or paint or sculpt, prioritize it; volunteer once a month with a charity that means something to you; train for a half marathon; take a community class in basket-weaving, fencing, opera appreciation, or banjo. And if all else fails, give yourself the gift of Jessica's daily affirmation. She's our favorite affirmation super star–and she loves everything. A once-a-day viewing is undeniably good for the soul.
Of course, overall health is important to every person at every life stage. You’re building the tools and habits that will help you feel good and live well. If you decide you're ready for a family down the road, self-care takes on a whole new meaning–and you’ll be ready.
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