Taking care of yourself and doing things that make you happy can be difficult when you have a long to-do list and people to look after.
It’s important though to make time for yourself, your happiness is a priority and it is necessary so you can keep doing the great things you do, we don’t want you to burn-out.
A trip to your dream destination would be great but unfortunately not all of us can afford that, plus we’re in the middle of a pandemic so it isn’t exactly safe to do so.
There are multiple ways though you can refresh your soul that don’t cost money, consume time or put you at risk of being infected by a deadly virus (major bonus if you ask me).
You don’t have to limit yourself to this list, it does not exhaust all the possibilities of things you can do. You can add your own stuff or try some of them out if you’ve never done them before.
You know yourself best, so do what makes you happy! Just make sure it’s safe and legal.
1. Listen to your favourite music
Ever listened to a sad song and felt sad even though you weren’t initially?
Music has a super power of being able to change your mood instantly and you can use that to your advantage.
Listen to music that reminds you of happy past events, people you love and which speaks about positive things like hope and love. You can create a playlist on your phone and listen to it every morning to set the tone for your day, or whenever you need a mood lifter.
2. Listen to sounds of nature/watch baby or pet videos
This is an alternative to music. Nature sounds can be very soothing, especially if you’re a nature lover. There’s nothing as relaxing as the sound of falling rain, chirping birds, or the waves of the ocean.
You can download these online.
If you’re a parent or you love kids, you’ll know the laughter of a child is a magical mood elevator. Just seeing those little cuties smile and hearing them laugh can make you forget the woes of the day.
If you have a child you can record them laughing and watch it whenever you need to feel better. Or you can look for videos on YouTube, there are plenty.
An alternative to baby videos is pet videos. Whatever it is that nudges at your heart strings, don’t deprive yourself of any of it.
Take a few minutes before you start your day or right at the end of it to meditate.
Find a comfortable place to sit at that’s quiet, sit still, take deep breaths and visualize your happy place.
Meditation helps you to focus on your present, clears your mind so you can gain a new perspective on your problems and life in general, it creates self-awareness and is a great reliever of stress and tension in your body.
You can do it for as little as 5 minutes to an hour, it all depends on your schedule.
4. Scribble or colour
Scribbling and colouring is not only preserved for children, you can also bring out your inner child and explore your creativity with these fun activities.
These are great distractions from the never ending list of things to do, they will help you de-stress and decrease anxiety.
They’re also really great to do with family if you’re looking for an activity to bond over.
Another one that brings out the inner child (no wonder children are the most care free beings in the world).
You don’t have to know how to dance to do it, just like you don’t have to know how to sing to sing, just as long as you’re aware you can’t build a career out of it.
Play your favourite song and just let your body move with the rhythm of it.
Dance is a form of exercise hence it’s effective in relieving stress, but it’s more fun than running (atleast in my opinion), and that’s the part that will make you really happy.
6. Regular exercise
Exercising is not just for people looking to lose weight. There are many studies that show regular exercise has many benefits other than weight loss or muscle gain.
Exercising also helps your body regulate your hormones. Imbalances to your hormones can cause many physical and mental illnesses.
Cortisol, the stress hormone, is one of those hormones exercise will help you regulate so it doesn’t go above normal levels.
Find exercises that you enjoy so it is easy for you to maintain that lifestyle. You don’t have to do intense workouts and you also don’t have to exercise every day, a minimum of 3 times per week is sufficient.
You can do 30 minutes long walks, jog, swim, skip rope, lift weights, cycle, yoga, whatever you want to do.
You can also switch it up between different forms of exercises if you’re someone who gets bored easily.
7. Forbidden snacks
Disclaimer: I am 100% for living a healthy lifestyle, natural foods are my favourite in the world and should be yours too because they love you and your body.
That being said… If you’ve had a really long day, it’s okay to have that chocolate bar or bowl of ice cream. It might not take away your problems but it will make you feel better for a while.
In fact you don’t even need to have had a bad day to treat yourself with a yummy snack, a donut once a week is not going to give you a heart attack.
Having treat meals also helps you stay easily on course with eating healthy majority of the time, you’re less likely to binge on junk food if you treat yourself on it once or twice a week.
You can add some fruit to your snack to make it a bit more wholesome, fresh fruits make for great desserts.
8. Calming scents
The part of our brains that’s responsible for memory is especially easily triggered by scents.
You can use this to your benefit by keeping things around your house with smells which remind you of places or people that make you happy.
Flowers, scented candles, herbs and oils like lavender, rosemary or peppermint are awesome for helping you relax. Lavender has been found to have soothing effects that help decrease anxiety.
You could even cook food with scents from happy memories of your childhood, the possibilities are endless.
9. Read a happy story
Reading can be an effective tool for relaxing, but not when you’re reading sad and depressing stories.
In our time, we’re constantly bombarded with bad news from the media that it can make life seem all dark and gloomy.
Choose books with happy endings or motivational text to read on your spare time. There’s nothing like a good happy story to help you cheer up and realise that not all hope is lost in the world.
10. Wake up early
How you start your day sets the tone of how it’s going to be. If you’ve ever woken up late while you had a million things to do then you know how frustrating and stressful it can be to juggle multiple things in a short space of time.
You can avoid this by waking up early.
Write down everything you want to do the following day, estimate how much time each activity will take and that should help you establish which time is appropriate for you to wake up at. Don’t forget to schedule self-care activities in your to do list as well!
If you’re not a morning person and you struggle to wake up early, start with waking up an hour earlier than your usual waking time and keep progressing until you reach your goal time.
Placing your alarm far from your bed also helps, make sure you have to get out of bed in order to switch it off then do not go back to bed, that will be counterproductive.
11. Get sufficient sleep
Sleep helps your body and mind to rejuvenate, and if you’re constantly on the move you need it the most.
Lack of sleep increases stress and anxiety. Get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep per day.
If you struggle to fall asleep early try not using your phone and switching off the lights at least an hour before your bed time, read a book or listen to soothing nature sounds.
12. Keep a gratitude journal
We all have desires and they tend to always be in our minds. Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting stuff but this can make us blind to the things we already have and can cause anxiety and depression.
Start or end your day by writing a minimum of 3 things you are grateful for, this will help cultivate positive energy and an optimistic attitude towards life.
I’m grateful that you’re here taking time off to find ways to better care for yourself, what are you grateful for?
13. Take a long bath
If you’re a movie fan then you’ve seen this in a lot of movies and for good reason; because it works.
This is one of the easiest ways to get some time alone to de-stress and reflect. Incorporate some natural oils in your water, light some scented candles, read a happy story and you’ve just created your mini paradise.
14. Get a massage
Massages assist your muscles to release stored tension, they’re a perfect relaxation technique.
Identify your tension points, these are usually around the shoulders, neck, back and feet.
Have someone use a natural oil to apply some mild pressure on these spots, and all you should do is just breath.
You don’t have to pay for a massage, you can ask someone close to you like your partner, sibling, friend or parent. People usually agree to do this if you’re going to massage them as well (which is fair if you’re not paying them with money).
If you can afford to pay a massage therapist, even better!
15. Create boundaries
Boundaries are necessary in creating mutually beneficial relationships.
If you’re one of those people who always bends their backs for others then you know how toxic this can be to your mental health.
Learn to say no, it doesn’t make you a bad person. You need to be at optimal health in all aspects of your life in order to give your best to those you love, so guard your heart and peace. Communicate things you cannot do, are not willing to do or do not want to do and live by your values. Now go be your best self and live your best life, you’re worthy!
Written by Babalwa Mpolongwana