We’re almost through the thick of winter, and sunny, warm days are on the horizon. I wanted to share some quick and easy self-care tips to incorporate into your daily routine this season (and all year long). I asked my sweet and wise friend, licensed acupuncturist and holistic health coach, Katrina Pozzi Baratta, to contribute to this piece. From decreasing pain to increasing confidence, Kat specializes in helping women feel healthy, strong and totally at home in their bodies.
Whether you’ve got a serious case of the winter blues, or you’re just in a funk at any point in the year, it’s important to remember that self-care involves doing things that keep your body and mind in tip-top shape. Unfortunately, it’s usually when we’re feeling down and grumpy that we let our self-care routines slide. But it’s in exactly those moments, when we’re feeling less-than-awesome, that self-care becomes even more important. Because it’s only by taking care of yourself that you’re able to put your best foot forward. And you don’t even have to make huge changes to have a profound impact on your well-being. Try incorporating a 2-3 of the following self-care rituals into your daily routine this month.
One of my favorite monks, Thich Nhat Hanh, famously said, ”Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” Practice smiling into your eyes and you’ll actually trigger a neurological reaction that releases feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine, endorphines, and serotonin. So don’t just smile when you feel happy. Smile when you feel bad and it’ll help raise you out of your funk!
Snag some rays (without sun protection).
Vitamin D deficiency is a big player when it comes to feeling good. The best way to get vitamin D into your system is to spend about 20 minutes a day in direct sunlight (give or take depending on your skin tone), without covering up or wearing sunblock. And because exercise is also a great mood-lifter, you can feed two birds with one seed by bundling up and taking your exercise routine outside. A meta-analysis in 2010 showed that even just five minutes of “green” exercise resulted in improvements in self-esteem and mood!
Organize and beautify your space. Choose to do your household chores mindfully.
Doing a quick 20-minute clean up or organization of your desk space, your medicine closet or your dresser beautifies your space and uplifts your mood. When you have a lot of chores to do, it’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. But because the chores won’t do themselves, the best thing you can do is to start enjoying them. And the best way to enjoy chores is to do them mindfully. Notice how your hands feel as you touch different textured dishes or soft sheets. Notice the smell of the soap. Feel into your body as it moves. Use this time to connect with the present moment.
Eat fermented and fiber-rich foods.
Science is finding that there’s a clear link between your gut health and mental health, and eating fermented and fiber-rich foods is one of the best ways to make sure that you’re supporting those healthy gut bacteria that will make you thrive. For fermented foods, try kimchi, kraut or kefir. For fiber-rich foods, try almonds, split peas, navy beans, raspberries, chia or flax seeds.
Go to sleep and wake on a consistent schedule.
Sleep has a HUGE impact on health and happiness. It’s the pacemaker for many of your body’s hormonal reactions, and your hormones need to be relatively balanced for you to feel good. Getting enough sleep on a consistent schedule will help your body regulate those hormones and make sure they’re firing off at the right time in the right amounts. If you’re feeling under-the-weather, like is so common this time of year, let yourself sleep longer than usual. Sleep is so important for the immune system and fighting off nasty winter colds.
Meditate. Move. Stretch.
Just a few minutes of meditation can calm your nerves and lift your mood throughout the day. Start by sitting and focusing on your breath for 5 minutes a day, and work your way up to 10-20 minutes as you settle into the routine. Physical release through exercise can work wonders on your mood. If you don’t have time for a full workout, try 15-20 minutes of yoga or easy stretching to start your day.
Put a potted plant on your desk or work station.
Plants don’t just look pretty, according to recent studies, they can actually have a soothing effect on your nervous system, making you feel less stress and more motivated to get things done with a smile on your face. Fresh cut flowers are also a joy promoter, so treat yourself to a few stems or a bouquet to brighten up your home.
Create an herbal tea ritual.
Herbs like chamomile, peppermint, lavender, rosemary, lemon balm and cinnamon have a comforting and soothing effect on the nervous system. I like to have each of these herbs in a separate jar so I can pull them out, smell them and choose a unique combination to make into an infused tea every evening before bed. When you’re drinking your tea, unplug from your phone and computer and focus your attention on the present moment. Use this tea time to reflect, read an inspirational book or write in your journal.
Give out compliments.
One of the best ways to make yourself feel good is to help other people feel good. And while it’s great to volunteer your time to those in need, something as simple as giving out compliments can make you feel more positive about yourself and the world around you. Older women are so graceful, wise and beautiful, and they rarely ever get the compliments they deserve. When I’m out doing my grocery shopping or I’m at my yoga studio, I make an effort to connect with and compliment women who are older than me – mothers and grandmothers especially.
Give yourself a break. Unplug from social media, your work and your computer.
Often one of the biggest reasons we feel bad is because we’re in constant, non-stop go-mode. But the happiest and most successful people all have one thing in common, and it’s that they allow themselves to enjoy breaks to recharge. Put down your phone or step away from your computer throughout the day. Enjoy looking out the window or taking a 5-minute walk with an agenda. Give yourself some down-town, so you can recharge and restore. You’ll feel more energized and motivated when you do.