By: Dr. Francesca Vazquez
Our mental and emotional health is just as important as our physical health. They both go hand in hand, meaning that if our mental health is affected with issues such as stress and/or depressive symptoms, so is our physical health. By taking care of one aspect of our health we are inevitably taking care of the other. To do this, it's important to take time for self-care and these 7 acts are powerful tools for improving our health, both mind and body.
Try some of the following acts of self-love for a serious, and much needed, mental boost:
1. Meditate first thing in the morning
Meditation is a topic we tap into often, mostly because of the scientific evidence behind it. Most people have trouble starting a meditation practice and one of the main questions asked is "what time of the day is the best for meditating?". Meditating first thing in the morning can be powerful. Instead of going straight into automatic pilot or going over your to-do list, meditation helps you reconnect with yourself and sets the tone for the rest of your day. By meditating first thing in the morning, you are programming your brain to work with you rather than against you, while improving mood and increasing alertness and concentration.
2. Write down 3 positive affirmations for the day
Set an intention for the day ahead by writing down 3 positive affirmations daily. Choose a journal to jot down these statements and repeat them back to yourself as often as possible throughout the day. Intentions create your reality and by setting positive affirmations, you are taking control over the mindset you decide to take on throughout the day rather than rolling with whatever comes your way.
3. Say thank you. As often as possible
Gratitude is found to be a mayor mood booster and stress reliever. We can sometimes take the notion of "being grateful" as unimportant but by becoming grateful and expressing it to others, we are accessing a part in the brain that's directly linked to our sense of emotional and mental wellness. Try saying thank you as often as possible and engaging in gratitude exercises, such as writing down things you're grateful for or journaling about an experience you are grateful for. By journaling about it (rather than just thinking about it), you are creating the opportunity for your brain to experience a positive emotion all over again, optimizing its effects.
4. Spend time in nature
Nature has a powerful effect on mood and stress levels. Studies have found it to boost longevity and decrease risk of mental illness. Green spaces and the great outdoors are restorative, helping increase mental energy, prevent mental fatigue, and promote relaxation. Getting out in nature as often as possible, even for a short walk or stroll, can improve your sense of wellbeing and mind-body balance.
5. Take yourself out on a date.
The same way you look forward to grabbing coffee with a friend or getting flowers from your SO, take yourself out to coffee and buy yourself that bouquet of peonies. It will reinforce your sense of empowerment and boost your happiness. Learning to be with oneself is one of the most powerful tools for good mental and emotional health.
6. Turn your phone off and just be.
It's easy to relax but do you really log off? More often than not we find ourselves watching our favorite TV show while browsing our Instagram feed only to find we have no idea when we lost track. We may be going from work emails to personal emails without even noticing. This can take a toll on our ability to focus and our stress levels. Once or twice a week, make sure to log off the phone and computer. Try to be present at home and fully enjoy cooking, lounging, and spending time with loved ones. A good tip (though hard to achieve) is charging your phone outside of the bedroom. This will help you avoid being on the phone before bed or first thing in the morning. It will help you reconnect to yourself and those around you.
7. Create a wellness agenda
The same way you create a daily work/life schedule and mark things off, make space for wellness activities targeting mental and emotional health. Mark these off the same way you would mark off your lunch meeting or important phone call. Pencil in your workouts, therapy sessions, meditation, salt bath, reading time, at home facial, and even small health oriented activities (such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator). By scheduling these activities in your planner, you are a lot more likely to stick to them and it will be that much more rewarding to check them off. By having a "wellness agenda" you are more likely to remember to log off the computer and take a bath or schedule that midweek massage. Be sure to complete at least 3 small wellness deeds per week. These can be as short as a face mask while you shower or a 5 minute morning meditation.
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Dr. Francesca Vazquez is the founder and editor of Ease to Wellness, LLC. She is a licensed health psychologist and vinyasa yoga instructor based in Miami, FL. She completed her training at Ponce School of Medicine, Jackson Memorial Hospital/University of Miami, and UF Health Cancer Center, specializing in health psychology & behavioral medicine. She has worked in spinal cord injury rehab, neuropsychology, pain management, stress management, mindfulness, psycho-oncology, wellness counseling and addiction rehabilitation. She is passionate about writing, wellness and living creatively, doing what you love.
Currently, she runs Ease to Wellness while also providing health psychology services for private clients and teaching yoga. She is a regular contributor for websites such as www.mindbodygreen.com and a Clinical Psychologist at Adaptive Center in Miami, FL.
To contact or for more information, visit www.francescavazquez.com