If you think of health as simply swapping apples for cookies or getting a flu shot, you’re only seeing part of the picture. Complete wellness means maintaining balance in body, mind and spirit – which is not always easy to do if you’re the kind of person who puts themselves last in line for TLC.
“As women, we tend to take on more than we can chew,” says Elizabeth Trattner, an integrative health expert in Miami, Florida. “No one wrote the handbook on how much should women juggle.” Take control of your well-being and care for yourself with these wellness tips.
Care for Your Mind
Focus on the positive: The next time you feel self-defeating about your to-do list or a stressful work situation, try to see things in a positive light. Hard as it may be, give yourself a “this too shall pass” pep talk, then think about something fun.
“By focusing on pleasant experiences, we generally have a better outcome,” says Kim Chronister, a wellness expert and psychologist in Los Angeles. “Olympic athletes take ten minutes to engage in positive thinking, so we should, too.”
Make it work by: allowing yourself to acknowledge your negative thoughts. Then let them simply float away and replace them with happier messages.
Take a vacation – in your head: If you find it hard to break a stressed-out mood, try this. Let your thoughts linger on an upcoming vacation and then sketch out what you’re going to do – without ever leaving your desk. “What this does is to help you set aside your current worries and replace them with something fun that’s on the horizon,” says Chronister.
Make it work by: adding music to the mix. If you’re dreaming of a weekend by the shore, put your earbuds in and tune in to your summer favorites.
Care for Your Spiritual Side
Get out in nature: To best feel spiritually fulfilled, step outside at least once a day to see the beauty in the natural world. “What happens is that you’ve disconnected from things around you,” says Trattner. “Whether it’s the woods, the ocean, a lake or even a flower shop, by being in nature you’ll feel the powerful effects of harmonizing with nature.”
Make it work by: leaving your electronic devices at your desk – or at least turned off – during your outdoor time. You can’t truly immerse yourself in nature if you’re distracted by a screen.
Learn how to meditate: No matter what your religion or belief system, daily meditation can help you connect with your spiritual self. It can also help you find deeper purpose and meaning in your life.
Make it work by: choosing a set hour and space for your daily meditation. This makes it easier to keep to the habit, according to The New York Meditation Center. Plan to spend at least five minutes sitting quietly, focusing on your breathing.
Care for Your Body
Learn how to breathe – better: Turns out, one of our most basic functions — breathing — is something many of us are doing incorrectly. While most of us take upper body breaths, we should strive to take belly breaths that allow for the maximum flow of oxygen.
“When you take a breath in, you should feel taller,” says Belisa Vranich, a clinical psychologist and author of Breathe. “But most of us are breathing from our upper bodies up near our shoulders.” Belly breathing can also help restore your energy, lower blood pressure, improve your sleep and even recharge your immune system.
Make it work by: placing one hand on your abdomen, just below your belly button. As you breathe, relax your belly so that it expands when you inhale and contracts when you exhale. Your hand should rise and fall about an inch as you do.
Find a trampoline (or a jump rope or hula hoop … ): Exercise doesn’t have to be dull or grueling. If you loved bouncing on a trampoline or skipping rope when you were growing up, go for it now! The goal: to find an exercise regimen that’s fun and makes you feel engaged.
“We know exercise is as effective as antidepressants in improving mood and having a positive approach to life,” says Chronister. So grab your walking shoes or hula hoop and commit to getting your body moving for at least 20 minutes a day.
Make it work by: exercising early in the morning. You’ll feel energized all day and fall asleep more easily at night. Studies also show that you’re more likely to stick to a morning workout than an evening one.
Lambeth Hochwald is an editor and writer from New York. Her work has appeared in such publications and websites as Woman’s Day, Ladies’ Home Journal, Organic Spa and Entrepreneur.com. She is also an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.