By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
As you gather up holiday gifts for loved ones, be sure to also treat yourself. Not with another purse, shirt, or pair of shoes, but with one or more of these relaxing gifts. Love yourself by making the time and creating the space needed to achieve the mind-body balance that helps you stay happy and healthy.
Tips for Taking Care of YOU!
1. Get Grounded
Earthing (also known as grounding) is my list topper because it has such a profound effect on the way your body works and how you feel. Earthing is soaking up the Earth’s natural, subtle surface energy by walking barefoot outside, as humans have done throughout history (but which we no longer do). Just make sure your bare feet are touching the ground when you’re sitting, standing or even lying down outside. You can also ground by sitting, working, or sleeping indoors using Earthing devices designed to transfer the energy from the ground into your body.
Breathe, empty your mind, and just be… We live in stressful times and we need a simple tool to use on a regular basis to keep the stress from compromising our health. Meditation can do so much for your inner stability, calmness, happiness, and health. All that you need to do to get started, is to set aside a small amount of time as often as you can. There are many different forms of meditation. The most popular and scientifically validated practice is Transcendental Meditation (TM). If working with a live teacher or group is not for you, there are plenty of good meditation CDs and DVDs out there.
3. Book a Massage, Or Better Yet, a Series of Massages
Research clearly shows benefits of massage therapy for a wide range of medical conditions, including arthritis, pain, and rehabilitation from injury. Many physicians prescribe massage as a standard part of treatment programs and hospitals are increasingly bringing massage therapists on staff. Massage, of course, makes you feel good. It does that, according to the American Massage Therapy Association, by reducing your heart rate and blood pressure, increasing blood circulation and lymph flow, relaxing muscles, alleviating muscle spasm, improving range of motion, and boosting endorphins and serotonin: chemicals in the body related to feeling good and feeling calm.
4. Visit a Spa
Such facilities, also called destination spas, usually involve a stay of at least two or three nights with meals, classes, and some treatments included in the tab. They focus on fitness, healthy eating, relaxation and recharging your batteries. Some spas are geared toward weight loss, others the yoga lifestyle. This article can help you choose a spa that will best fit your needs.
5. Plan a Vacation
We all need time off. A vacation is good for the body and soul, and also the heart. One study showed that frequency of vacations was a significant factor in reducing the risk of death during a nine-year follow-up period among more than twelve thousand men. The cause of death most strongly associated with vacationing frequency was coronary artery disease. Another study, among women, indicated that those taking a vacation every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop heart disease or have a heart attack than those who took at least two vacations a year. So vacations equate to living longer. And, according to a Swedish study, the personal restoration you achieve by taking time off also benefits those around you and society in general. So you are doing yourself a favor as well as others!
6. Take Yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi Classes
These forms of movement and mental focus can do so much for you. I know first-hand, because I have practiced them for years, and finally settled into a yoga-Pilates regime that I combine with walking. The studio I go to is within walking distance from my home, and that is important because convenience is KEY in maintaining whatever program you choose. Yoga enhances stress relief, pain relief, flexibility, breathing, circulation, cardiovascular conditioning, and even weight management. Tai chi produces many benefits, including improved bone density, balance (suggesting potential to reduce falls), immunity, and quality of life in both healthy and unhealthy adults. Pilates helps strengthen core muscles to increase strength, flexibility and co-ordination. Not to mention, they are all great for brain health, as is learning anything new!
7. Sign Up for Cooking Classes
Learning to cook is an activity you can have fun doing; it allows you to be creative, and you can get a lot of gratification from using your new cooking skills. You can enroll in classes anywhere: as near as your local community college or as far as another country, where you can learn to cook their unique cuisine. You can even create a vacation around finding, eating, and learning to cook the healthful meals that excite you most. Additionally, cooking is a great way to be connected to others in a positive process. For some tasty inspiration, check out my healthy cooking video series on the website.
8. Give of Your Time to People You Care For.
Often, that’s the best gift you can give anyone. Make a beautiful meal, or go for a walk together. Treat a loved one to a movie, or to a coffee. Put aside a little extra time to cuddle with your beloved, furry, four legged pals. Volunteer your time to a charity. How does volunteering qualify as loving yourself? You may be surprised to know that whenever you serve others you are the first beneficiary of your act of kindness. Your giving is simultaneously an act of receiving. Doing good deeds immediately generates the “helper’s high,” a state of euphoria, increased energy, and general well-being.
These eight items are just a small sampling of the many wonderful things you can do to love yourself and bring better health into your life. Sometimes you have to put yourself first and recharge, pamper, and enjoy a much needed and well deserved time out. Don’t put it off. Treat yourself periodically, and reap the benefits!
References and Resources:
- Brooks G, Matthews K. Are Vacations Good for Your Health? The 9-Year Mortality Experience After the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2000;62:608–612.
- Tugend A. Vacations Are Good for You, Medically Speaking. The New York Times. June 7, 2008.
- Hartig T, et al. Vacation, Collective Restoration, and Mental Health in a Population. Society and Mental Health. 2013;3(3):221-236.
- Jahnke R, et al. A Comprehensive Review of Health Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi. Am J Health Promot. 2010;24(6):e1-e25.
- Luks, Allan. The Healing Power of Doing Good. (iUniverse, 2001).
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