“Without mental health, there can be no true physical health.”– Dr. Brock Chisholm, the first Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO)
It’s becoming increasingly common to talk about mental health and physical health together. And, as Dr. Chisholm stated, you really can’t have one without the other. Both mental health and physical health make up a person’s overall wellness. (Technically, there are seven dimensions of wellness, but we’ll get to that another time.)
Poor physical health can lead to an increased risk of mental health problems. And vice versa – poor mental health can negatively impact your physical health, leading to an increased risk of some medical conditions. (Check out our “just the facts” article for more specifics on this.)
Not only is it important to think about physical and mental health as overall, whole health with your primary care doctor and therapist; but it’s also important when considering your own self-care routine and habits. Self-care is just as important for your physical health (think: eating, sleeping, exercising) as it is for your mental health (think: journaling, meditating, engaging with friends).
Because self-care is such a personalized aspect of each of us, there is no scripted right or wrong way to do it. But, it is recommended to take at least 20 minutes a day to do something for you. Twenty minutes seems pretty reasonable!
Not sure where to start? No worries – check out these 25 tips and get started on improving your whole health today!
- Unplug – Take a break from social media/email. Set timeframes around when to use social media and email apps. (Check out our article on unplugging.) While you’re at it, start nixing the negativity in your life – block or unfollow people who don’t bring joy to your feed.
- Declutter – Did you know that a messy kitchen can actually contribute to your overeating? It’s true. Tackle those dishes or any other “mail pile” that’s turned into a mail mountain. Feeling ambitious? Take on your clothes or kids’ toy room and donate what’s no longer needed to a local charity.
- Help someone – A small act of kindness can go a long way. Hold the door for someone, pick up something someone dropped … it doesn’t take much to make someone else’s day a bit brighter.
- Take a vacation – Can you believe most Americans do not use their vacation? (I am not one of them.) It’s important to get away from work, home, and the daily grind. It doesn’t have to be a grand European backpacking trip (although that is on my bucket list); it can be something as simple as a night away in a nearby town. Check out discount travel sites or Air BnB for great local deals!
- Smell something uplifting – Citrus, peppermint, rosemary, and cinnamon are all great choices for surrounding your home or office.
- Get some sunshine – Just 15 minutes a day can improve your mood and lift your vitamin D levels.
- Run, walk, hike – Get a double dose of feel-good by moving your body outside! (Exercise and vitamin D – bonus!) Tried and true, running and walking offer incredible benefits to both the mind and the body. Find a pal to take a walk with you today or check out running clubs near you.
- Drink water – This is something I’ve been working on. I’ve started drinking 10 sips of water at various times of the day and I’m instantly more awake. (And my skin looks much better!) Shoot for 64-80oz a day.
- Three deep breaths – Whether your day changed from good to not-so-good fairly quickly or you just need a break, stop and take three intentional, regulated breaths. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Breathe in and count to 4-8, breathe out and count to the same number.
- Get some sleep – Sleep is often the first thing that goes to the wayside when things get hectic, but sleep is imperative for both your mental and physical health. Make time for at least seven hours a night.
- Increase fruits and veggies – Great news – it’s farmers’ market season! Check out one near you to pick up some local produce.
- Take your vitamins – Consider this a contingency plan when maybe #11 doesn’t happen as much as it should.
- Find your mat – Whether it’s a full class at a studio or a free video from your phone (or, ahem, some of us might even still use DVDs … and I’m a millennial!), just 20 minutes a day helps stretch your muscles and make you feel more centered.
- Meditate – Meditation can be a difficult practice to begin. Check out guided meditations or apps with timers so you can set the length of your practice. Slowly increase it over time and try not to get frustrated if you struggle!
- Journal – Each page does NOT need to start with “Dear Diary;” I promise. Write your thoughts, your dreams, what and who you’re grateful for, what you had for lunch, and whatever you want. Getting your feelings out on paper is a great catharsis and physically writing it, as opposed to typing on a computer, also enhances creativity!
- Dance – Ain’t no party like a kitchen dance party! Put on your favorite tunes and dance solo, with your partner, best friend, dog, or toddler … I dare you not to smile after dancing for five minutes.
- Read – Check out some books from your local library or stop into a bookstore for your own copy of your standard go-to or new favorite.
- Laugh – Watch funny cat videos, read some comics or call up that friend who has that hilariously dry, sarcastic sense of humor. Laughing is good for the soul.
- Be mindful – Take a few minutes throughout your day to truly be present. Check in with all your senses. What do see, feel, hear, smell, and taste? You’ll be amazed at what you might discover you’ve overlooked in everyday life.
- Listen to music – There’s music for every mood. Find what suits you and crank it up. (Or put some headphones on if you’re at work; your office mates may not be totally into you reliving your punk rock days from high school … sorry, team.)
- Forgive yourself – Cut yourself some slack and don’t be so hard on yourself. Think of what you’d tell your best friend if s/he was feeling down. Now look in the mirror and say it (out loud) to yourself. Seriously, go do this now.
- Forgive others – Don’t let anger/resentment hold you back. Dig a little deeper into why you’re upset with someone. If it’s worth it, talk to them; if it’s not, simply move on.
- Create – Write a poem or short story, color in an adult (or kid!) coloring book, paint a picture, and play with play-doh. We release stress through creating.
- Learn something – Take a class; find something that truly interests you and learn something new. Who knows what it could lead to – new friends, a new career? (Or just a stronger trivia game.)
- Small luxuries – Show yourself that you’re worth it with a small luxury. You don’t need to break the bank. Fresh flowers are my go-to. They are an instant pick-me-up, offer freshness, and bring life into my home … all for only about $10!
Shannon Gwash is the Director of Wellness Services for Jefferson Center and is also a Certified Mayo Clinic Wellness Coach. She earned her MS from the University of Denver in Strategic Health Communications/Behavior Change. She has nearly 10 years of experience in the communication world and nearly three in parenting … which clearly makes her an expert there. To stay sane, she runs around Sloan’s Lake, hikes with her daughter, enjoys outdoor concerts, and reads nerdy books.