We all know what we need to do in order to enjoy a balanced and healthy life, and yet so many of us reject or ignore these practices as we simply don’t have enough time.
I believe that there are a few simple everyday rituals that many of us already enjoy, that have far-reaching mental and physical benefits, so long as we tune into the moment and allow ourselves to be fully present.
Every day we are faced with articles, ads and even celebrities telling us what we need to do in order to boost our health and wellbeing. It’s not surprising that so many of us are confused or unsure of which direction to take towards wellness.
In reality, there are many everyday practices we already enjoy that make for fantastic ways to promote better mental and physical health, as well as a few simple practices that you may not even associate with improved wellbeing; from enjoying your morning cup of tea or cuddling your furry companion, to practising gratitude or even just enjoying quiet time to yourself.
The most important thing to ensure you’re reaping the benefits of these daily rituals is to be fully present when enjoying each activity – that means no doom scrolling or checking work emails on the side, but fully engaging with the moment. Try the following daily practises – that can take as little as 5 or 30 minutes of your day – and you’ll feel happier and healthier in no time.
Read on for my guide to the everyday rituals to enhance wellbeing…
5 minutes: Practice gratitude
Being mindful of the everyday things you’re grateful for can help you to find positivity, even on the toughest of days. In fact, gratitude has been shown to help contribute to an overall sense of well-being, improving mental health by fostering positive emotions, increasing optimism and improving relationships.
You can either write down 5 things you’re grateful for or simply make a point of noting them in your head. You can fill your list with things as small and seemingly ‘insignificant’ as how much you enjoyed the new pasta dish you made for dinner; a video that made you laugh; or how great the sun shining during your lunch break made you feel. Your list could also include a person who has positively impacted your day.
Once you start noticing the small moments that have brought you joy, you will be better able to re-frame your thoughts on a bad day. For example, if you’ve had a tough day at work, rather than thinking ‘I hate my job’, you can choose to focus on the fact that tomorrow will be a new day and could bring new opportunities, that you’re fortunate to have work and that your job allows you to be financially secure and pay for that holiday you’ve been longing for.
10 minutes: Put the kettle on
Enjoying a cup of tea is undoubtedly a favourite pastime and not without good reason.
Tea is rich in a group of natural phytonutrients called flavonoids – chemicals that are also found in fruit and vegetables. These protect your cells from oxidative damage that could otherwise lead to health issues such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer or cognitive diseases. In fact, many countries recommend three cups of tea a day as part of official health advice.
As well as boasting a natural caffeine hit that helps boost our concentration and alertness, tea contains an amino acid called methionine, which has also been shown to help maintain focus.
However, it’s not just the tea itself that is so good for your wellbeing. Being able to break up your day with a tea break affords you the opportunity to slow down while physically and mentally distancing yourself from the task you were performing, which in turn, can also help to boost productivity and focus.
15 minutes: Quality time with your pet
There’s a reason that pet ownership has soared over the last two years; animals provide companionship, love and affection, and at a time when many of us were separated from family and friends for lengthy periods, the company of the four-legged versions became all-important. The benefits of spending pockets of time with animals, however – whether your own pet or borrowed for the afternoon – are far more wide-reaching than just fulfilling our need for company.
Touch is one of our most basic human needs. Stroking or hugging a devoted pet is a sure-fire way to calm your nerves when feeling stressed or anxious. Research has shown that it lowers the stress hormone cortisol and reduces blood pressure.
Bonding and caring for our pets, regardless of species or how they show their affection, sparks joy. It increases levels of dopamine and serotonin, helping to boost our mood.
20 minutes: A bubble bath
Is there anything more luxurious than a relaxing soak in the bath?
Add a few drops of calming essential oils like lavender or clary sage for optimum relaxation and allow the warm water to soothe tired muscles and joints.
Carving out 20 minutes either at the start or end of the day to take time just for yourself, away from the distraction of tech, chores, or troubles, to allow yourself to physically and mentally unwind is the perfect antidote to the fast pace of modern life.
25 minutes: Listen to an uplifting podcast
Listening to an uplifting podcast during your morning commute or walk is the ideal opportunity to boost your mood and ensure you start your day with a positive outlook.
When we think positively or feel joy, cortisol (the primary stress hormone) – decreases and the brain creates serotonin (one of our key mood stabilising hormones). Together, these hormonal changes promote feelings of calm and happiness. When our serotonin levels are ‘normal’, we feel happy, calm, less anxious, more able to focus, and emotionally stable. Further to this, positive thinking can also lead to enhanced creativity as well as boosting problem-solving skills and overall mental productivity.
And the best way to encourage positive thinking? Simply surround yourself with positive influences – be it loved ones, the TV you watch, the books you read or the podcasts you listen to on your morning commute.
30 minutes: Exercise
Exercising regularly not only affords us a plethora of physical health benefits such as a reduced risk of developing chronic conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers, but it also offers us a range of mental health benefits. Research shows that physical activity can boost self-esteem, mood, energy levels and sleep quality and reduce the risk of stress.
Adults should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of more strenuous activity each week. This should be a mix of strengthening activities that work all the major muscle groups like yoga and pilates, as well as more vigorous conditioning work like circuit training, spinning, cycling or swimming.
45 minutes: Head outdoors
Many of us head outdoors for a walk or a run, in order to unwind or destress, but the benefits go far beyond just adding some exercise into our day.
Spending time outside, away from tech, work stressors, or even people that upset or unbalance us, allow our minds to slow and enter a meditative state, promoting feelings of relaxation and offering us a chance to reconnect with the natural world around us.
In fact, forest bathing, a form of mindfulness achieved through immersion in a woodland or forest environment, has been widely praised for its ability to reduce blood pressure, lower cortisol levels and improve concentration and memory. So much so that it has formed part of the Japanese health programme for over 40 years.
Spending time outdoors during daylight hours also helps ensure you get your daily Vitamin D. Sunlight is the most important natural source of this essential vitamin, which is vital for healthy bones and blood cells and also helps to boost your immune system.
60 minutes: Embrace JOMO
In today’s fast-paced world, enjoying an hour to yourself is the ultimate form of luxury.
Social media channels perpetuate the idea that everyone else is ‘better than’, whether in terms of the way they look, the clothes they wear, the holidays they take, their lifestyle, home, health or fitness. Instead of allowing yourself to get sucked into a negative cycle of constant comparisons and allowing them to generate unnecessary frustrations or dissatisfaction, put the tech away and enjoy spending an hour focusing on the contentment that comes from allowing yourself to just ‘be’. In fact, people who reject the idea of ‘fear of missing out’ are more likely to be content with who and where they are in their life.
So, throw on some comfy clothes, crack open a bottle of wine or savour the process of making a delicious hot chocolate, watch your favourite TV show, enjoy some warming comfort food and embrace the ‘joy of missing out’.