It’s Mental Health Awareness month, and in the wake of the pandemic, the importance of our social and emotional wellbeing is arguably at an all-time high.
Yet I find myself struggling to balance work, parenthood, and self-care! I am often reminded that I should be sleeping at least 8 hours, walking 10,000 steps, doing regular yoga, journaling, meditating, and cooking my own organic meals – but struggle to find the time! Indeed if I was to make the above my daily habit, it would mean more than half the day is already spent on this self-care (with 8 hours sleeping, 100 minutes walking, 60 – 90 minutes doing yoga, 30 – 60 minutes journaling, and meditating, and 60 minutes cooking and eating!)
The pressure is only exacerbated by the increased work schedules as the US starts to open up again, and the impending summer break from school!
It was this pressure that led me to search for the top five simple rituals that enrich and support our mental health AND would take five minutes or less!
- Start the day with music: Ditch the anxiety-inducing alarm and instead replace it with your favorite song! PCMag offers some great instructions for how to program your phone, wireless speaker or app to wake you up with a song, or better yet, with a playlist (since if you stick with a single song you may grow to dislike that sound too over time!) If you are ditching All streaming music providers offer such playlists, or make your own!
- Sing or dance your heart out: Many studies have shown that both singing and dancing increase oxytocin, dopamine, and endorphins in your body. These are a powerful trio of chemicals that leave us feeling loved, connected, fulfilled and able to deal with stress. And there is no requirement that you make it public! Singing in the shower or car, or dancing in the privacy of your bedroom is sufficient!
- Consciously walking: Not all of us can get out into nature as often as desired, especially in an urban setting! But if we put the phone down, take the earbuds out and look around as we walk, it’s surprising how grounded we feel. Whether walking to work, or simply to a cafe for your morning java, take a few minutes to notice your environment; what signs, animals, behavior do you see? What do you notice about the air, the ground and the people around you? How does this make you feel? The aim should be simply to notice the details and let it go without attaching emotions to it.
- Meditation: Yes, even five minutes a day is enough to see positive changes to your physical and emotional well-being! Studies have shown meditation to decrease stress, anxiety, enhance self-awareness and feelings of fulfillment. Mobile apps like Headspace, Insight Timer and Calm are a great way to get started, or simply sit with yourself and focus on your breath, and check in with how you are feeling. Still not a believer? I would recommend reading Healthline´s article on 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation with links to various studies if you are interested in learning more!
- Journaling: The trick here is to keep it simple! To avoid the pitfalls of adding crazy time pressures to your already packed plate or encouraging over-analysis, I like to use three simple prompts. It might be:
- Rose, bud, and thorn (rose is what was the best part of your day, bud is what you are looking forward to and thorn is the worst part of your day), or
- a look back with “How are you feeling and why?”, sitting in the present with “What are you grateful for?” and looking into the future with “What are you looking forward to?”
Some additional tips: Choose one or a few of these rituals and incorporate them into your daily life. There is no need for you to try to do everything, every day! This will only add to your stress levels! And don’t be too hard on yourself if you miss a day. Simply notice that you didn’t get to it and work to incorporate it tomorrow! The goal is to turn these rituals into daily habits, and the only way to do that is with consistent repetition of behavior!