I’m pretty sure that constantly striving for #Wellness can actually increase stress, rather than reduce it. I speak from my own overwhelmingly instagram-fueled life-improvement treadmill. If you can relate, I encourage you to put down the perfumed bath bombs, right now. It’s time to take stock.

A couple years ago, I recognized that I was in a funny place. I’d finished college and graduate school, was working, pulling in decent money and paying down my school loans (ugh, loans) and I felt like I was experiencing every dang day through a boring-ass hazy film.

I was doing everything right. I had friends and a romantic life. I had a sometimes meditation practice and I’d been gratitude journaling off-and-on for years. I was a mostly-vegetarian. I’d even quit drinking any kind of alcohol for over a year after many years of excess. I haphazardly tried different wellness activities, ballet, juicing…blah blah blah. Besides quitting drinking, I couldn’t stick with any new life-hack for more than a day or two. And did I need to?

Well, I was feeling quarter-life restless and tbh, not all #Selfcare smells like lavender essential oils, making it boring at best and annoying at worst. Out of necessity, and because I need to progress in my adulthood, I decided to gamify my self-care. If I could make it more interesting, I thought, maybe I could stick to it… And spoiler-alert, I was right. I changed my diet to healthier foods, I got on top of my finances, and some of my friendships got stronger.

As I dipped my toe into making a game out of doing regular adult things that are supposed to be good for me, here’s what I found:

It works on the most boring one

When I decided to have monthly financial check-ins with myself (very responsible), I cancelled on myself pretty regularly (ooooh, that’s flakey.) And so I found a like-minded friend who wants to check in with herself about her finances.  Now we do it together, like study buddies. We each crunch our own numbers and then talk about whether or not we stuck to our budgets and savings goals and trouble shoot for the next month. And we also dream/aspire about all the vacations we want to take, or what hobbies we might pursue after retirement. It’s super affirming because we talk about money from a place of achievement and possibility while also being real about the money coming in. We remind each other that debt and savings goals come before “wants,” and it’s keeping me on track. Even when I’m not looking forward to my financial check-in (boring), I can’t wait for the triple-bonus-reward: seeing my friend, feeling financially responsible, and delicious coffee and lavender scones.  

Raise the stakes if it’s important

Even if I really really want to do something healthy, like giving up processed foods, my willpower is nonexistent when I’m standing in front of a pizza. I’ve had to raise the stakes on some self-care-challenges like this, in order to override my inner saboteur, a crafty and persuasive lady. Three of my favorite ways to raise the stakes and gamify self-care so far:

Agree to Pay a Jerky Cause – I committed to give money to a cause I do NOT support if I didn’t complete the challenge. This worked really well for me, because I couldn’t BEAR to give money to the Republican National Committee, so I stayed faithful the challenge. I recommend two weeks for a challenge like this. Longer than that and it starts to feel like you’re a prisoner to the jerky-cause.

Wager – Making a bet with someone else can also work depending of if the award money is enough to motivate you. If I’m going to win or lose $1.00, I wont care enough. But $100 might have my interest.

Friend Guilt, Approval or Competition – Finding a buddy can help, and depending on the person, I might want to her to participate in my challenge in different ways. Some friends bring out my competitive spirit. Others can just tell me I’m awesome and that’s motivating enough. And I’ve asked others to do the challenge alongside me because I will feel so guilty if they are doing the challenge every day and I flake.

Added bonus: It strengthens long-distance friendships because it gives you something to do together and talk about beyond your regular updates on family and work.

Do you gamify your self-care to overcome self-sabotage, or make your life more interesting? If so, let us know in the comments below…