“Self care” may bring to mind visions of lavish spa days or expensive trips to the mall. While these are avenues to show yourself love and care, there are other less time consuming (and less pricey) options out there. In fact, self care is best achieved through creating a regular, repeatable, daily routine. Things as simple as brushing your teeth, making your bed, or even changing your clothes are all forms of self care.
Many seniors have spent the majority of their lives looking after other people, so learning how to prioritize their own needs can be new and at times, challenging. We put together a list of five accessible activities that you can start incorporating into your routine today to help foster better self care.
1. SPENDING TIME IN NATURE
A 2019 UK study found that spending two or more hours a week outside in nature granted a positive boost to a person’s overall health and well-being. Nature’s Scientific Report examined 20,000 people’s contact with the natural world and found that those who spent time exploring green spaces from the week prior reported feeling more healthy than those who didn’t.
Considering how much time most people spend indoors, it’s notable to dig a bit deeper. The study found that individuals who didn’t spend time outside reported more feelings of dissatisfaction and poor health. The findings were reversed for those who had spent time outdoors – which goes to show that spending time in nature is a brilliant and free form of self care to add into your daily routine.
All it takes is 20-30 minutes in nature a day to maintain overall positive health and well-being. Try watching the sunrise, reading a book, eating a meal or exercising to get your daily allotment of nature’s healthy goodness.
2. EXERCISING AND MOVING YOUR BODY
Speaking of exercise, it's no secret that moving your body is extremely beneficial – especially as an older adult. By adding thirty minutes of movement, five times a week, into your schedule you may begin to notice these benefits:
- Improved strength to help you stay independent
- Improved balance to help prevent falls
- Disease prevention, such as heart disease, diabetes, or osteoporosis
- Improved mood
- Improved cognitive function
Remember, exercise is exercise – no matter what physical activity you choose. Be it practicing yoga, going for a walk, or even doing household chores, as long as you move your body for thirty consistent minutes, you are achieving great things.
3. KEEPING A GRATITUDE JOURNAL
Gratitude is about feeling and expressing appreciation for all that we’ve received, all that we have, and all that is good in our life. It keeps us present and grounded in day-to-day activities as well as functions as a reminder to shift focus from physical objects to something greater. Research-based reasons for practicing gratitude include:
- Facilitates contentment
- Promotes physical health
- Enhances sleep
- Strengthens relationships
To start your gratitude journey, pick out a journal to leave by your bed stand and encourage yourself to write three to five things in it each night before falling asleep. These do not have to be monumental moments, and can be as simple as the following:
- I am grateful for my health.
- I am grateful for speaking to a family member or friend today.
- I am grateful for the sunshine today.
4. MEAL PLANNING AND NUTRITION
In order to be outside, exercise, or even recall daily events in a gratitude journal, you need to fuel yourself. Meal planning is an excellent way to make sure you are meeting your necessary nutritional requirements and it takes the stress out of making a last minute meal. Not only that, but meal planning adds structure to your day and helps your self care routine by keeping you fueled and at your best.
Make a meal plan at the start of each week to help map out what you need to buy from the grocery store and how much time you should allot for cooking certain meals. This allows you to prioritize your favorite meals, meet your nutritional needs, find budget friendly foods while shopping, and ensure that you are keeping a regular cadence of refueling your body. As mentioned earlier, self care does not have to be a big ordeal. It’s as simple as making sure your body is nourished.
5. SLEEPING AND HAVING A BEDTIME ROUTINE
Sleeping is necessary in order for your cells to regenerate and for your mind to process what it encounters throughout the day. Most healthy adults require seven to nine hours of sleep a night, but this should be adjusted based on how many hours you need to feel fully rested. Setting a night time routine like taking a warm bath, drinking a cup of tea, or reading a book can help calm the mind and relax your muscles before bed.
Doing relaxing activities before bed expedites the time between getting into bed and actually falling asleep. Once you have figured out how many hours you need to feel your best, try to make sure you get that amount every night.
Building a self care routine takes time, so be patient with yourself as you begin to incorporate these new activities. At the end of the day, these activities are simply suggestions to keep you living a happy and healthy life.