HEALTHY HABITS

1 The importance of rest and celebration

Stress is a common cause for both physical and mental health issues. The inbox of life never empties. We are able to reach out and be reached at almost any time. At the same time, it is human nature and often makes sense to do what appears to be more urgent and keep going without longer breaks, even if harmful to the body and mind in the long run.

Unscheduled activities such as rest and recovery time are often forgotten/post-phoned – something we do if we have the time after all of the day’s to-dos are done.

See if this challenge works for you: choose a day of the week, why not today?, a day when you:

1. do as few shores as necessary and

2. instead focus on being present in the moment and

3. schedule a restful activity during midday that feels like recovery for body and mind such as physical rest, why not outdoor and even if not able to sleep, or try meditation, reading etc.

 

2 Sleep or you will shorten your life

The best way for the body and brain to recover and rest is of course sleep. Research shows that sleep repairs the body, cleanses the brain but also processes information for learning and memory on a deeper level.  Sleep is also vital for maintaining a good mental health.

Optimal sleepers have in research (e.g. Hamilton et al, 2007) shown to report fewer depressive symptoms, less anxiety as well as higher levels of environmental mastery, personal growth, positive relations with others, purpose in life, and self-acceptance. At the same time, many people get harmful low levels of sleep, less than 7 hours on average each night.

Make sure you know the basic sleep routine:

Unwind the last two hours before bed time, limit use of electronics due to blue light harming sleep, but also the excitement/stress that often is triggered by posts, unexpected news, tasks etc.

Try to do activities progressively slower and use the last half hour as a ritual turning lights off, brush teeth etc. to signal to the body to get ready for sleep.

Keep your bedroom cool and dark. In bed, try relaxation techniques to ensure the body is relaxed and breathe slowly to assist the body/the parasympathetic nervous system to get into sleep mode which also relaxes the sympathetic nervous system – the awake/fight-flight system.

Try not to think about worrisome topics but postpone them until tomorrow at breakfast, see technique in upcoming post, since this is not the time for optimal problem solving and it will likely trigger stress hormones making it impossible to sleep.

Sunday is also for celebration of you! I suggest you find a self-care activity: a delicious and nutritious meal, foot-bath, pedicure, facial mask, nailcare/manicure, hair treatment, body-peel, in-home massage, a nice shower-gel, creme etc. that you do every Sunday to honour your strivings and everything you have done and are proud of this last week. Life is always a work in progress…

 

3 Weekly healthy recovering routines

There are many good reasons to consider writing a diary. Among other things, it will help you get perspective and new insights. It also improves your access to your inner creativity and problem-solving. There are studies showing that writing also about tough experiences and negative feelings can increase well-being and help you heal, see below for specific exercises.

Writing a diary by hand is also an important way to get to know yourself, your preferences and needs.

Try to write 3 pages in a normal size journal by hand for one month and you will most likely feel that you have reconnected to yourself on a deeper level.

You will have the best effect if you write in the morning immediately after waking up since you then are the closest to you subconsciousness/dream world and you will be more likely to write about your feelings, dreams and hopes, instead of reporting you day and related incidents.

Also, as you write, do not censor yourself, ignore critical comments from your inner voice, grammar etc. Just keep going without lifting your pen.

Always finish the exercise by naming 3 things you are proud of and 3 things you are grateful of. Common benefits of the latter are better sleep, fewer symptoms and more experiences of happiness, harmony and joy. More about the importance of gratitude below.

 

4 Weekly reflection diary can change your life

The theme of the last chapter was the importance of writing a daily diary, preferably in the morning, to get to know yourself but also to show to yourself continuously and symbolically that you, your feelings and thoughts are important. If you have read my other posts you will recognize my suggestions of other posts to include every day in your diary:

  • your mental state,
  • feelings that are present at that moment and their levels of intensity as well as their messages and suggested actions from you,
  • thoughts and important themes on your mind
  • 3 things you are proud of and
  • 3 things you are grateful for.
  • Also, reread your 10 positive traits and your old entries of what you are proud of and grateful for as well as your life goals.

This will help you with a more mindful and self-enhancing focus. Sunday will then be the day for reflection of the whole week when you can make a summary of all the free writing and the insights that you have generated during the week.

This you can later connect to your future actions in the life goals that we are about to develop on Mondays. In your Sunday ritual you can also schedule activities to honor yourself, maybe two kinds, to take care of both your body and mind, since both are trying to serve you at best ability every day in your life.

Sundays could also include reflection themes such as:

How do I feel about where I am today in my life…

What do I have that I am grateful for and that I want to celebrate…

What have I done well/accomplished this week that I want to celebrate…

What are the most important insights this week…

Hence, what do I want to do differently going forward and how…

I will honor my body today by doing…

I will honor my mind today by doing…

 

5 Critical incidents – mentalising yourself

Sunday: time for celebration, rest and peaceful self-supportive reflection. Another way of enhancing your reflections, which you then can use in honoring yourself, but also in planning what you would like to change in your life, is analyzing critical or important incidents. This exercise, which is adapted from Hatcher 1996, focuses on analyzing an important event that occurred during your week. By answering these questions, you will strengthen your ability to mentalise yourself = to consider your thoughts, emotions and reactions, thereafter articulate concrete actions that you plan to take or dimensions you would like to consider in the future:

1) Describe a significant event that occurred during the last week. Why was this significant to you? How? What underlying issues surfaced as a result of this experience? How will this incident influence your future behavior?

2) Describe an incident or situation that created a dilemma for you this last week in terms of what to say or do. What is the first thing you thought of to say or do? Think of three other actions you might have taken. Which of these seems best to you now and why do you think this is the best response?

 

6 Creativity

Another important part of this day is to access your creativity. Creativity feeds the feelings interest and joy and hence increase positive emotions which often also increase well-being. It is also a mindful activity where the essence is being in the here and now. Creative activities can also impact how you view yourself as well as give a sense of mastery, see posts under self-esteem. The activities can both be singular events and more routine-like behavior.

Typical activities are engaging in crafts or why not try something new: a new sport that looks fun or arts such as clay, beads, painting, sketching, gardening, cooking or baking?

The important thing is to start doing it now/soon – not to postpone it, so it risks getting lost in busy daily routines.

Why not read a book about a topic that interests you but that you have not yet prioritized? Many of us have a stack of books to be read. Now can be that moment. Few things can alter our perspectives and give insights as much as reading. Also, the writing exercises posted earlier can be of value.

 

Test writing about 5 themes where you would like to explore your thinking and just use a few minutes on each:

The meaning of my life is…

What I think is important in life is…

For me important values are…. I appreciate…
I would like to try…

Often we surprise ourselves with the answers which in itself can be an enriching experience.

One way to get more creativity in your daily life routines is to make a continuous effort to try new and different things: walk a different path from your home, eat something you would not normally choose, at a place you have not been – picnic? etc.

 

Hence, there are many dimensions to creativity. It can be about creative activities, about having a creative mindset as well as actual creative cognitive thinking processes. One important routine is to refrain from evaluating/criticizing performance and ideas while in your creative mode. In brainstorming this is done by refraining to criticize ideas until you have made up 20 suggestions, i.e. separating the brainstorming process from the evaluation.