5 of My Personal Favorite Self-Care Ideas (No Meditation Necessary!)

By Nancy Rynes, author of Awakenings from the Light
Like many of you, my teen is about ready to graduate from high school and go off to college...how in the world did THAT happen so quickly? It seemed like just yesterday she was speaking her first words and losing her first tooth, now it's time to think about a career path and a degree.

While it can feel tough that she doesn't have as much time for dear old mom as she used to, that also means she's putting together a life for herself which is super-fun and rewarding to watch. I'm also lucky that while her life is starting to steer her onto her own path, my own schedule is ramping up with a new book in the works, expanding my art business, and planning workshops and retreats. I'm filling my life with my own callings as she begins to follow hers :-) 

But in all of this hustle and bustle of life changes and busy schedules, it can be a challenge to find time to care for myself. When I'm busy, it seems that the first thing to suffer is self-care. But I've been around long enough to know that I'm the one who suffers if I don't make time for myself: feeling burned out, losing sleep, and loss of creativity. I know that I'm the one who is ultimately responsible for taking care of me, so I make sure to take time for a little self-care every day. Here are a few of my favorites to get you started and I promise, no meditating is required!

1) Give Yourself a Hug. Most of us have at least heard about the benefits of hugging other people, that it helps decrease stress, anxiety, and depression. But what should you do if you're alone? Do you have to forego all of those awesome benefits? No, you don't. The good news is that hugging yourself is almost as effective at decreasing your levels of stress, anxiety, and depression as hugging someone else. Why? Like hugging someone else, a self-hug prompts your body to release the chemical oxytocin, a hormone that helps you feel more relaxed. It also helps increase your feelings of compassion, bonding, love, and trust. If you're too self-conscious to give yourself a hug, hugging a beloved pet, a teddy bear, or body pillow are other great options (and have the same benefits).

2) Get your green on! Taking just a 5 minute walk in a city park, greenspace, or on a nature trail leads to measurable improvements in mental and physical health, and a greater sense of overall well-being. Better is if that green space had a pond, stream, or other water feature. Even light exercise done outside in areas with grass, trees, gardens, and other natural features decreases stress levels, anger, and depression more than exercising indoors. At the same time, it increases energy levels and positive feelings toward others. Just spending time in nature also provides protections against a range of diseases like diabetes, obesity, ADHD, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and more. How? The connection isn't quite clear yet but may be a combination of sunlight stimulating the release of brain chemicals, getting vitamin D, aromatherapy (the aerosols plants give off can act like a drug to calm down our brains...think lavender or pine scents), and color therapy (colors can influence our moods). Let's also not forget the more spiritual aspects of being in nature: its inherent energy often calms and "grounds" us, helping us de-stress from the drama of daily life. I credit two walks a day for helping me to recover from my bicycling accident and near-death experience (NDE).

3) Stop and smell the flowers, literally. Taking a break to get into the present moment while appreciating the smell of a flower can decrease your stress levels and feelings of anxiety. Part of this effect comes from the act of focusing itself. Popularly known by the buzz-word "mindfulness", focusing on something (in this case, a flower and its scent) can help your mind let go of worries, judgement, and fear. And choosing certain flowers like old-fashioned roses, lavender, and gardenia has an added benefit: the aromas from these beauties act like a gentle drug to calm your brain. In fact, the scent of real jasmine flowers has been shown to be just as effective a sedative as drug-based therapies like propofol and barbiturates! Using scents to influence our mental and physical health is called "aromatherapy." But use caution with aromatherapy because even though these airborne chemicals are nature-made, they still act as drugs on our systems. Especially use caution if you have environmental allergies, drug sensitivities, or a medical/psychological challenge. Seek the help of a qualified natruopath, herbalist, aromatherapy expert, or functional medicine physician for help choosing the best scents for your situation.

4) Slather on Magnesium lotion before you sleep. There's a relatively new type of lotion available in stores that's packed with magnesium (the stuff that makes Epsom salts baths so calming). Find a good quality magnesium lotion (I personally use Life-Flo brand, but there are many other, quality products available), and take a few moments before you sleep to gently massage a dollop into your skin. I love this stuff! I find that the lotion helps me sleep more deeply each night than if I don't use it. If you have a medical condition, check with your physician before using any of the magnesium lotions on the market.

5) Become a Gardener or DIY-er. We know that gardening and do-it-yourself activities (making crafts, building a hotrod, crafting furniture, home decorating, etc.) are fun, but did you also know that they're good for you? Recent studies show that these types of activities can cut the risk of strokes and heart attacks, and prolong life by as much as 30 percent. All of these activities keep people physically active which can explain some of the health benefits. But since people participate in these types of activities because they want to, I think most of the benefit comes simply from spending time doing something enjoyable. In other words, if you enjoy the activity, whether it's planting flowers or building a hotrod, it decreases your stress levels (i.e., cortisol levels) and encourages you to immerse yourself in the present-moment by focusing on the activity (there's that "mindfulness" word again). And decreased cortisol levels, as well participating in mindful activities, help your heart, immune system, and brain function better. So if you or your loved ones have a hobby you enjoy, spend more time doing it without guilt, knowing that you're taking good care of yourself.

Do you make time to take care of YOU? What are some of your favorite ways? We'll continue to explore self-care, and I'll explain how it ties in with energy, consciousness, and more in upcoming articles!



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Bio: Nancy Rynes is a speaker, artist, and author of "Awakenings from the Light" (available from Amazon.com). Nancy's books and workshops teach you how to bring a little bit of Heaven to your life on Earth. She divides her time between Seattle, Washington and Tucson, AZ. Check out her website at NancyRynes.com 

Copyright © 2018-2019 Nancy Rynes, All rights reserved.