Consciously and carefully chosen self-care practices are focused on both physical and mental health. Such practices aren’t just about weekend care. They modify your lifestyle to allow for choices and rituals supportive of a healthier and happier life.
The self-care practices shared in this post are basically lifestyle changes for better physical and mental health. It’s self-love and care that goes beyond the basics. With these 20 exercises, you’ll be integrating better self-care into the very fabric of your existence.
Overtime, thanks to these changes, you’ll find far-reaching improvements in your life without any extra effort.
20 healthy lifestyle changes to improve your mental and physical health –
1. Healthy eating
- Instead of obsessing over calorie intake or taste, focus on eating a well-balanced diet. Consume food that gives you the energy to support a demanding schedule.
“ Our digestive health and nutritional health affects our brain health ”
– Rachel Kelly (A mental health advocate and author of The Happiness Diet)
- Eat lots of fruits & vegetables as studies have linked the consumption of fruits and vegetables with mental health.
- Keep your gut healthy. Stress adversely affects your digestive system which further impacts your appetite, sleep, and mood. In order to keep your gut clean and healthy, include yogurt, nuts, and seeds in your meal plan
- Eat at regular intervals and be mindful of your food
- For the last meal of the day, keep it light and healthy. Eat food that helps you sleep better.
2. Sleep optimization
There is simply no part of your life that isn’t impacted by sleep.
Without adequate sleep, your health takes a hit. It compromises your immune system, inhibits muscle reparation, reduces the production of growth hormone and impacts other significant daily functions. Lack of productivity and self-control may also be down to a lack of balanced sleep. Overtime, sleep deprivation can contribute to anxiety and depression.
Optimize your sleep by creating a gadget-free, clean sleep sanctuary. Keep the sleep sanctuary dark and cool.
Exercise in the mornings, and maintain a sleep schedule. We cover sleep optimization at length in my course, Daily Wins. It is something that’s much underestimated because people don’t very often connect their health issues with a lack of balanced sleep. Also, sleeping is one thing, but getting the sort of sleep that truly replenishes your body is something else entirely.
3. Carefully chosen mindfulness exercises
There are a whole host of mindfulness exercises, pick one that suits you.
Why is this important?
It will help you focus all your disruptive energy and regulate your emotions. You can choose meditation, visualization, affirmations, journaling – anything that suits your unique needs.
If sitting down and doing any of these exercises feels too much, use your daily activities as an instrument of mindfulness. While you clean the dishes or walk to the grocery store, instead of letting your mind wander, focus on the here and now.
Become aware of the sounds around you, your own body, the sensations on your skin. Pay attention to every element of the moment. Keep taking deep breaths as you do it.
4. A rescue strategy for when you’re overwhelmed
Always, always have a go-to strategy to unwind after a difficult day. I always make bad decisions in moments of distress and overwhelm so, it’s better to have a plan in place for when your internal system is overwhelmed and needs a quick rescue.
You can put together a self-care kit. Have your therapist on speed dial or your mom.
Maybe there’s a book that always gives you hope. Definitely, have a separate playlist for such moments. IT doesn’t have to be complicated, just a few things or people who can pull you out of your misery before you do anything self-destructive.
5. All hail hydration!
Drink lots of water! I can’t think of any health discussion (no matter the subject) that won’t include this point.
This is the easiest lifestyle change and one that should be made right away. Water is essential for us to perform at our best. Dehydration can trigger migraines, exhaustion, dizzy spells. It can negatively impact your mood, cognitive performance, and even cause anxiety.
Drink at least 8 glasses of fluid. Once you’ve developed that habit, increase water intake based on what your body needs. Start your day by drinking one glass of water in the morning. If it’s difficult to remember, set reminders on your phone or get a 2l bottle and keep it with you always.
6. A tribe for trouble
Build a tribe of like-minded friends to support you on your journey, whatever the destination may be. If you suffer from mental health issues, a support group will make a huge difference to your sense of stability and security.
Sometimes, all we need is a sounding board to figure out a way to the other side.
7. A consciously designed routine
Routines are one of the most powerful tools of anxiety management.
People with anxiety wake up to chaos, and it’s worse when the chaos is in your head. A daily routine replaces the chaos with structure and discipline. Drafting a routine gives you a plan that goes into action as soon as your morning starts. You go into a series of well-planned activities without letting the destructive thoughts take over.
If you include exercise, reading, meditation into your daily routine, you may just find yourself changing the very chemistry of your mind and body. Even with all your challenges, you make room for growth and progress.
A carefully designed routine (seamlessly) incorporates tasks of importance into your daily life. It can make room for learning and skill development which keeps your anxiety from derailing your aspirations.
8. Regularly de-clutter & cleanse your energy
Keep your home clutter free. The objects around you trap energy so, do a clean-up every few weeks. Open all the windows, let some sunshine in.
Make sure your surroundings always smell good. Sleep on clean, comfortable bedding.
Lower the volume of your phone ringer and door bell. Keep your physical and environmental energy clean. Read about cleansing energy in this post.
9. No toxic interactions
Learn to identify the toxic people in your life, and end all toxic relationships. This may seem an odd thing to include in a list of lifestyle changes intended to enhance your health, but whether you realize it or not, the toxic interactions you have on a daily bases chip away at your self-confidence, and self-esteem.
Emotionally abusive relationships act like slow poison eating away at your emotional and mental balance. It’s imperative that you protect yourself as best as you can.
Do a social detox by shutting down access to all toxic people in your life. Unfollow on social media, all those people who post negative and unhealthy content. End your subscription to email lists that don’t share useful content.
10. Take care of priorities first thing in the morning
Anything that has a deadline should be dealt with ASAP. It helps to keep your day stress-free, focused, and productive.
Dealing with deadline in the first half of your day should be a habit hardwired into your daily system.
11. Shut down all binge behavior
Binge behavior should always be taken as a bad sign. It’s become an acceptable habit and it’s never viewed as anything damaging but I am telling you now that if you binge watch or binge eat, you’re in trouble.
Binge watching shows is a procrastination tactic. It may also be indicative of an anxious, depressed mind. So, if you do find yourself spending hours on Netflix, you need to press pause and review your mental health, your level of productivity, and you ability to focus on constructive work.
If you binge-eat, it may also be a sign of disturbed emotional balance and anxiety. You’re using food as a comfort or defense from everything that’s wrong in your life.
If you identify such behavior in yourself, invest the time in something that interests and engages you. You may also ask for help, if it seems impossible to stop.
Needlessly spending hours of your mobile or laptop can be very unhealthy. Design a lifestyle focused on learning and growth which means giving up the digital devices in favor healthy reading, engaging discussions, and outdoor adventures.
Journaling has proven to be particularly beneficial for those dealing with unresolved emotional issues or lacking clarity where their goals are concerned.
Writing down all your anxious thoughts may be cathartic. It may also give you an opportunity to objectively analyze and process the identified triggers. As you journal all the issues, you may also focus on the positives in your life. A regular gratitude exercise can engender healthier, positive emotions promoting a feeling of well-being.
If you’re confused about any area of your life, do a though-dump with your journal and sort through the muddle, one issue at a time.
It’s not natural for us to sit for hours with our focus and energy trained on a book, but it is one habit that benefits us immensely. Reading build focus. It also helps us learn and grow. Most importantly, reading is one of the most ideal tool for cultivating self-awareness.
Invest the time you spend on shallow, superficial interactions on reading good books, and you’ll be in the finest company.
This is one lifestyle change that comes highly recommended. I am an obsessed bibliophile and you can check-out this page for my book recommendations.
Even 10 minutes spent exercising every morning are enough to give you better sleep, appetite, and mood.
The endorphins rush you experience as you exercise will last for a few hours and it’s the kind of high I can recommend. If you don’t like getting sweaty, go for a 15-20 minute walk with your favourite music.
If you can’t make time for a full blown workout, look into HIIT. HIIT lasts may last for just 10-15 minutes but it will give you the benefits of a long workout.
Related : Why You Should Exercise Even On Vacation
16. Protect the first & last hour of your day
As you’re falling off to sleep and right after you wake-up, your subconscious is open to influence. These couple of hours should be protected from all negative influence which means, you must not use social media first thing in the morning or last thing before bed.
Instead, do creative visualization as you’re falling-off to sleep, and start your morning with journaling or meditation.
You may even use this time to work out the problems you may be facing with your new projects and ideas. As your subconscious is open to access, you may find yourself coming up with solutions to all your problems.
17. Go out more
Instead of staying chained to your desk or locked-up in your room, go out and interact with nature or fellow humans.
A change in environment may give you fresh perspective on things. It will reduce stress and anxiety. Exposure to sunlight will help you sleep better.
18. Cold showers
There is nothing like a cold shower first thing in the morning. No matter the whether, getting under a blast of cold water is always a shock to our system but it’s one with many benefits.
Whenever I am stuck on a difficult problem or feeling emotionally disturbed, I take a cold shower. It’s like the cold reaches inside me and wakes-up the parts of brain that were asleep while I was battling with my issues. When you step out of the shower, your body will be running on an energy high. You should breeze through your to-do list after that.
A cold shower will also help relax, soothe, and repair your muscles. If you’ve a hectic lifestyle, a cold shower is something you can definitely use.
If the idea is intimidating, you can work up to it, gradually.
The shows you watch, the music you hear, and the books/magazines you read have a profound impact on your emotions, subconscious, and mental setup. The ideas and opinions you express and live-by are formed based on the content you’re exposed to on a daily basis.
So, it is imperative that you carefully choose the sort of content you consume. Make it intelligent, informative or funny, and lighthearted. Just make sure that it doesn’t leave you feeling physically drained or emotionally exhausted.
20. Pay it forward
Make time for volunteer work. Lend your time, energy, and emotions to those in distress. Nothing will make you appreciate your life more than the time you spend around those in pain, and if you manage to make even one individual’s life a little bit easier, you’ll feel the sort of happiness you’ve never felt before.
If you have any ideas on possible lifestyle changes that can help improve mental and physical health, leave them in the comments section, and I’ll add them to the list.