Whether you’re a business owner, employee, single parent, or a gypsy, it is important to take care of your mind, body, and soul. When our physical, mental, and sometimes spiritual health are in a “funk,” not only are we prone to getting sick, but it can sometimes hinder us from achieving goals we may have; especially if we are enveloped in stress.
There are several holistic ways I have found helpful to breaking the “funk.” Keeping an open mind and a willingness to try new things, you can find your own “soul food recipe” that’s right for you. Little by little, you can incorporate them into a routine or develop new habits that may eventually lead to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling lifestyle!
1. Yoga: Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice that unites breath control with meditation and physical movement. The benefits include improving flexibility, building muscle strength, developing a healthy posture, promotes fluid cartilage and joints, lengthens and energizes the spine, encourages blood flow, boosts immunity by clearing lymphatic system, improves cardiovascular conditioning, naturally uplifts mood, sharpens focus, and provides a deep relaxation for sound sleep.
2. Aromatherapy: The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy defines it as “the art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize, and promote the health of body, mind, and spirit.” An essential oil is a distillation of natural materials. The benefits we can enjoy from aromatherapy depend on the scent we use. It can relieve stress, spark creativity, lift mood, ease anxiety, encourage movement and evoke passion. For example: lemon (fresh, sour, citrus) revitalizes, relieves stress, enhances mood; lavender (sweet, pine-like, floral) topical: antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, aromatherapy: sleep-enhancing, stimulating, headache relief, eases anxiety; sandalwood (warm,earthy, sensual) topical: astringent, soothes inflamed skin, aromatherapy: grounding, soothing, aphrodisiac.
3. Volunteer: The Corporation for National and Community Service states that through volunteering, we: solve problems, strengthen communities, improve lives, connect to others, and transform our own lives. And that research establishes “a strong relationship between volunteering and health: those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.”
4. Take a deep breath: You can do this anytime, anywhere. Chest breathing is ingrained in us by society, but this practice is not normal or beneficial. Deep abdominal breathing is more ideal, as it soothes the heartbeat and stabilizes blood pressure. Find a peaceful, comfortable place to sit or lie down. Take a normal breath. Then take a deep breath by inhaling slowly through your nose until your chest and belly rise as your lungs fill. Let the abdomen expand fully. Release the breath slowly through your mouth or nose, whatever feels more natural.
5. Meditation: Meditation encompasses techniques that induce relaxation, cultivate internal energy, develop compassion, and encourage forgiveness. It clears the mind and promotes awareness. There are countless ways to meditate. It is about bringing complete awareness to your actions. To start, try this: 1. Sit or lie comfortably. 2. Shut your eyes 3. Just breathe naturally. 4. Focus on the rhythm of your breath, noticing how your body moves with the inhalation and exhalation. If your attention wanders, return focus to your breath. 5. Try this for a few minutes to start, then gradually build your concentration. Benefits include: physical: lowers high blood pressure, lowers blood lactate, eases tension-induced pain, boosts serotonin production, augments immune system, increases energy levels. Mental: eases anxiety, builds emotional stability, boosts creativity, induces a sense of happiness, fine-tunes intuition, promotes clarity and inner peace, boosts ability to focus.
6. Sleep on it: this is easier said than done. Enough sleep is essential for physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. Here are a few tips to foster healthy sleep: 1.) Establish a bedtime schedule. This means staying close to this time everyday, even on weekends. You can ease your body into this by shifting towards your desired bedtime in 15 minute increments. 2) Spend more time outside during daylight. This will help naturally align your body with a healthy sleep schedule. 3) Invite as much natural light as possible into your home and workplace. 4) Do not read from back-lit devices at night. Artificial light sabotages melatonin production, which is crucial for deep sleep. 5) Cardio and aerobic exercise enhances the depth and length of your sleep, but only if you finish 4 hours before bedtime. This gives your body time to cool down, triggering the brain to release sleep-inducing melatonin.
7. Walk Often, Walk Far: Walking is an easy, natural blessing we can bestow upon our body and mind. Try to walk as often as you can, varying the environment by exploring parks and forests. By walking, you reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, strengthen your bones, regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels, promote a sense of emotional well-being, enjoy the comforting and stimulating sights of nature.
8. Feed Your Intelligence: The more you know, the more fulfilling your life will become. You’ll make deeper connections, discover new interests, and become more equipped to reach your goals. Here are some simple ways to build intelligence: 1) the web is brimming with free learning resources! Dedicate a bit of time you might otherwise spend on social networks to learn everyday. 2) Play and learn! Games like Scrabble stimulate the brain while providing entertainment. 3) Read plenty! By reading a diverse range of both fiction and nonfiction, you are exploring new worlds and ideas. 4) Try random activities and foods! This keeps your brain fresh and alive
9. Read Lots! “You cannot open a book without learning something.” – Confucius
10. Keep a Journal: We all have a story to tell and emotions to sort out. Journaling serves as a relief to jumbled thoughts and gnawing worries. By expressing yourself to a blank page you clarify emotions, understand yourself more deeply, alleviate stress by releasing angry and painful feelings, solve problems in calm and creative ways, and resolve issues with others by taking time to understand their views
11. Get Moving! Dance, run, walk, swim, lift, jump, hike, bike, spin! We all know the joys and benefits that exercise has to offer. You’ve got one body: elevate it with movement!
12. Practice Compassion: By giving happiness, you receive happiness. No compassion deed is too small. Not only are you uplifting others, you are nourishing your own heart. Some simple ways to practice compassion: 1) Smile at someone 2) Say “I love you” to someone you love 3) Send flowers to a friend out of the blue 4) let someone speak without interrupting 5) Offer a compliment that is genuine and unique
13. Embrace yourself! Listen to your body and your soul. Every one of us has intuition that can guide us towards healing and happiness. These practices can help, but ultimately you are the captain of your vessel.