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Maximizing Your Well Being

Are You Really Taking Care Of Yourself?

Well-being, or a state of comfortability, happiness and/or contentment seems easy, yet many people struggle with “getting more balance in my life” or “taking care of myself better”. As a psychologist, I hear statements such as these all the time. When I think of “well-being”, I consider my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Mostly because when any of those – my body, my mind or my heart is shaken, the others are ultimately affected. Ever have the flu and feel anti- social? Or end a relationship and stop eating? Or have some terrible event occur that rocks your core such that you question everything you know and believe? I have. 

            Sometimes we think, ‘if I was only in X relationship’ or ‘if I had Y job’  I’d be happier. But well-being is independent of your job, your relationship, your children, the exams you have, or the errands you’re doing. Well-being is about your relationship with yourself and how you take care of you.  Only you are in control of your own well- being, and when you are happy and content, you are that way in all situations, regardless of the state of your relationships, friendships, or work/school situation. Yes, stress has an impact on your well being- but when you are taking care of yourself properly, the effects of stress have less of an impact.

Joy

            Where do you get your joy? Whether it is spending time with your children or your friends, dancing, or exercising, identifying what brings you the most happiness allows you to do more of it every day. The more joyful you are, the less likely you are to react negatively in a stressful situation.  And while it is not always possible to go dancing every night, or get a massage every day, you can certainly reserve 10-15 minutes each day doing something that brings you joy. Joy feels good, is motivating, radiates happiness to others, and is healthy. There is a reason the saying “laughter is the best medicine” holds. Even in difficult times, laughter feeds the mind, body, and soul. During the most difficult times of my life, such as when I was hospitalized during my twenties due to illness, laughing and feeling joy while attached to IV drips and morphine pumps, is what made me joyful and helped me get through that difficult time. 

 Gratitude

            What are you grateful for? Whether it is your health, your family and friends, your pets, or an event you attended or a place you vacationed, giving thanks and appreciation isn’t just an attitude. When practiced regularly, it becomes part of your being, of who you are. It is a way of perceiving life situations from a positive manner. And yes, I know too well it is difficult to see a glass half full if you typically see the glass half empty. Appreciation and thankfulness are more than saying words to yourself -it’s a loving feeling in your heart for whatever or whoever it is you feel thankful. I have kept gratitude journals for years, and on my most stressful days, I read what I have written in the past, to remind myself I am grateful for my ability to see the positives. It doesn’t change the stress of my day, but it becomes much easier to cope with, because I am reminded of all the good in my life.

Ten Tips For Greater Well Being

Spend ten to fifteen minutes a day bringing more joy and gratitude in your life. How? Only you know what makes you happy, which parts of your life are unbalanced, but here are some suggestions.

  1. Keep a gratitude journal: write three things you are grateful for every day. They could be as simple as “I’m grateful I got a parking space in front of the supermarket during the rain, “ to “I’m grateful my mammogram came back normal” to “I am grateful I passed all my exams.”  Make gratitude a habit – a piece of who you are, not simply an attitude during stressful times. 
  2. Add joy to your life every day. It’s harder than it seems. Doing something that makes you happy every single day takes conscious effort. Maybe one day you will take a dance class, and the next take your kids to the park. One day maybe you will go out for lunch instead of sitting at your desk through lunch hour. Maybe you will sleep 15 minutes longer than you normally do. Whatever your joyful activity of the day is, ENJOY it. Don’t’ berate yourself for doing it- that defeats its purpose.
  3. Focus on what you can do- not what you can’t do. Don’t have money to go out to eat? Make yourself a meal and eat it at museum or a park. Polish your own nails if you don’t have the extra money for a manicure.
  4. Try something new. Whether it is a different class at the gym, or attending an event you might not normally attend, explore the world in a different way. 
  5. Make time for yourself. Even if it’s just 15 minutes a day, and you have to wake up earlier or go to bed later, make time to take care of you. No one else can do it for you.
  6. Change your routine. Doing the same thing day in and day out can get tedious. 
  7. Meditate or do yoga. Meditation has been shown to improve emotional well being, assist with the effects of stress, lengthen one’s attention, and improve sleep time, just to name a few.
  8.  Call or text a friend you haven’t spoken to for a while. Spending time with friends and people you care about is always a good way to increase joy in your life. If you haven’t the time to actually see them, send a text or give a call. You will be happy you reached out, and they will be happy to see you.
  9. Before you go to bed every night, remind yourself of the joy you felt during your day. Just like anything else you do, this reinforces the good feelings you had at the time.
  10. Treat yourself as though you are your own best friend. Do something extra special for yourself occasionally. Why not? Don’t you deserve it?
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