7 Ways to Boost Your Well-Being That Go Beyond Sleep, Diet, and Exercise
We know that getting enough sleep, eating nutrient-rich foods, and participating in physical activities (that we actually enjoy) are all vital for our well-being. After all, these make up the foundation of our health, resulting in everything from increasing our energy to lowering our blood pressure to alleviating our anxiety.
But there are so many other ways we can contribute to our well-being.
First, let’s explore what well-being actually means. According to therapist Casey Radle, LPC, well-being is “feeling at peace with oneself and tending to all the many facets of our lives that contribute to that feeling of peacefulness.” Clinical psychologist Carolyn Ferreira, Psy.D, also thinks of well-being as “being at peace with yourself.”
Psychotherapist Lena Aburdene Derhally, LPC, views well-being as a state of contentment, where our stress level is relatively low, we’re well-rested, and we feel fulfilled.
“In other words, you can still get stressed and overwhelmed as that is a normal part of life. But the majority of the time, you feel in control of your life and are taking care of your emotional, mental and physical life (and spiritual if that’s important to you).”
Below, you’ll find seven suggestions for enhancing your well-being every day.
1. Feed your brain and your soul
Focus on activities that bring you laughter, meaning and fulfillment, said Radle, who specializes in anxiety and self-esteem at Eddins Counseling Group in Houston, Texas. “Volunteer, pursue new hobbies, attend classes, read books, or join clubs to keep your brain engaged and your soul nourished.” (You’ll find a few more ideas in this piece.)
2. Be consistent with one practice
Ferreira, who specializes in addictions, stress, PTSD, and relationships, asks her clients in Bend, Ore. to pick one practice to do for six months or even a year. She shared these examples: Every day you might write three things that you’re grateful for, and put them in a jar. Then at the end of the year, you read them. You might stretch in the morning or journal for 10 minutes. You might host a potluck with your friends once a week.
After six months or a year has passed, reflect on how your practice affected your well-being, she said.
3. Wind down every night — even if it’s just for 30 minutes
“I practice in Washington D.C., which is a city of workaholics,” said Derhally, a licensed and Imago certified psychotherapist, writer, speaker and activist. “So I try to have my clients who are in that space turn off work at a certain point and have wind-down time every night.”
You might wind down by watching your favorite show, reading a book, catching up on a gossip blog, taking a bubble bath, knitting, or having a quality conversation with a loved one, she said. Basically, carve out time in the evening to do something that brings you joy.
4. Listen to your body
This might mean saying “yes” to some activities and saying “no” to others. For instance, Derhally was struggling with bouts of insomnia and anxiety over everything she had to do. “I was so exhausted that I passed out on my couch in the middle of the day, couldn’t sleep at night even when I was exhausted, and felt overall sluggish, mentally and physically. If I continued going at that level, I would have crashed and burned…” Which is why she listened to her body, and canceled several commitments. She skipped cooking and rested until she felt like she could take on more activity.
Of course, saying “no” is hard. Really hard. But as Ferreira emphasized, saying “no” can sometimes be the best decision for everyone’s well-being in the long run. “Personally, I know if I’m over-tasked and running low on energy and empathy, I’m not going to be as kind to a friend who’s requesting my support,” she said. “It’s totally OK to acknowledge you want to help someone and you are not able to at the moment.”
5. Be gentle with yourself
Pay attention to the language you use when you’re talking to or about yourself, Radle said. When are your words especially harsh? Can you choose self-compassion instead—or at least offer yourself some understanding? Can you be encouraging and supportive? (These tips can help.)
As Radle said, “The only person we are forced to spend all of our time with is ourselves. We might as well be nice.”
6. Make amends
Who do you need to apologize to? Who do you need to resolve a conflict with? Who hurt you? The person might even be you. “Unresolved conflict in one relationship often spills over into other relationships and can eat away at us,” Ferreira said.
Of course, unresolved conflict can be complicated, and there are no fast, simple tips. But you can start the process. Ferreira encourages her clients to write a letter to the person. You can give it to them, burn it, hide it — or do whatever you like with it, she said.
7. Seek professional support
You might benefit greatly from working with a therapist, massage therapist, acupuncturist or meditation teacher. Derhally finds that many of her individual and couples clients who come in for maintenance sessions seem to be doing the best in their lives. For instance, couples come in for regular check-ins to make sure they’re tending to their emotional needs and conflict isn’t festering under the surface.
As Derhally said, “A good way to prevent burnout is to take care of yourself, even when you feel OK.”
Ultimately, “how a person defines well-being is unique to each individual,” Radle said. In fact, what might contribute to one person’s well-being might actually be detrimental to someone else’s, she said. The key is to “trust your gut, follow your heart, and honor your needs.”
And remember that “taking care of yourself is extremely important and makes all the difference in the quality of your life,” Derhally said.
I’d add: In the quality of others’ lives, too.
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Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., is an Associate Editor at Psych Central. She also explores self-image issues on her own blog Weightless and creativity on her blog Make a Mess: Everyday Creativity.