Ashley Winseck, guest blogger
Most of life is a habit. We tend to fall into habitual ways of thinking and being and doing, and we’re living in a world where there are a lot of expectations and demands built up around us—bills, children, work, and more. Giving yourself moments of self-care—even if it’s just five minutes each day—can greatly improve quality of life.
The first step is admitting that you might have some habits that are not working for you. Take a look at your daily routines and identify moments that cause you stress or could be improved upon. Then, determine what tools you can incorporate into your routine, what new habits you can establish. When you put some of these tools into practice, you can easily shift the state of your body, mind, and heart away from stress and back into your center.
Here, Kripalu Yoga teacher Janna Delgado offers a toolbox of possibilities to be used at any given moment to help you get back to your center:
- Movement. Any technique to get energy and oxygen flowing through the body again is useful. Whether you want to start up a vigorous Vinyasa flow, a simple joint opening or stretching routine, or take a leisurely 10 minute stroll around the block, the simple act of movement will circulate energy and prevent stagnation in the body.
- Breath. Our breath is the bridge between body and mind. You can try anything from simply stopping to practice Sun Breaths, the Breath of Joy, the Kripalu three-part breath, or an intense round of pranayama, like kapalbhati. When we can learn to have awareness of the breath, it can bring the mind and the body back to operating from a place of centeredness.
- Mindfulness. It’s amazing how powerful the simple act of taking pause can be for both our physical and emotional states of being. Find just minutes to slow down and pause before moving forward with the next task or responsibility for the day. You can also try Mindful Eating, taking a moment before each meal to pause and give thanks to the food, its source, a higher power, whatever works best for you.
- Sleep. When we don’t get enough sleep, it can impair our digestion, critical thinking, and more. In yogic philosophy, the hours of sleep you get before midnight actually count double compared to the hours of sleep you get after midnight. In short, see if you can practice “early to bed, early to rise”, altering your sleep schedule to work with the rhythms of nature.
- Oiling. Consider building time into your weekly routine for a self-massage with soothing oils, like sesame or coconut oil. These have a calming effect on the nervous system and the simple act of self-love and self-care will leave you feeling nourished and held.
You can also try building time into your day to recite mantras or prayers, or even take a few minutes for journaling. If none of those practices speak to you, get creative. Try sketching, singing, anything to focus your mind and bring yourself back to the present moment.
Resistance to these new habits is natural, things come up, life happens. How you choose to deal with the resistance will determine how you continue on the new path of habits you’ve created for yourself. To move past resistance, think of the three A’s: Awareness, Acceptance, Adjustment. Become aware of the resistance or obstacles preventing you from your new habits, rather than denying that resistance, acknowledge that it is there. Then, simply accept the obstacle without judgment or self-criticism. Finally, adjust your routine, your expectations, your attitude, whatever is needed to move yourself beyond the resistance and onward toward your healthier life.
Start small. Choose one or two of these tools that you’d like to incorporate into your daily life—fifteen, ten, or even just five minutes a day. Commit to these new habits for one week, consider where you might meet resistance and how you might overcome those obstacles. By setting an intention for self-care and allowing yourself the time to use some of these tools, you’ll be on a path to a healthier, more vital life.
Ashley Winseck is an editor and writer living in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. She currently serves as an editor at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health.