Our lives are ruled by responsibility and the relentless passage of time.
From alarm clocks in the morning to last-minute tasks before bedtime, we count the hours we get to sleep and all the hours in between. We work five or six-day weeks, enjoying only a day or two for ourselves. Then we fall back into obligations. Again. And again. It’s exhausting.
I don’t want this to be an indictment of capitalism or Western values, but I do wonder sometimes about our choices. We all have bills to pay and while responsibilities aren’t actually a bad thing, I wonder if we take on a larger load than we can carry. Do we hold ourselves to someone else’s expectations of what we should be doing? Most importantly, are we caring for ourselves well enough when we have the opportunity?
I’ve recently realized that I find it difficult to allow myself time to recover from illness. If I have a rare day to myself, I want to explore or have an adventure. The last thing I want to do is spend the day in bed feeling sick—especially if the weather outside is wonderful. I begrudge myself for taking time off, beating myself up for not feeling well enough to go to the gym or even outside.
When we’re not feeling well, why do we hold ourselves to the same standards as when we’re healthy? What if the way we feel is emotional rather than physical? Why don’t we allow ourselves recovery time from loss or anger or sadness?
If we don’t take care of ourselves on a regular basis, we can expect our bodies to intervene with illness, forcing us to slow down. Taking care of our bodies and minds doesn’t have to be routine or dull. There are so many interesting things we can do to restore ourselves. Sometimes we just have to think beyond the basics of eating well and exercising.
I’m always interested in new wellness techniques, and recently, I came upon an article on forest bathing, or Shinrin-yoku. Researchers in Japan and South Korea have been investigating the link between time spent in the forest to health benefits since the 1980s. These researchers have identified the following benefits: better sleep, more energy, lower levels of stress, lower blood pressure, increased immune system function (related to increasing the body’s “natural killer” cells that fight illness), more rapid recovery from illness and injury, and improved mood.
Forest bathing involves mindfully walking in the forest, using all of one’s senses to take in the experience. This isn’t time to listen to music or talk with friends. Forest bathing is about being fully present in the experience and practicing gratitude for the lives we have.
Many of us long for this kind of nature time, and it turns out it’s incredibly healthy to do so. Of course, I’m not stepping foot into the forest without a homemade, all-natural insect repellant. Once my repellant is made, forest walking sounds like just the ticket for getting away from my day-to-day routine and reveling in the beauty of nature.
Another (more unusual) option for finding peace and improved health lies in Himalayan salt therapy. Whether we purchase Himalayan salt lamps or we find a salt cave or therapy practice in our area, we can all benefit from this technique. Himalayan salt is said to reduce allergy and asthma symptoms, keep the air clean, improve sleep and mood, and increase our natural energy levels. Many spas offer salt caves or salt therapy rooms where clients can spend 45 minutes or more soaking in the benefits of this healing mineral. Even placing salt lamps around our homes helps us experience these benefits. I have four of them in my own home to help reduce allergies and cleanse the air.
Walking around in nature and putting salt lamps in our homes are easy and affordable ways to incorporate wellness into our lives.
Here are a few more simple ways we can add peace and good health to our lives:
When we grow our own fruits and vegetables, we spend time in nature, get extra sunshine, and eat organic, fresh food. Of course, we must remember to apply sunscreen to protect our skin and to avoid using harmful chemicals in our gardens.
Get creative with exercise.
Sure, we can hop on the treadmill or lift weights, but exercise can involve a variety of interesting options. We can hike or kayak or go rollerskating. We can visit an indoor trampoline park or rock climbing gym. We can take a Zumba class or practice yoga. We can hop on a bike or participate in a mud run or other obstacle course. Our exercise doesn’t have to be boring or routine to be effective. I often take my children to play centers and find myself working up a sweat just playing with them.
Work in more rest and meditation.
I know it’s tough—our lives are filled with things we need to do. Most of us work to pay the bills, not because we love working. We have families to care for and lives to lead. But when we’re not feeling our best, skip the television show and go to bed early. We can do a mini meditation during our busy days to help center ourselves. We can have quiet reading times in our families where we can enjoy time with all media shut off and just soak in the restfulness of screen-free time. A screen-free day is a great way to work in a little more rest and relative quiet.
Practice gratitude and kindness.
Feeling grateful is wonderful, but expressing our gratitude is even better. We can also practice random acts of kindness as a way of giving back to our communities and promoting positive values. Gratitude and kindness are wonderful habits to incorporate into our daily lives to promote both health and peace.
From forest bathing to salt therapy, from yoga to roller skating, there are so many ways to lead happy, healthy lives even when we have great responsibilities. Taking care of ourselves doesn’t need to be yet another chore we dread. If it’s fun and relaxing, we will learn to make time and manage the rest.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Wikipedia Commons
Editor: Danielle Beutell