A few of the most important ways to maintain good mental and physical health include taking care of yourself and your relationships, being active in your community, spending time in nature, feeling a sense of purpose, along with making time for things you enjoy!
I put together a list of 27 different wellness activities that you can incorporate into a healthy lifestyle below! See which well-being activities you are already including in your life, and choose a few more to add into your routine.
- Attend a yoga class. Yoga is a great whole body workout that ties your movement to your breath, providing benefits for mind, body, and soul. With plenty of free options online, along with studios slowly opening up, there are many class options to choose from! The types of classes may vary, for instance, restorative yoga is more relaxing and slow paced while a yoga-strength-flow may be more energizing and challenging.
- Dance. Whether its taking a class or simply putting on your favourite song and dancing around the house, dancing is a great aerobic activity that improves your mood, increases feelings of happiness, releases endorphins, and improves your memory as you practice remembering different routines!
- Go on a nature walk. Try out a new trail or park, or explore a different part of your neighbourhood. A daily walk is a great way to increase your steps, improve your cardiovascular health, support your joints, and may also slow down memory decline.
- Get creative with art. Expressing your creativity through art is a wonderful outlet, whether you prefer to write, draw, paint, sculpt or take part in any other artistic activity. Letting your creativity flow is beneficial in relieving stress, increasing brain plasticity, boosting self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment. Making art is truly a therapy.
- Spend time with your pet. Studies show that spending quality time with your furry pet by cuddling, playing, or simply being around one other may add years to your life by reducing stress and anxiety, lowering blood pressure, providing companionship, and keeping you fit.
- Try a new recipe. Preparing and eating the same usual things can get too boring after a while. Break your habit and try either a new type of food or a new recipe every once in a while. This encourages mindful awareness as you take in your meal with all your senses, sparks enthusiasm and interest to help sustain your appetite, and allows your body to gather a variety of nutrients from different food sources!
- Take a relaxing bath. After a stressful day, what better way to unwind than to relax in a hot bath? Make sure to add some essential oils or epsom salts to help soothe any sore or stiff muscles. Did you know that epsom salts contain magnesium which eases arthritic joint pain and reduces inflammation within the muscles? Lavender essential oils are best known for their calming effects, reducing anxiety, insomnia, and eczema.
- Visit a museum. Even if you are stuck at home, did you know you can virtually explore a museum from across the world? Many sites are offering free virtual tours online. Click here and also here for lots of options! Learning about something new every day is a great way to keep your mind sharp and active.
- Play a musical instrument. Have you ever heard the saying, “making music makes you smarter?”. Well it’s true! Research shows that regularly playing an instrument encourages neural plasticity in the brain to increase brain cell size and connections for improved cognitive skills. Even regularly listening to classical music provides similar brain benefits.
- Be social. As naturally social beings, when we interact with others it benefits our health on both a mental and physical level. Good friendships add happiness and positivity to your life, and create a sense of belonging and purpose. Phone, zoom or message a friend, plan a (socially distanced) outing, or strike up the courage to introduce yourself to someone new.
- Read a book. There’s nothing quite like getting lost in a good book. It expands your imagination, opens your mind to new perspectives, and creates new ideas in your reality. Regular reading increases your vocabulary and comprehension skills, and is also a great way to ease stress, reduce your heart rate, and create a state of relaxation and calm.
- Meditate. Take some time out of your day to enjoy a few minutes of quiet meditation. Try to focus on your breath, turn your attention away from any thoughts or distractions, and simply be present in your own stillness. Meditation has an incredible impact on your mental health, focus, creativity, stress, sleep, addictions, and pain management. It can also be incorporated into a yoga practice, a nature walk, or with just about anything you do during your day.
- Try strength training. While aerobic exercise is great for cardiovascular health, it’s so important to include strength exercises to help build muscle and prevent muscle loss (sarcopenia) that naturally occurs with older age. Join a gym, try a free online class, use weights at home, or be creative and use anything in your house as a weight (ex. soup cans, water bottles, a bag of rice) to create your own strength workout from home.
- Sing out loud. Do you ever catch yourself singing in the shower, in the car, or around the house? Turns out singing is actually quite beneficial to your health! Studies suggest it expands your lung capacity, strengthens your immunity, improves your posture, helps you sleep, lowers stress, and is a natural anti-depressant.
- Play chess. Known as “the game of kings”, this board game has been played for over 1500 years. Regular practice is excellent for improving memory, your IQ, creativity, problem solving skills, focus, and exercising both sides of the brain at the same time.
- Challenge your balance. When we think about physical activity, we often forget about challenging our balance! Especially important during older age, balance training helps prevent falls, reduces the risk of lower-extremity injuries, and improves your body awareness (proprioception). Try standing on one leg, reaching in different directions while on one leg, walking on your toes or heels, or doing the above (safely) with your eyes closed!
- Practice kindness. Kindness is teachable and contagious. Whether you do a random act of kindness or see someone else being kind, a cardio-protective hormone called “oxytocin” is released which lowers blood pressure and increases your self-esteem and optimism. Additionally, serotonin is released which increases feelings of happiness, and the stress hormone cortisol is reduced. This goes to show that an act of kindness truly is beneficial for both those on the giving and receiving end.
- Drink water. As simple as this sounds, drinking an adequate amount of water each day not only keeps you hydrated, it also increases your focus, energy, alertness, improves digestion, boosts skin health, lubricates your joints, helps maintain blood pressure, and regulates body temperature. Our bodies are made up of 73% water, and our blood is 92% water. Make sure you get your 8 glasses a day!
- Get adequate sleep. Our bodies need sleep to restore our energy, repair tissues, and replenish necessary hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain. This normally happens in the sleep cycle called “non-REM” sleep, which occurs naturally in our earlier part of our sleep. The longer we wait to go to bed (ex. after midnight), the less “non-REM” sleep we get. Try your best to go to sleep early and get 8 hours if possible.
- Add a little sunshine. Getting a few minutes of sun every day helps maintain vitamin D levels in our body and boosts our happiness with a release of endorphins. Specifically sunshine causes the release of the hormone serotonin, which helps improve your mood and helps you stay calm and focused. Some research also suggests sun exposure helps strengthen your immune system, and improves your sleep by regulating your body’s circadian rhythm.
- Smile and laugh. Studies suggest that those who smile and laugh more often live longer too! By simply smiling, our brain perceives that we are happy and releases more “happy hormones” that release stress, lowers blood pressure, temporarily reduces levels of pain, and even strengthens our immune system. As a bonus, when you start to smile or laugh, there’s a good chance others will reciprocate and smile or laugh with you! It’s contagious, and a great way to instantly improve your health.
- Keep learning. Is there anything you’ve always wanted to learn but never had the chance to? Perhaps you have some extra time now, and should consider taking up something new! Whether you’re interested in a course on history or psychology, learning a new language or even how to knit, learning new information is a great way to keep your mind sharp well into old age. Just about any form of learning creates new neural connections and pathways in the brain.
- Disconnect from technology. Many of us spend more time than we should on our computer, phone, TV, and other screens. Although our devices are useful and important for school, work, socializing and relaxing, make sure to take regular breaks away from your screen throughout the day. You’ll likely notice improved sleep, more present-moment awareness, and greater productivity.
- Start a gratitude journal. Recognizing and appreciating positive things in your daily life is proven to increase your optimism, improve your self-esteem, reduces your stress, and make you feel happier with your current circumstances. Begin by simply writing down a few things you are grateful for that day and feel free to add as much detail as you’d like. Over time you will have created a great collection of inspirational material that you can look back on and read when you need to feel uplifted.
- Practice positive affirmations. Be kind to yourself and change your negative thought patterns into positive ones. Words are powerful. What we repeatedly think in our mind, we believe, and then turn it into reality. Use motivational and positive phrases like “I am capable”, “I am strong”, or “I am enough” to retrain your subconscious mind into truly believing in your abilities and becoming the best version of yourself.
- Eat healthy foods. What you eat affects how you feel. In the growing field of nutritional psychiatry, research confirms that when our brain is deprived of good quality nutrition, inflammation and oxidative stress increase. A diet high in refined sugars is especially linked to impaired brain function, including worsening the symptoms of mood disorders like depression. Aim to eat high quality foods that contain plenty of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to nourish the brain and protect it from oxidative stress.
- Get a massage. Not only does it feel great on sore muscles, massage has an effect on the cellular level by reducing inflammation in ways similar to anti-inflammatory medication. Other benefits include reduced pain, stress, anxiety, blood pressure, increased quality of sleep, and improved mood. Massage after exercise is especially beneficial in speeding up muscle recovery associated with strenuous activity, and is an effective aid in recovery after an acute injury.