When we think of ways to improve our overall wellness we tend to think of big projects that tackle big issues head on. That kind of thinking is far to often a symptom of the problem, not a path to a cure. A healthy physical and mental outlook is based on a landscape we exist in, not a destination to achieve. I’ve come up with a short list of simple activities you can add to your routine that, over time, will alleviate stress and tension and help you build wells of positive mental and physical energy to rely on.
Do Something With Your Own Hands
For most of us hand eye coordination and dexterity are useful only in the context of operating our digital devices: computers, tablets, mobiles. Your hands aren’t made just for accessing more data and downloading your brain into an overheated frenzy. When is the last time you shaped wet clay, carved a piece of wood, kneaded dough? The interplay between hands and mind that only occurs from doing small jobs like this satisfies your mind and relaxes your body. Whether it’s making a birdhouse, preparing a meal to share, or just giving a tired friend a thorough back rub you will gain mental energy by performing simple tasks with your hands.
Do Low Impact Exercise
Our culture is geared to celebrate high impact exercise. TV Infomercials compete against each other to claim their program is harder, sweatier, and more extreme. Sometimes training for a marathon or getting buff is just what you want and need, but these high impact programs can be extremely stressful and require imposing aggressive forms of self discipline to complete. They are a great way to get ripped, but not always a great way to become more relaxed and happy. Take a slow, relaxing evening walk, or slow bike ride on a quiet road. If you have a place to swim find time to just splash around a little. No laps, no grind, no constant focus on goals and improvement. You’ll be surprised at how much improvement you get from less stressful forms of exercise, and the relaxation you gain will in turn help make you physically more fit.
Perform Manual Labor
Most of us spend our lives trying to find ways to eliminate manual labor from the equation. The problem is, sometimes we are too successful and we cut ourselves off from any form of work that isn’t intellectually focused. Working with your mind is great, but frequently involves long processes with difficult to measure results. When is the last time you cut your own grass, or picked up trash from a public space, or planted a garden? You don’t need to break your back, just find something simple that fits into your time schedule and work at it. Unlike massive work projects that can bog you down for months without verifiable results when you mow a lawn or weed a garden you have the immediate satisfaction of seeing a job well done. This can be a great way to build positive relationships too: do you know any elderly people who could use help maintaining their yard? A space that could be improved for local children to play in? And besides, who would turn down a basket of fresh picked vegetables from your garden?
Play a Musical Instrument
Before the invention of TV and Radio almost everyone in the US and Europe played a musical instrument for entertainment. We have gotten away from that, and now rely on unsatisfying time filler activities instead. There are parts of your mind and spirit that are atrophying away when you don’t express them, and actually making music, however simply, is a world apart from passively listening. You can buy beginners instruments fairly cheaply, and free lessons are available all over the net. Pick up a guitar, or recorder, or small bongo drum and dedicate some time into learning the basics. You will get to the point of playing along with favorite songs before you know it, and you will find that you always feel a little happier and more positive after a half hour of making music.
Writing is one of the most popular forms of personal expression there is. There are lot’s of free blogger sites on the web, pick one and open a blog. Write in it at least weekly. Here’s the catch: most people will tell you writing is all about expressing yourself, or releasing inner thoughts and feelings, and you should just write whatever you want and let the muse take you where it will. That may help you and if you enjoy this please continue in your way. I recommend a little different approach though. Write with a little self discipline. Make sure that everything you write has enough of a plan to include two basic things: a format where you have a clear beginning, middle and end is one. A simple message, or point you are making is the other. Using this approach will force you to do one simple thing every time you write: organize your thoughts. Organizing your thoughts is difficult, and it takes practice, and the goal of writing like this often is to give you that practice. If you think of the people you know who are the calmest, happiest individuals who exude a sense of peace around them they will all tend to have very organized thoughts. No jumbled up nervous tension from them, just simplicity and peace. Using writing to practice this mental sorting and indexing of thoughts will give you a tool you can use to build an island of mental peace around yourself at all times.
Image Credit: Mark Sebastian – www.flickr.com/photos/markjsebastian/4686167305