Your mind and spirit may be the most overlooked—and underappreciated—components of your well-being. However, research has shown that nourishing them not only lowers stress, lifts mood and improves relationships, but can also protect your health. “Mind, body and spirit are interdependent, so if you take care of your spirit, your body and mind will reap the rewards,” says Linda Sapadin, Ph.D., a psychologist and author in New York. Improve your life and live well by avoiding these common mistakes.
1. You don’t breathe deeply.
It sounds simple, but studies show that taking deep breaths keeps you alert and relaxed. Make an effort to inhale and exhale for two to three counts each throughout the day.
2. You stay indoors all day.
Lack of sunlight, even during summer, can leave you lethargic and depressed. Just 20 minutes is enough to brighten your outlook—so if you work inside, take a brisk walk outside at lunch.
3. You eat only fat-free food.
“Bad fats,” like saturated fat, can lead to high cholesterol and heart damage. But good fats, such as omega-3s, keep your memory sharp and your mood steady. Good sources include tuna, salmon, flaxseed oil, walnuts and beans.
4. You regret not pursuing a childhood dream.
Thoughts like “I should have played the guitar / been a sculptor / learned ballet” can lead to feelings of self-doubt. Instead of worrying about the opportunities you missed, enroll in a class or sign up for private lessons.
5. You rarely socialize with colleagues.
You’re not going to love every co-worker, but having someone to chat with can make the day go by more quickly. Research shows that social support can prevent illness—and can ease emotional stress, too.
6. You are your career.
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in work that you neglect to foster hobbies and other interests. This not only leads to professional burnout but can also make you just plain dull. Set aside a few hours a month for a book group or a sports league to add spark and dimension to your life.
7. You always go solo.
Being overly independent can lead to loneliness—which can cause depression. “Friends and family can support you in tough times,” says Sapadin. “They can also offer different perspectives when you’re trying to resolve a dilemma or navigate a major life change.”
8. You don’t volunteer.
A Cornell University study found that contributing your time or money increases feelings of self-worth and control over your life. To find a volunteer opportunity you’ll enjoy, log on to volunteermatch.org.
9. You’re holding a grudge.
Not forgiving another person can cause you great mental distress (and probably isn’t hurting the other person at all). Discuss the offending incident with the person or people involved. Releasing bottled-up feelings will help you leave the past behind.
10. You never cry.
Research has found that tears help flush out stress-related chemicals that build up in your tear ducts when you’re upset. If you feel the urge, find a quiet place and grab a tissue—crying will calm and refresh you.
11. Your place is a mess.
“Being unhappy with your environment can make you feel weary and even defeated,” says Celia Rocks, author of Organizing the Good Life. Reorganizing can be intimidating, so tackle one room—or even one drawer—at a time.
12. You’re overly stubborn.
Learning to compromise can save you a lot of heartache. A time-tested rule: Choose your battles wisely. If something is truly important to you, stand by it; otherwise, let it go.
13. The last journal you kept was in seventh grade.
Recording your thoughts is a great way to work through frustration or sadness and figure out your feelings. If you don’t have time to write in the evening, keep a small notebook or a file on your computer to jot things down throughout the day.
14. You often compare yourself with others.
No two people are alike, so measuring yourself against others may draw your attention to qualities you don’t have rather than ones you do. Next time you find yourself sizing up someone else, consciously focus on your own strengths.
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