Hello friends! I thought I’d share a healthy habit I’ve developed over the last few years. It was a long time in the making but I think today I’ve settled into the right formula- 20 minutes a day on a goal you set for yourself.
20 Minute Options for Improved Mental Health:
Try Meditation. If you’ve experienced meditation before, you know it has a calming, mind-shifting effect. The simple act of slowing down. Sitting up tall and peacefully in a chair, in a quiet environment, with eyes closed and mind clear. Well, as clear as you can get it. Thoughts will pop in, notice them and then allow them to leave. I picture clouds. That’s what helps keep my mind clear. You might start with 6-8 minutes of meditation a day. As it gets easier, build up your time. If you can gift your mind the 20 minutes of meditation a day, you will gain comfort and strength with your mental health.
Get out for a walk. You might be tired from a long day at work. You may be having sleep issues, work issues, family issues, money issues, stress issues. You might only want to plop on the couch with a bag of chips and watch t.v. Instead of doing that, force yourself to get out for a walk. 20 minutes of walking is a habit most people can achieve. The fresh air, the sunshine, the exercise, the physical movement and breathing are all amazing for your mental outlook and nervous system. Cold in the wintertime? Put on a winter coat and boots and walk. Raining? Carry an umbrella and get out for a walk. Mud season? Drive to a dry area and walk. Forcing yourself to get out and do it daily will lead to improved health and self-care.
20 Minute Options for Physical Health:
The mental health activities will also result in improved physical health, and these physical health options would alternatively result in improved mental health. You can focus on 20 minutes of exercise, like running, yoga or biking. You can focus on 20 minutes of an activity to improve sleep such as reading before bed.
20 Minutes of Exercise:
I love yoga, but I don’t have the time to do an hour a day. So I do 20 minutes. I’ve developed the daily habit of walking up a half hour earlier than I need to on workdays. I let my dog out, get my kids lunches ready, then I do my “me time.” My me-time consists of 20 minutes of yoga. I watch a Yoga with Adriene video on Youtube. I always select one around 20 minutes. If I am running late, I leave a little early or select a shorter video. Starting my day with this routine gives me energy, loosens and attends to any sore muscles or ligaments and resets my mood. If my body feels great, my spirit does too. I also gain strength, good posture and confidence from a daily practice. Consistent 20 minutes five days a week is enough to make a huge impact. And if I am feeling reluctant to get up, I remind myself that this is my me-time, and this is what makes me feel great going to work.
I also alternate days running. Running is often an activity that people love to hate. There’s so much to complain about- the sweat, the effort, the awkwardness, the soreness and fatigue later on. Yet there’s so much to celebrate about running. I’ve been a runner since I was a teenager. When I first started, I remember my dad running zig zags on the road, or going ahead then looping back while I huffed and puffed with my 10 minute miles. Later on, I got in shape and was able to run with him. We had a fun time running local 5ks, trails and even mountains. I ran a few half marathons and my dad ran some full ones. One particularly memorable training run, the plan was to run 14 miles, 7 out and then 7 back. We got to mile 7 and my dad told me, “there’s a bridge a half mile down the road- why don’t you run down to that bridge and try to catch me on the way back? That will make 15 miles for you!” Well, loving a challenge, I said sure. I ran to that bridge and booked it back at a pace I would describe as not comfortable. The result? At mile 14.5 I saw my dad in the distance. He finished before I did and I was rather annoyed. But what great bonding time- I appreciate it so much now as an adult who runs.
My dad ran to help stay mentally and physically fit. I do as well. The best thing about running is the endorphins that kick in and the natural high that occurs. If you’ve had a rotten day at work? Go for a run. If you’ve got a big decision to make and don’t know what to do? Go for a run. If you’re frustrated because your family is yelling or being unfair to you? Run it off! Running results in you turning your mental anguish into physical exertion. It takes your mind off your troubles and floods your brain with feel-good chemicals. And you have the added benefit of feeling self-righteous the rest of the day because you did your work-out. 🙂
Lately running has been harder. Life goes in seasons, and this season my stress and body response have been difficult. So I’ve lessened my running expectations. I will do a minimum of 20 minutes running. I’ll run three or four times a week. Sometimes it’s only two miles. Sometimes I stop and walk. But I do it and feel happy doing it. Also, I do yoga to help stretch out my stiff muscles. If I don’t do yoga and only run, my body tightens up, I get sore and my neck gets crunchy. The yoga practice has helped me continue to run. The running has helped me continue to stay positive and get out of my own way when I’m stressed.
The other 20 minute habit that has helped with my sleep has been 20 minutes of reading before bed. Like my wake up yoga routine, this is a gift to myself. It settles me down and comforts me. It gives my eyes a break from the blue light of screens. It allows me to enter into a story of lives completely different than my own. I also think it has helped me become a better writer. And I’ve learned about history and psychology. There are so many benefits to reading. And one of the best joys in life is when an author you love releases a new book.
So, whatever your goal is, find a 20 minute practice to put towards it. Want better mental health? Make a commitment to walk outside for 20 minutes after work. Want to lose weight? Walking, biking or running for 20 minutes will help you towards your goal. Want a toned body? Try yoga for 20 minutes. Want better sleep? Make yourself some tea and read for 20 minutes before bed. Want to learn a skill? Commit to a 20 minute a day practicing that skill. Maybe it’s drawing, or painting, learning an instrument, or learning a language. Maybe it’s taking a course to improve your career skills. Maybe it’s learning to garden. Want more social opportunities? Commit to calling a friend or family member and talking for 20 minutes a day. Want a cleaner house? Pick an area to organize like a desk or a bookshelf and clean it for 20 minutes. The 20 minute habit will show you amazing results in a few short weeks. It’s the consistency of doing a little each day that will have a huge impact on your life.
Got healthy habits of your own? Please share in the comments below!
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