I think we can all agree that parenthood is not easy. Each season of parenting brings its own specific challenges, all of which can begin to wear on our mental, physical and emotional health. My twelve years of parenting have delivered high highs and low lows and shown me that our well-being has a powerful influence on our children's wellbeing.
Now that we have four children, practicing self-care and intentional living feels more important than ever. I've found the following rituals to be the most effective in helping me maintain a relative amount of personal peace, joy and balance. I hope you will find they do the same for you.
Move your body. If you're just starting, try the path of least resistance. What movement do you dislike the least? Do that. Try to do this every week to start and work your way towards doing it more often than not.
When it's hot, you'll sweat. When it's cold, you'll shiver. Decide to accept that and step into the light. Raise your face. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply. Even five minutes of sunshine warming your skin can improve your mood and reset your day.
Our mind and body heal and recharge while we sleep. Like a battery-powered car, we have to sleep to run. It's no wonder that sleep deprivation causes such chaos for our mental and physical health. Find the magic number of hours your body needs to slumber and strive diligently to meet your body's need.
Hug someone you appreciate. Sit hip to hip with your significant other. Kiss your children's foreheads. We're biologically wired for affection. Reach out and touch the ones you love.
Find someone trustworthy, someone who will listen without judgement or interruption. Speak your truth to them. Offer to do the same for them. When we speak our truth we let out the bad and make room for the good. Find that person. Search far and wide if you must. Speak, listen, speak.
Watch funny movies, attend a comedy show or read a funny book. Make friends with someone who makes you laugh. Laughter improves our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Find the people and the things that make you laugh with abandon. Stay close to them.
If you don't love to read, find a quick, easy, fun read. If you do love to read, pick something challenging or something that comes highly recommended by someone else who loves to read. Think of reading as awakening places in your heart and mind that can help you live your life creatively and with great empathy.
You don't have to be a writer for writing to improve your life choices and general well-being. Stream of consciousness writing improves our cognizance, our mood, and, (surprisingly) according to studies, our physical health. Get a notebook and write one to three pages most days of the week.
Find something creative you enjoy and practice it every week. Call it “work" if you must in order to give yourself permission to do it. It's the work of keeping yourself awake and buoyant and alive. Find something that serves no other purpose than to be joyfully created by you.
Never stop learning. There is an answer to every question and a solution to every problem, we just have to find it. The thing you seek may be only one more book or lesson or podcast or conversation away from where you now stand. Keep walking toward knowledge, no matter your age or job or life position.
Listen to music. Dance to music. Create music. If words are all the thoughts, then music is all the feels. Turn it up. Make it loud. Lay on the floor and close your eyes and allow it to sweep you away. Go to concerts or just blast your own stereo. Let your mind and heart wander through the melody.
Give away unused or no longer loved possessions. Think of clearing clutter as clearing out mental and emotional cobwebs. Empty your house to make more room in your heart and mind for the things you find beautiful and useful.
Our lives feel more improved by removing something negative than by adding something positive. Make a list of the top five stressors in your life. Remove one. Reevaluate. Remove another one. Do this often.
Practice gratitude. Gratitude is so closely related to joy, it may be impossible to have one without the other. Speak or write or meditate on your blessings. Think of gratitude as the discipline and joy as the reward.
Forgive and move on as quickly and as often as possible. Believe that God or Karma or natural consequence will create justice. Believe that everyone is doing the best they can, even if their best is really, really shitty. Know that forgiveness is for your benefit, not the benefit of the person who hurt you. Release so you can be free.
Whether to a different part of your own city or to the other side of the world. Seeing new places expands time and creates within us wonder and awareness. Travel as often as you are able and as far as you can afford.
You don't have to sleep in a tent in the woods for a week to enjoy the benefits of nature. Take a beautiful drive down undeveloped roads. Find a short, flat trail near your house to walk down. Sit on a blanket in a vast field for an hour. Let the beauty of nature feed your spirit, even if it is in small doses or from the comfort of your car.
18. Solitude and silence
Maybe our best ideas are already within us. Maybe the answers, the wisdom, or the peace is already in there just waiting for us to pay attention to it. Occasionally (or more) choose a window of silence and solitude. Wait quietly and see what the silence delivers to you.
19. Artist dates
Think of your life as a work of art and yourself as the artist. Take yourself on an artist date from time to time. This will look different for everyone, as the only point of this date with yourself is to experience joy, pleasure, and inspiration. My artist dates usually involve a coffee shop and a book or notebook, a hike through the woods or a walk through a museum. You're the artist. Your life is the art. The artist date is the inspiration.
Know that it is okay to change your mind, your house, or your beliefs. If you have outgrown your old mindset, your house, or your religion, change it. Change is scary but sometimes it's the only way to find peace. Does your narrative provide peace and serve you and your family well? Know that the other side of fear is often joy and relief. Give yourself permission to let go of the old and reach for the new.
These rituals, when I choose to implement them, always improve my mood and my moments. I hope they do the same for you.