I am not an organised person and I’m lazy by nature so over the years I have refined a list of simple, easily achievable (see, I told you, LAZY) self-care habits that keep me healthier and happier in both body and mind. They have the added advantage of allowing me to give the outside world (and, more importantly mysef), a passable impression of a woman who has her sh*t together. Feeling in control helps personally and professionally. I try to do all of these every day, but I don’t beat myself up if things descend into chaos. By the time you reach 50, you realise cutting yourself some slack and not taking yourself quite so seriously is actually the cleverest things to do in most situations. I’ll save the self-care habits I do AFTER I get up for another time, but for now, here are some you don’t even have to leave your bed for…
1. ‘Do it your own way’ meditation
Until recently, I commuted into London by train and would use the Calm app to do a 10 minute guided meditation. Now, I work from home and, unless I meditate first thing, it is always pushed to the bottom of my to-do list. Most apps recommend you ‘sit comfortably in an upright position, feet grounded on the floor’. Riiiiight. It’s MY meditation and there is no ‘correct’ way of doing it. My way involves pillows and a fur throw. Sometimes the dog joins me on the bed. And the cat. Does my mind drift, even after five years of practice? Yes. Often. Does mediation and mindfulness make me feel calmer for the rest of the day? Yes, it does.
My daughters are grown up and I do realise having small children joining you in bed at 5.30am hampers this particular method. It’s worth finding a way that works for you. I use headphones and ignore my husband bellowing ‘ARE YOU MEDITATING?’ while looming over me. Perseverance pays off. If you share a bedroom with someone who sometimes annoys you, the next habit is helpful…
2. Saying positive affirmations out loud
I used to scoff at affirmations. And possibly the kind of people who did them. Now, I am one of those people and a good deal kinder and less judgey than I used to be. Maybe because of the affirmations. When my mother was ill and I was anxious, a friend recommended I verbalise positive statements. They were along the lines of : ‘I deal with the challenge of my mother’s illness calmly and in a way that supports her, me and the others around us’. It made things a bit better and, after my mother died, this kind of affirmation helped me a lot.
I write a new one every week (putting them in the Notes on my phone) and use that, plus old ones according to what I feel I need. These are not always of the flowery and self-love variety. If I realise I am being a bitch to my husband (see number 1.), I might affirm: ‘I am kind and tolerant towards my husband and try to see things from his perspective.’ I will still want to kill him, but not quite so much or quite so often. If he is around, I say the affirmations under my breath. Gratifyingly, he seems to leave me in peace when he hears me muttering. Scared probably. If you want some affirmation inspo, head to Pinterest.
3. Writing down at least one small thing you are grateful for
Yes, I am one of those annoyingly smug people who have ‘a gratitude practice’. When I was editor of a women’s magazine, I asked one of the team to give it a go and write about it. She was so enthusiastic, I decided to try it myself. I was sceptical because I am, by nature, a grateful, optimistic person. I had reached my forties (this was a while ago) when too many of my friends hadn’t, I had healthy children when too many of friends didn’t and a husband, family, friends, home and job I loved. I knew how very, very lucky I was. How could writing that down make me happier? Then I discovered the secret. I was looking at the big picture and it is being grateful for the small things which make life so extraordinarily wonderful that makes us appreciative and mindful. Joy (I feel a bit cringy even writing the word in a non-ironic way) is to be found spending five minutes peace in a sunny patch on the sofa, in a shared smile over a coffee or when you see blossom for the first time in the spring. I used to write down at least one thing from the day before or from the day to come in my notepad. Now I use the Gratitude365 app.
Some people like to do their gratitude thing last thing at night. I can’t stay awake long enough, but it may suit you, as may keeping a journal (any old notepad will do) by your bedside if you’re a paper kind of person.
4. Drinking a big mug of warm water
I am not a fan of plain water. I have tried and I’m just not a sipper. But as you get older, you get wrinkles. Marketing people (I am one of those so I know), call these ‘fine lines’ because they think you will be offended by the thought of having wrinkles. Personally, I am with Diane Furstenburg who said: ‘My face carries all my memories. Why would I erase them?’ I don’t want to look younger than my age. I want to look good for my age and the fact is, if you stay hydrated, the wrinkles aren’t so obvious and your skin is plumper and therefore more youthful. Before I go to bed, I fill up a flask with hot water and it sits on my bedside table along with a large empty mug. When I have meditated and done my affirmations and been grateful, I empty the flask into the mug and chug it down. It’s cooled to the right temperature by then.
Don’t be a clever clogs and add lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (ACV) to the water as it’ll ruin your teeth. I do drink lemon juice and ACV and, very soon, I’ll be uploading a post on how to do it without giving your dentist stress.
There you go, do these (they’ll take 15 minutes tops) and you’ll be starting your day in the best way possible. Well, there are other things you can do before you get up that make you feel amazing, but this is not that kind of post. I’ll upload the other promised posts asap. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of January x