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What does it mean to be healthy? Most of us think about eating right and exercising, which are incredibly important. However, consider that those behaviors primarily address physical health. Have you deeply considered the other components of health?

Emotional—Social—Spiritual—Financial—Academic—Environmental

As a dietitian, I often encourage others to eat more fruits and veggies. Of course, this is a nutrition focus within the physical sphere. However, I do recognize the need to address the above-mentioned aspects of wellness. With that in mind, here are some tips regarding self-care that touch on the other realms of health:

Relieve stress with plant-powered home remedies.

We’re all spending more time at home, so take steps to make your home a personal sanctuary. The following are relaxing ways to support emotional health:

  • Light a candle with a favorite scent when you get home from work. Citrus and eucalyptus are uplifting plant-powered favorites while lavender and chamomile are soothing.
  • Place fresh flowers or a beautiful houseplant in a prominent place so you see them often.
  • Plan a weekly bath with aromatic salts. Don’t have a tub? Place a few drops of essential oils on the side of your shower before stepping in.

Practice strategies to avoid anxious eating.

Many of us use food to cope with negative emotions, and actually, sometimes that is okay. If it’s your only tool though, it can lead to overeating which defeats the purpose. Be sure to use other stress relief strategies. If you choose wisely, such strategies may have the added benefit of supporting the emotional, social, spiritual, and/or academic spheres of health. Some favorites:

  • Take a nap
  • Spend time with a loved one
  • Meditate
  • Play a game
  • Listen to an interesting podcast
  • Read a good book

Support a good mood with good food.

Nutritious diets are associated with lower rates of depression and promote feelings of well-being. Focus on the following groups for maximum benefit:

  • Dark green vegetables like spinach, kale, and asparagus contain folate and other B vitamins. These have been shown to positively affect neurotransmitters that impact your mood.
  • Fermented vegetables such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and traditional pickles are tangy, flavorful, and loaded with probiotics which may be associated with better mental health.
  • Berries, cherries, grapes and other richly-colored fruits. These have healthy sugar to keep energy up and phytochemicals to combat inflammation. Inflammation has been associated with depression and other mood disorders.
  • Beans and legumes such as lentils and black beans are packed with plant protein and fiber to keep you satisfied and brain nutrients like B vitamins and magnesium.
  • Whole grains like popcorn, oats, and brown rice are loaded with fiber and healthy carbs to keep your energy levels up and rumbling stomach at bay.

Get creative with exercise.

If you’re having trouble sleeping or are still feeling stressed despite having a normal exercise routine, it’s time to think outside the box. Try something new to you! The challenge and novelty will reward and inspire you.  Some ideas:

  • Hike outside with binoculars to go bird watching.
  • Finally give yoga, swimming, or _____________ a try.
  • Purchase a new tool like a pull-up bar or step to incorporate into workouts.
  • Simply create a new playlist to listen to on your next jog.

Lean into caring for and showering affection onto your pets.

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in record pet adoptions across the country.  Research shows that simply having a pet is associated with better health. Some possible reasons for this are that pet-owners want their pets to be healthy and thus are more likely to go out on walks, and another is that pets have been shown to help lower stress levels. To make you and your pet happier, lean into treating them with some extra love. I love these fruit and veggie-inspired tips!

  • Boost their bowl of kibble with a handful of blueberries. They will love the sweet taste and antioxidant boost!
  • Make your own pet-safe ice cream by blending fat-free plain yogurt with a banana. Freeze in ice-cube trays and offer to your pet as a treat on warm days.
  • Fill and freeze a stuff-toy with pumpkin puree to keep your pet busy for a good hour.
  • Offer carrot sticks as a treat. The crunchy texture helps clean their teeth!

We hope that this article provided some inspiration for self-care during Mindful May. Cheers to feeling your best!

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