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Self-care has become an all-encompassing term that has strayed from the importance of everyday commodities that keep us in good health and spirits. Though pampering and “treat yourself” moments still have value, here are ten ways to invest in yourself to produce long-lasting, positive results.
1. Put money into a 401(k)
It’s never too early (or too late!) to start saving for the future. Depending on your employment status, there are different retirement savings accounts. 401(k)s are the most common since these are employer-sponsored and often come with an employer match. However, freelancers also have options, such as a SEP-IRA or a high-yield savings account, to put away extra, tax-free dollars for retirement.
2. Schedule a health checkup
Self-care first includes taking care of your physical health. It’s easy to discredit regular checkups when you’re feeling healthy, but make this the year to get your blood work done. It creates a baseline for your health to identify areas needing improvement or extra attention.
Also, choose areas in your life where you can make small changes. Improving your health doesn’t always mean a drastic overhaul; it may be as simple as drinking more water or adding an extra 30 minutes of exercise to your day.
3. Review health insurance benefits
Many people with health insurance aren’t sure exactly what it does and doesn’t cover. If you’re unsure, talk with your HR representative or your health insurance provider to get an overview of deductibles, co-payments and other supplemental benefits you may not be aware of. Then, decide if the health care plan makes sense for your current lifestyle.
Are you paying for benefits you don’t use, or do you need additional benefits that aren’t covered? Selecting the right plan will help ensure you have what you need without paying the extra expense for anything you don’t.
4. Ignite your curiosity
Maintaining healthy cognitive functions through new pursuits gives a boost to the brain. Get curious and find what speaks to you. This can be anything from exploring local museums, embarking on different hiking trails, learning a new language or reading more books.
There’s no limit to what you can do, and these activities can ignite more creativity and motivation in your work. While it may be helpful to look to others for inspiration, make them enjoyable so you’ll want to make them a regular occurrence.
5. Prioritize mental health
Mental health has been at the forefront of people’s lives over the past few years, as many have experienced burnout. We often equate productivity with a value that drives us to go beyond our means and leads to anxiety, stress and depression. Take note of your everyday stressors and see how to reduce or eliminate them. Then, replace them with relaxing outlets that allow you to recharge.
There are various ways to prioritize mental health, from practicing positive self-talk to meditation to scheduling an electronics-free day. You may have to try different solutions before you find one that fits.
6. Implement good sleep habits
Consistent sleep is one of the essential factors of good health but one that is often overlooked. For many, it can be challenging to wind down from the workday. Therefore, you must “train” your body to prepare for sleep by getting into a nighttime routine.
Create a sanctuary for yourself to improve your sleep habits. Enjoy a soothing cup of herbal tea, perform a skincare routine, and snuggle in with a good book rather than scrolling through your phone. Additionally, ensure your bedroom is dark and cool for ideal sleep comfort and turn on soothing sounds if it helps lull you to sleep.
7. Try something new
What have you wanted to try but have always held back? Maybe it’s public speaking or contributing to a blog. Whatever “new” has been on your to-do, make a plan, schedule it on your calendar and go for it. It’s common to hold back from these activities due to fear of the unknown or failure, but trying new things helps create confidence and can be the catalyst you need to push you to the next level.
8. Learn to set boundaries
Boundary setting is crucial to relationships yet can be difficult to master. It doesn’t always involve simply saying no to people’s requests. Instead, it requires protecting your own values when people violate them. Setting boundaries may mean spending less time with certain people, removing yourself from toxic situations, or declining invites to events that don’t improve your life. Explore areas where boundaries will help you grow, and keep in mind growth itself is a work in progress.
9. Spend quality time alone
Learning how to enjoy time spent alone is a valuable gift. We are inundated by a false sense of connection through the internet, which often makes us feel lonelier than ever. Then, we overschedule our calendars to make up for human connections, only to feel drained afterward. Slow it down and plan a few solo dates a month to see how it feels to be truly present with yourself.
For those who aren’t used to spending quality time alone, it can feel awkward and uncomfortable initially, but these stem from your own perceptions. Take in a matinee, sit in a coffee shop and read, or enjoy a concert or event you’ve wanted to attend. Alone time has been linked to improved stress management and greater life satisfaction, so it’s worth trying to give yourself more time.
10. Get active
Getting active can take on several directions. It can be physical, emotional or spiritual. The point is to engage with people and pursuits that feed your soul. Whether volunteering within your community, setting yourself an exercise goal, or learning more about personal development, there are endless ways to get active and invest in yourself this year.