Self-Care: 7 Ways to Get Healthier and Happier
From adding a little music therapy to your day to exploring the health benefits of red wine, we take a look at some expert self-care tips to help you relieve stress and live healthier. Photo: Kupicoo/Getty Images
International Self-Care Day has been celebrated on July 24 since 2011. And in 2019, Health Canada released a statement maintaining that “self-care is about taking care of yourself and making choices that help your physical and mental health, like eating healthy, getting enough sleep and exercising. July 24 is a reminder that self-care is important to lifelong health, and its benefits are experienced seven days a week, 24 hours a day.” So, how do you put a feel-good focus on you in times of trouble? Start where the heart is — right at home. And put an emphasis on the things that, yes, spark joy. A positive perspective can also lower stress and even encourage a hale and hearty longevity. Here are seven ways to a happier, healthier you.
1. Stay engaged with your surroundings
According to Daniel Levitin, the author of Successful Aging: A Neuroscientist Explores the Power and Potential of Our Lives, staying engaged can help boost our mood-enhancing hormones and make our immune systems stronger. “You should at least be engaged with something meaningful to you,” says Levitin. For him, it was birdwatching, a hobby that can be done while walking through a forest or, for the less mobile, through a window. Take along Birds of Canada, 2nd Edition, edited by David Bird, just released in a pocket-sized version.
2. Stay smiling
Do this, and you’ll soon believe you have reason to smile, whether you do or not. After combing through more than 50 years of testing and 130-plus studies, researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Texas A&M published a paper in the Psychological Bulletin in 2019 showing that our facial expressions do have a small impact on how we feel: smiling makes people feel happier, while scowling can result in anger, and frowning can bring on feelings of sadness. Oh, and go the extra step and actually try the physical act of laughing. Laugh and laugh a lot.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the short-term benefits of a good laugh – beyond just brightening up your mental state – include stimulating your organs through bursts of oxygen-rich air and increasing the brain’s ability to release “happy” endorphins.
Other reasons to laugh out loud?
It “fires up and then cools down your stress response, increases and decreases your heart rate and blood pressure,” resulting in a good, relaxed feeling. But don’t stop there. If you can build laughter into your every day, the long-term benefits to your body and spirit are even greater. Positivity releases stress- and illness-fighting neuropeptides; helps ease pain by releasing natural painkillers; allows the brain to better cope in times of conflict; and can even help relieve depression and anxiety. Online, visit the new National Comedy Center Anywhere initiative created by the Jamestown, N.Y. museum, meant to be “a virtual comedy hug for everyone who needs it right now.” Laugh now, visit later. (anywhere.comedycenter.org)
3. Stay Mindful
Slow down and take a moment. If you’re new to the idea of meditation, try Calm. The app was downloaded more than two million times in March of this year alone, says app intelligence data gatherer Sensor Tower – and will guide you to just breathe and help you sleep as well. Studies show that a good night’s sleep can help improve concentration, memory, creativity and motivation. And with hotels such as Novotel (owned by Accor, the parent company of Fairmont) partnering with Calm to provide bedtime stories, some read by Bond girl Eva Green, we can’t wait until the time when we can check in to our favourite hotels again. Until then, you can also use sleep stories from the app’s blog, Calm Together, to help get some rest. If you’re a traveller and missing that hotel bed feeling, we say #dreamnowtravellater and try ordering your favourite hotel’s bed linens online. We’re partial to the Fairmont and Westin brands.
Tip Consider taking a nap to recoup any lost zzz, says Katherine Rasmussen, director of the behavioural sleep medicine program at Calgary’s Centre for Sleep and Human Performance. “[But] under 30 minutes and no later than about eight hours before bedtime.” Blocking light can also help. Try Cilque’s eye mask, made from 100 per cent mulberry silk.
4. Stay aware and stimulate the senses
Hear this Listening to music has been shown to boost mood, enhance memory and even help time fly (which, normally, we wouldn’t necessarily think a good thing but, in these interesting times, the sooner we get to the light at the end of the tunnel, the better). IRIS, a newly launched music app that recreates the live music experience and also features sound bath therapy that’s said to be healing, is backed by Queen’s Roger Taylor. According to the company, the tech promotes neurological stimulation while also providing high-quality sound. The free IRIS app is available for iOS at irislistenwell.com and can also be accessed via webplayer at www.irislistenwell.com/listen. Take the experience outside with the Beosound 1 portable wireless bluetooth speaker from Bang & Olufsen (above), with built-in Chromecast and Apple AirPlay for 360-degree sound. It will also add a modern design accent to any surrounding.
Sightlines Add a little eye candy to your life through art and stimulate your brainwaves and patterns for a bit of a positive serotonin boost. Google’s Arts and Culture app takes you on virtual tours of some of the most popular and exclusive galleries in the world. Closer to home, it’s the Group of Seven’s 100th anniversary. The McMichael Art Gallery in Kleinburg, Ont., is offering videos from the gallery, and once re-opened, will launch the exhibition A Life
Vision: The Group of Seven at 100, which will run until spring 2021, including Goat Range, Rocky Mountains, 1932, 1979.35 (above) by J.E.H. MacDonald (1873-1932).(mcmichael.com)
Tasting party Wine and cheese is healthier than it sounds. Studies continue to add to the highly regarded reputation of red wine as a source of resveratrol, which is now also said to help stave off cognitive decline in post-menopausal women. Of course, you’d have to drink a lot of red wine to get your daily recommended, so we say try a supplement. And cheese is a source of calcium, so it’s a win-win! Throw in a few celery sticks, as something about the phytochemicals in the veggie helps lower blood pressure (we also think it’s the art of “slow-chewing” that calms us down). Choose a multi-tasking tool to make it even easier: The Cheese Master Cheese Knife (above), which also has a fondue fork, corkscrew and more, by Victorinox Swiss Army.
Touchpoints We’ve got time on our hands to be more hands on. If you’ve been spending social isolation sharpening up your kitchen skills and ready to take it outside to the grill, there’s still bound to be a bit of mess. Clean up those errant dry spills quickly with Shark’s cord-free, handheld Wandvac (above), which weighs only 1.4 pounds. Also perfect for the car, pet hair and when the bird feeder inevitably overflows.
Scents-ibility Sometimes you have to get in the mood for house cleaning. But if you do a little bit at a time, the task doesn’t seem as daunting, especially with cleaning products containing mood-boosting and relaxing aromatherapeutic essential oils. Take your kitchen countertops, for example, something we’re getting very used to wiping down many times a day.
Alternate your disinfectant wipes with a cleaner that calms, such as Sapadilla’s countertop spray in Sweet Lavender + Lime (left) and just breathe.
5. Stay active
Stretch, take a walk or get into the garden.
You know the drill: keeping your body moving can help lower blood pressure, lower your risk of disease and keep all those happy memories you’ve accumulated — and earned! — over the years fresh. It only takes about 30 minutes out of your day, even broken up in 10-minute increments. Yoga helps to reduce joint pain and increase flexibility. Brisk walking benefits your heart and brain. Try resistance training with B Yoga’s Build Bands (above), with two intensities, to tone and strengthen. The interior grips will prevent the bands from sliding as you exercise. For the less mobile, lifting light weights two or three times a week, even while seated, can help reduce body fat.
6. Stay confident and connected
Take these tips from Jodi Urichuk, a L’Oréal Paris makeup artist and expert on looking your best on a Zoom conference call or a Facetime chat that will also translate to real life when we’re all back at being up close and personal again.
First and foremost lighting is everything Set up near a window, as where you place your computer is so impactful. It’s all in the angles. Position the monitor or phone up just a little higher than eye level and tilt the camera toward you. Apply your makeup in that same well-lit location as well.
The basics “I always start with a really great facial massage,” says Urichuk. “It also helps tone and tighten the skin.” [Tip You can use your hands to help your serums and moisturizers penetrate more deeply, or try a facial roller such as Toronto company Province Apothecary’s Dual-Action Facial Roller (above) to also help the skin’s absorption of your products. Regardless of skin tone, define around the eye, brighten under eyes, shape the brows (a soft arch), give cheeks a rosy tone and apply a pop of hydrating lipstick – we lose volume as we age, so try this trick: adding some shine will make the lips look plumper.
> For skin that glows “One of my most memorable days in my career was painting the incredible Dame Helen Mirren,” says Urichuk. “She loves her skin to radiate and not feel heavily made up. We focused on bringing her inner glow to the surface. Age Perfect Rosy Tone day cream and eye cream create this beautiful radiance to the skin. A rosy pop of colour on the cheeks and lips; subtly defined eyes to finish. Rather than using the word beauty, she preferred confidence or swagger in its place.”
7. Stay caring
According to Health Canada, one in four of us provide care to a family member or friend with a long-term health condition, physical or mental disability or aging-related needs. Grooming is one of the many responsibilities, so Gillette consulted with SE Health and its online platform, Elizz.ca, where caregivers can find resources and expert advice. The result is Gillette TREO, meant
for shaving others. The razor, available at Shoppers Drug Mart and Rexall, among other drugstores, features a blade guard for safety to prevent nicks and cuts, a paint brush-like handle for comfort and shave gel housed in the handle that doesn’t need water so you can shave anywhere and just wipe your loved-one’s face afterward. Plus, the gel is pH-balanced, hydrates and lubricates for a more effortless shave. Easy does it, after all.
A version of this article appeared in the July/August 2020 issue with the headline, “Inside and Out,” p. 60.