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By: The Villages | Aug 22, 2023

Cultivating Healthy Habits for Self-Care

Research has shown that it takes around 66 days for habits to become automatic. In today’s fast-paced world, where our lives are centered around to-do lists, it is easy to forget about our own well-being. Self-care is necessary for maintaining our physical, mental, and emotional health. Take one of these habits for self-care at a time and it will start to become a part of your daily routine. Practicing mindfulness, nourishing your body, daily movement, technology detoxes, maintaining relationships, and prioritizing sleep are all key elements to nurture healthy habits that will stick!

Firstly, practicing gratitude and mindfulness can be a powerful tool for self-care, helping us shift our focus towards the positive aspects of our lives. Find a time in your day that works with your schedule to jot down three things you are grateful for. It could be as simple as standing in the shower and saying, “I’m grateful for colors.” This practice can help with reducing anxiety and depression.

Next, nourishing your body with a balanced diet plays a vital role in self-care. Make sure you reach for whole, unprocessed foods first rich in nutrients. Processed food that comes in boxes and wrappers are designed to be highly palatable, so we overeat them. Prioritize consuming vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats in your diet.

Stay hydrated by eating and drinking water throughout the day. Sugar and alcohol skew our hunger hormones into thinking we are hungry when we’re just craving. Limiting sugar and alcohol is something to keep in mind. Eat the rainbow — The Villages Grown store in the Market at Sawgrass Grove has countless options to choose from to diversify your plate. Additionally, technology has its advantages, helping to connect with people from all around the globe, but excessive screen time can be detrimental to our mental health. Scrolling on your phone exposes you to dopamine, which is a constant hit of information, distractions, comparisons, and can contribute to anxiety and lack of focus. Blue light emitted by electronic devices can interfere with our sleep patterns. Exposure to screens right before bedtime can disrupt the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. Disconnecting from technology an hour before bed promotes healthier sleep habits, leading to improved sleep quality and better overall rest.

Daily movement not only enhances our physical health but also boosts our mood, reduces stress, and helps with sleep. New studies have shown that resistance training (body weight exercises and lifting weights appropriately one to three times a week) is the best form of exercise. Resistance training tends to be the best form because it helps with speeding up your metabolism, allows you to target, sculpt and strengthen specific body parts, builds bones, increases brain health, best for anti-cancer effects, results stick around longer, and you don’t even have to do it every day.

Find activities that YOU enjoy like yoga, cycling, HIIT, jogging, dancing, mobility, walks after meals, or swimming. Consistency is key, so start with achievable goals and gradually increase your activity level.

Additionally, the significance of strong social relationships has a more robust impact on our overall health than we previously thought. Multiple studies have shown that loneliness is just as lethal as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Lonely people are 50% more likely to die prematurely than those with healthy social relationships. Emotional pain can activate the same stress responses in the body as physical pain.

When this happens over a long time, it can lead to chronic inflammation. When there’s an increase in inflammation there is an increase in the risk of heart disease and other chronic health conditions. Here in The Villages, there’s a group for everyone — try some new clubs.

Lastly, sleep is the cornerstone of self-care. We have all learned the hard way that everything suffers if your sleep requirements aren’t met. Aim for eight to nine hours of good quality sleep each night by establishing a regular sleep schedule and starting a relaxing bedtime routine. Most people have a morning routine, but having a bedtime routine is even more important. Some tips to becoming fully rested include turning off electronic devices, have black-out curtains, turn the thermostat down, have your last meal two or more hours before bed, and have your last cup of coffee before 2 p.m. Drinking alcohol right before bed can also hinder your deep sleep. Try to wind things down aligned with the
sunsetting to reset your circadian rhythm.

Creating healthy habits for self-care is a continuous journey that requires consistency, dedication, discipline, and patience. By practicing gratitude and mindfulness, nourishing your body, daily movement, technology detoxes, maintaining relationships, and prioritizing sleep we can cultivate healthier habits.

Start today and embrace the power of self-care for a healthier and happier future.

KK (Kaitlyn Kuehn) is The Villages Grown event and program assistant.