6 mins

4 Simple Mindset Shifts for Taking Better Care of Yourself in 2017

Start the new year happier, stronger, and readier than ever to show up for the people who need you to be a hero—yourself included.
by Caitlin Schiller | Dec 20 2016

If there’s one thing that most of us can agree on, it’s that 2016 has been all too generous with the ups and downs. In times of tumult, being able to tap into the feelings of others, whether they’re high or low, is a beautiful gift of solidarity. This same gift, however, can also make us feel pretty small against the collective emotional tide.

Regaining your power and meeting 2017 strong doesn’t have to be as herculean a task as it might at first seem. And better yet, it all starts with tiny changes in how you think.

These four small shifts in mindset and behavior can help you start the new year happier, stronger, more stable, and readier than ever to show up and stand by the people who need you to be a hero—yourself included.

1. Reacquaint yourself with leisure

Ancient Greeks worked in order to make time for the good things in life—or skole. In fact, the only word that they used for daily work was a-scolia, or “anti-leisure.” But with the 20th century rise of so-called “Total Work,” a necessity for rebuilding after two world wars, leisure became considered lazy or self-indulgent; idleness became a sin. But leisure, as Josef Pieper underscores in his book on the subject, is not idleness: it is a state of internal calmness essential to the work and life of a human being.

Taking time out for leisure is something that we may have been socialized to shun, but you can get reacquainted with the feeling of leisure slowly, starting by practicing moments of creative idleness. Creatively idle activities—ones that are not goal-oriented—allow your brain to change gears and, in doing so, relax and expand your thinking horizons. Start with slipping mindless tasks like data entry into your day, or making time for play—whether that’s a game of frisbee, a bit of painting, or a game of hide and seek with your younger relatives or children. Both of these seemingly idle tasks can help ease you into a renewed relationship with leisure.

2. Rethink love

Alain de Botton, the man behind The Book of Life, explains that in love, we must abandon our fantasies of effortless perfection and be willing to teach. Eric Fromm, famed German social psychologist and philosopher, offers a needed complementary truth in The Art of Loving: to love well, he explains, we must also be ready to learn—an exercise that takes discipline, concentration, and patience. You can cultivate all three of these core skills for loving with three simple exercises in discipline, concentration, and patience.

Discipline: get out of bed at a regular hour and devote a set amount of time to activities that help you grow, such as meditation, reading, or exercise.
Concentration: learn solitude with yourself and your thoughts. Try closing your eyes and imagining a blank, white screen. Breathe. Be with yourself. Breathe again. Maybe subscribe to Headspace—(we know that meditation isn’t easy).
Patience: To foster patience, try intentionally slowing down during your daily interactions, whether that’s in conversation or while you’re eating. Speaking of which…

3. Linger over a meal

In order to keep up with the grueling pace of our daily lives, we tend to prefer food that’s readily accessible. Instead of sitting down to a meal with family and friends, we often eat alone, rapidly, usually while doing something else. Of course, this takes a toll on our bodies: obesity rates, for instance, are on the up, and we don’t always make the healthiest decisions, since what’s readily accessible is often high in sugar or fat.

But these habits aren’t insurmountable, and taking back how we fuel ourselves starts with learning to eat mindfully. In his book In Praise of Slowness, Carl Honoré observes that cooking and eating slowly can be a wonderful way to unwind, like a form of meditation. So, next time you want to take your lunch at your desk so you can work while you eat, remember that you are more important than your job and you deserve time to relax. Take your lunch to a park bench instead, enjoy the sun on your face, and savor each delicious bite of food.

4. Breathe

The British wartime slogan, “Keep Calm and Carry On,” has become a popular quote on T-shirts, coffee mugs, and other items in recent years. But how do you keep calm in reality? The answer is right under your nose: with simple breathing exercises. They can help you rewire your nervous system and build up resilience against stress, so when 2017 comes at you, you’re ready.

One breathing technique of which you might not have heard is called alternate nostril breathing, and you can find it in Emma Seppälä’s The Happiness Track. Believe it or not, only one of your nostrils actually “does” the breathing on a daily basis. But exercising both nostrils can increase airflow through your nose, and more air means easier, calmer breathing, and in turn, a calmer you. To experiment with alternate nostril breathing, try blocking the airflow of one nostril, pressing down on it with your hand. Then alternate, blocking the flow of the other nostril. This exercise will increase the airflow through the less dominant nostril, training it to work even better so that you can breathe and be well.

Read the blinks to all four of these feel-good, be better books on Blinkist. Or just take some time off to rest, recharge, and get ready to meet 2017 as a calmer you. From Blinkist HQ in Berlin, we’re wishing you the best new year yet.

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