Science Says These 6 Self-Care Rituals Are REALLY Worth Your Time by Caroline Duncan, M.D.

There are so many self-care rituals out there that it can be difficult to choose one or two to incorporate into your day. When there’s everything from bullet journaling to meditation to dry brushing—how do you possibly chose? If you’re like me, you don’t want to spin your wheels doing something that isn’t backed by solid science. Luckily, I’ve done the research and found six self-care rituals that are really worth your time, money, and attention:

1. Exploring your spiritual side.

Incorporating spirituality into your daily life actually decreases your stress levels, which is a hallmark of good self-care. Experts at the Mayo Clinic assert that nurturing a spiritual life can increase your quality of life at the level of your health. The Greeks are famous for coining the phrase, “know thyself,” and it turns out there are health benefits beyond the cerebral self-discovery. So check in with yourself daily and assess your life and your reality from a spiritual perspective—whatever that means to you. Your health will thank you!

2. Stopping to smell the roses.

But literally, please do. Using your sense of smell ties an experience to the present moment and can associate emotions as well. Taking the time to appreciate your physical surroundings can give you perspective and help you live in the present moment. Taking a minute to appreciate the nature around you and use your senses can promote and maintain a healthy nervous system. At The Beautiful Space, they even have a sense of smell mindfulness exercise, which will help you realize how easy it is to incorporate this type of ritual into your daily life.

3. Essential oils.

Using essential oils is a great way to tap into our central nervous system via smell, but there are so many varieties and types, it can be hard to decide which one to buy. According to recent evidence, bergamot has been shown to increase feelings of positivity after just 15 minutes of exposure. There were no adverse side effects to the bergamot during the study, which is the first of its kind. Uplifting and energizing, bergamot can ward off those unexpected blues.

4. Lavender.

If heavier science is what you’re looking for, a recent pharmacological study showed that lavender essential oil acts on our central nervous system via two different neurochemical pathways. Lavender essential oil was shown to chemically modulate serotonin transporters in the brain tissue of adult male rats in recent research. And while the authors of this study call for additional research into the benefits that lavender essential oil can have on diseases of the central nervous system in humans, the evidence they present is definitely food for thought.

5. Tea time.

Green tea in the morning can be a wonderful way to center yourself and give your health a boost for the day ahead. The latest data (as of this year) states that a class of chemical compound found in green tea, polyphenols, are thought to be factors that could play a role in the way a cell fights against cancer and inflammation. Green tea is great to incorporate into your breakfast ritual if you’re a health-conscious person seeking potential health benefits. The energy-boosting qualities of green tea have been described as a little less intense than the caffeine high from a typical coffee drink, so this option is also great for those who are sensitive to these other go-to morning or midafternoon pick-me-up beverages.

6. Stretching.

Most modern jobs involve lots of upper-back, hand, and arm involvement in a way that feels sort of disproportionate to the movements of the rest of the body. Sometimes at the end of a long workday, you feel like you’ve been run over by a semi. Good news, though, a recent study showed that simple stretches and muscle pulses during a procedure decreased reported fatigue and pain and increased focus in a population of surgeons. The study looked at both middle-aged men and women and employed stretching techniques such as backward shoulder rolls or glute squeezes. So to any surgeons reading this, Greetings! Doing targeted stretching micro breaks during your procedures is a scientifically supported self-care ritual you can incorporate. And to everyone else who tasks all day long using a similar set of muscle groups (typing, anyone?), these kinds of stretches can be easily incorporated into your workday as well. This reader-friendly website lists various muscle groups and stretch techniques to employ while you’re working so that you can feel and function as well as possible.

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