Simply appreciating the positive aspects of your life, whether tangible or intangible, is a guaranteed way to increase well-being over time. As Harvard Health reports, "In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships." Try keeping a gratitude journal or even thinking through five things you're grateful for when you wake up each morning.
Don't get us wrong—we recognize the vital importance of self-care, and we're more than willing to carve out time for it. But between work, family, and maintaining some semblance of a social life, actually doing so is easier said than done. It goes without saying that the time we do manage to reserve for ourselves had better count—which is why we found MindBodyGreen's list of science-backed self-care rituals so helpful. Read up on the healthy practices that are scientifically proven to be a good use of your time below:
Keeping a Gratitude Journal
Using a Lavender Essential Oil
If you've ever been transported back to a specific moment in time after catching a whiff of a certain smell, then you understand the strong connection between your sense of smell and your emotions. The scent of lavender, in particular, is a known stress reliever and can even reduce anxiety, improve sleep quality, and boost concentration, reports the University of Maryland Medical Center. Simply inhale the scent of or diffuse a lavender essential oil to reap the benefits.
Stretching + Exercising
Stretching—or doing any physical exercise, for that matter—is one of the most scientifically supported ways to take care of yourself (both mentally and physically). MindBodyGreen references a new study that found "simple stretches and muscle pulses … decreased reported fatigue and pain and increased focus" in participants. Walking, running, hiking, yoga, and the like are strongly encouraged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and can reduce your risk of certain cancers, strengthen your bones and muscles, improve your mental health, help with weight control, and even extend your life.