We each have ideas about how, given ample time and resources, we would indulge in a day of pampering. Some of us would spend a day at the spa, complete with massages, manicures, pedicures and facial, followed by an evening in bed consuming massive amounts of chocolate paired with an expensive Bordeaux. For others, pampering ourselves means hitting the snooze button, over and over and over again, and then lounging all day in a perfectly plush bathrobe while catching up on the latest bestseller. No matter who we are or what we think we most need, let us all step out of the proverbial pampering box for a moment and expand upon the idea of living and consuming more satisfyingly. Below are some suggestions for healthy, active and inspiring ways to improve upon everyday life:
- TAKE A HIKE or a walk or a bike ride; if you're a jogger, find a new route and explore a new part of town. We all want to feel healthy and beautiful, but working out too often becomes yet another line item on our to-do list. Getting out of the gym and into the streets or the park is a great way to refresh a routine while challenging our bodies and minds in a new and more natural way. It's also a great opportunity to continue exploring our communities and surroundings while getting some much-needed fresh air.
- PREPARE A HEALTHY MEAL, from soup to nuts. Pick a recipe that is high in those ever-famous super foods--foods with high concentrations of various nutrients with proven health benefits, such as fruits, cruciferous vegetables, whole grains, legumes, soy, nuts and fish--and then hit up your local farmers market or health food store for the very best, all-natural, in-season ingredients. Take your time and put thought into preparing the meal, and when everything is ready, sit down at the table and enjoy it, bite by bite. Edible Communities is a series of magazines celebrating local foods within various communities and regions throughout the United States and a wonderful resource for recipes, local markets and restaurants reviews.
- JOIN a weekly yoga class or a book club, or start a game night and invite a few of your friends. Socializing too often revolves around bars or drinking, the crowds and loud music preventing any real conversations and the beer spillage on your new shoes putting a damper on the evening. Create more interesting and insightful opportunities for yourself to expand your horizons, meet new people and also reconnect with those already in your life.
- CREATE something. Anything. Painting, sculpting and drawing all naturally come to mind, but starting a diary or a photo blog are other great ways to create. Even rearranging your living room to create a more comfortable and cozy atmosphere qualifies. Creative outlets are essential to a well-rounded and happy lifestyle and often alleviate various symptoms of depression or stress. Taking a little time to figure out just what creative outlet is best for you is well worth the effort.
- VOLUNTEER at a local charity or for a non-profit, walk a dog from a nearby animal shelter or help prepare and serve meals in your town's soup kitchen. If you're married or have children, invite your family to join you. It could be a great way to spend quality time together while contributing to issues other than your own.
- GET OUT OF TOWN. While spinning a globe and pointing is certainly a romantic idea, it's not entirely practical on a regular basis, nor is it always financially feasible. But a day trip might be opening up your state map and seeing what cities are not too far out of reach. No car? No problem. Many cities have a public transit system in place - check out PublicTransportation.org for options in your community. Where subways or Amtrak fall short, perhaps there is a car sharing company not too far from you. Some have fairly reasonable hourly and daily rates, but you have to do your research. If the rates are just too high, you can always split the cost and double the fun by inviting a friend. Taking a day trip--even if you only go as far as the next town over--gets you out of your element and into a new environment, where you will likely gain a different perspective, see a new space or just take a breather from the routines of your daily life.
- CONNECT WITH YOUR SPIRITUAL SELF. Spiritual practices like meditation, prayer or contemplation can provide you with a sense of self and help you better connect with your surroundings while increasing your overall understanding of your role--in your relationship or family, in your community and in the universe. Whether religious or not, dedicating time to a more spiritual existence can be a great way to bring more stability, control and calm into your life.
- SIT STILL. It's as easy as that. When all else fails, silence your phone and shut down your computer, hide any other electronic devices or distractions you may have lying around and sit down, put your feet up and your head back, and take a few minutes to just relax. Disengage from your everyday responsibilities and distractions, and focus on nothing in particular for a few.
The list goes on, but the point is that pampering does not always have to involve tangible goods or immediate gratification--it can and should also be about opening up your mind and creating opportunities and experiences for discovery. The process, and the eventual results, will ultimately improve your life in more ways than you could have ever anticipated.