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40 Little Things

Image of blue flowers.  Raleigh Psychotherapy, Katherine Broadway, counseling

The little things we overlook build up to the big things that can change, or even derail, the plans we have for our lives.

Last week, we talked about the importance of noticing the little things in your life, and how those things, when they go unnoticed for extended periods, can add up to difficulties, or even disasters. The opposite is true as well: little choices can also add up to big, positive changes. It takes longer to see the big picture, but you can

immediately feel a small, positive feeling as a result of the small things you can do for yourself.

Noticing the small things is a part of self care. It appears that self care is generally an unpopular activity. For some, the dislike of something so crucial is rooted in the idea that taking care of yourself is somehow a greedy and selfish act. For others, the disinterest seems to come from the belief that self care is overwhelming, time consuming and difficult task. Then, there are others who may not hold either belief, and truly want to care for themselves, but haven’t made it a scheduling priority. For those people, it falls to the bottom of the “to-do” list when life’s other surprises crop up and demand attention.

Self care does not have to be a production. It can be as simple as pausing for a few deep breaths while you are in the midst of life’s chaos, or taking 10 seconds to encourage yourself in a moment when you may otherwise feel defeated and engage in negative self-talk. I would suggest that you see self care as a habit, something to practice in small ways every day until you start to see the bigger picture of positivity forming in your own life.

To help you get there, I want to offer you some ideas on how to take care of yourself in small ways that will add pleasure to your life. The ideas that follow are listed in order of difficulty. The first are designed to be done where you are with as little effort as possible. The rest will require a little more effort.

Choose one and only one if you are starting the practice of noticing and doing the small things. After you have been successful with one activity then try more of the activities. I hope you enjoy yourself.

1. Reassure, comfort and encourage yourself by saying a simple statement such as, “I have all I need at this moment”.

2. Center and calm yourself by saying, “Be here now”.

3. Make a decision that comes from your heart. Ask yourself the question, “What do I want?” Start with something small question, such as, “What is one thing I want to eat today?”.

4. Make one decision with your mind. Ask yourself, “What do I need today? Do I need to take a 5 minute break to refocus myself?”.

5. Pay attention to something you usually do without thinking or noticing. For example,, be mentally present when brushing your teeth, driving, eating, walking into work or performing your morning routine.

6. Do a 60-second meditation. Read a short daily meditation, gaze at a flower for a minute, think pleasant thoughts for a minute. Pay attention to your breath, your feelings, and your body sensations.

7. Do nothing. Schedule 5 minutes in the day to stare out the window, perform some mindless activity or simply do nothing.

8. Breathe slowly and deliberately. Do this for one minute and you will feel more relaxed and focused.

9. Be self-focused. Do one thing today just because you want to do it.

10. Go cloud-watching. Look out a window, sit outside or lie on your back, relax, and watch the sky.

11. Unplug for five minutes. Switch everything to airplane mode and listen to the silence. Don’t worry; anything that happened while you away will be waiting for you.

12. Pay attention to your body for five minutes. Notice if there are small aches and pains and ask yourself what attention that area may need.

13. Be still. Sit somewhere green, and be quiet for a few minutes.

14. Activate your self-soothing system. Hug yourself by putting your hand on the opposite upper arm. Stroke your own arm, or if that feels too weird, moisturize.

15. Check in with your emotions. Sit quietly and just name without judgment what you’re feeling.

16. Check in with your body. Starting with your head, scan your body, part by part, until you reach your toes, paying attention to what sensations you are feeling in your body.

The following suggestions will take a little more effort but will be worth it.

17. Start a memory jar. Put receipts and ticket stubs inside. Write notes in a place where you can go back and read them. New Years Day is a good time. It will start your year with happy memories.

18. Do one small task you have been putting off. Could be throwing away that left over take-out meal you never finished, putting a new head on your electric toothbrush, or making the appointment you need.

19. Take another route to work. Mixing up your routine in small ways helps to keep your brain healthy by creating neural pathways.

20. Document the great things people say about you so that you can read them later when you’re having a rough day.

21. Get rid of one thing that feels like it is a burden. Recycle, give it away to a friend or a charity, throw it away if necessary. Lighten your load.

22. Try something new. It could be a new flavor of ice cream, a new television show or a new blog.

23. Edit your social media feeds, and take out one negative person. You don’t have to delete them, you can simply “mute” them.

24. Download a meditation app or a book with meditations. Having meditations on your phone makes it possible to calm and center yourself anytime, anywhere. Listen to one and feel your body calm down.

25. Play an upbeat song. Notice how your body feels as you listen. Let your body move.

26. Inhale the smell of something you love. It could be your favorite cologne, a

flower, or an herb. Try peppermint to boost your mood and motivation.

27. Narrow your choices. Pick two healthy breakfasts, lunches, and dinners and rotate for the week. Choose your favorite outfits and wear them. By limiting your choices, you will cut down on decision fatigue.

28. Make one small change to your diet for a week. Drink an extra glass of water each day, or have an extra portion of veggies each meal.

29. Give your body a treat. Wear something to work that feels great next to your skin. In the evening when you get home, change into something that feels comforting to your body.

30. Listen to an audio book. You can get almost any book in audio format, so find something to lighten your spirts, make you laugh, or engage your intellect.

31. Identify one of your strengths and find a way to use it.

32. Be your own best friend. Think about happy memories, make plans, or tell yourself a funny story. Enjoy your own good company.

33. Have a date with yourself. Spend an hour with yourself doing something that you enjoy and nourishes you, such as reading, your hobby, visiting a museum or gallery, etc.

34. Have a “Beauty Hunt.” Find five unexpected, beautiful things on your way to work, while you take a walk, looking out a window, in your current environment.

35. Make a small connection with someone. Have a few sentences of conversation with someone you encounter. Wish them a good day, compliment them, and acknowledge that the interaction was pleasant.

36. Start a one sentence journal. Write one sentence about your day. You

will be amazed what it will tell you about your life.

37. Help someone. Help a neighbor, carry a bag, open a door the door

for someone you meet.

38. Depending on your current physical health and interests, run or walk for a few minutes. It only takes a few minutes to lighten you mood or lower your stress. You can walk up and down the stairs.

39. Have a good laugh. YouTube is full of funny videos, cute videos of cats, dogs, and comedians. There are plenty of things to entertain and amuse you. Read a couple of comic strips that you enjoy.

40. Write your thoughts. Write about what you enjoyed about your day, what you did, what you wanted to do, and what is troubling you. By keeping a record of the small things you can see what is good in your life and see the things you want to change.

With a little time and attention to yourself, you will begin to feel better, and think more clearly. You will feel more alive and connected to yourself, others and the world around you. You will find pleasure in the things that surround you in your daily life. When the fog lifts and you have a clearer vision of who you are what you like and what you don’t like, life will take on more meaning and contentment.

This list may be long, but it is just a beginning. There are so many more ways to pay attention to the small things and to take care of yourself. Which of these will you try first? What can you add to this list? Please share your ideas with me. I would love to hear them so I will have more ways to pay attention to the small things, myself, my life and those who share my life.

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