Focusing on self improvement

Recently, I’ve felt a serious need to focus on my self care. Maybe it’s the long list of responsibilities I’ve accumulated. Maybe it’s the stress of the current political climate. Or maybe it’s simply the time of the year. Whatever it is, I reach a point each day where I feel the need to stop and do something to stabilize myself. I’ve been trying several new things to try to bring a calm to my own life, but the main theme I’ve found is that the majority of them require me to step away from work, or better yet, take a break from devices in general.

A couple years back, my wife, Jen, went on a business trip, leaving me to myself for the week. We rarely travel separately, so this was new. I wanted to take advantage of the time to myself, so I declared that time “Self Improvement Week”. Since we live in New York and ordering delivery or going out to eat is too easy, I decided to cook for myself the entire week. I tried a new recipe each day and saved the leftovers for lunch. While I definitely saved money, I also found that the time I spent cooking was such a peaceful break from the internet. I had relaxing music playing, drank a glass of wine throughout, and filled the apartment with delicious smells. Even though I devoured the meal in a matter of minutes, enjoying the result of the hours leading up to it gave me a sense of short-term accomplishment I wasn’t used to. After that week, I continued to cook, not only because it saved us money and often tasted better than a meal out, but because it makes me feel good.

Growing up, I really enjoyed playing sports and I still do. When we moved to New York, I started making friends with studio mates who also grew up with sports in their life. On a whim, we decided to find a nearby basketball court and shoot around. We were absolutely embarrassed by a bunch of teens, but we still had fun. Because we were so bad, we called ourselves the Bad Brooklyn Basketball club and started playing each week. Over time, the club grew by meeting new people at the court and collecting email addresses to add to our list. Seven years later, we now have a list of at least 50 people, and a tight group of friends who aren’t work-related. And, we’re actually pretty good now! I look forward to each time we play because when I’m on the court, anything that’s stressing me out fades away. I focus solely on the game and completely forget about everything else going on.

Along with cooking and exercise, I started collecting smaller ways to focus on self care. This year, I moved my phone’s home screen apps to the next screen and only kept apps that improve my life, like HeadspaceStreaks, and cooking apps. Now, when I open my phone, I’m not distracted by alerts or apps to pass the time. I also started taking lavender salt baths at night while drinking tea and listening to classical music. It might be too much information, but it’s such a relaxing replacement compared to being hunched over my laptop. I’ve also been listening to my body more. When my back starts hurting, I stop working immediately and do anything else. I’ll go for a walk, start cooking, or wash the dishes. It sounds so obvious, but when you’re so invested in your work, it’s sometimes hard to hear your body.

The older I get, the more I care about my health, and I’ve reached a point where it’s a direct focus each and every day. I’d love to reach a point where I can kick back for an indefinite amount of time and not care about anything, but I’m not there yet. In the meantime, I’m going to continue to look for ways to emulate that feeling in small batches. I’d also love to hear what you do to improve yourself and your day-to-day.