Embracing a healthy lifestyle is valuable for reasons beyond general health and body aesthetics. Did you know exposure to sunlight creates dopamine? That spending pleasant time with others regulates your nervous system? That positive self-talk is the best medicine for anxiety?
For various reasons, some days, weeks, and months it can be difficult to tend to our basic needs on a regular basis. During especially stressful or low periods, we need extra support and strategy to do the basic things that keep us fueled up. The GRAPES acronym helps us remember the critical activities to include every day. Even if you spend only one minute on each one, it will support your physical and mental health and move you closer to better days.
G is for Gentle with self. Catch any self-critical or disparaging thoughts your brain is producing and shift them to a more positive perspective. For example, instead of calling yourself lazy for being a couch potato, affirm your need for rest and sink into it.
R is for Rest and sleep. Remember that your brain actually requires regular rest periods. Overall, it has two main modes of processing: 1) active, working mode and 2) default mode. The Default Mode Network (DMN) switches on whenever your mind takes a break, zones out, or has a pleasant daydream. Spending time in your DMN every day is critical for learning, memory, and problem-solving. So let’s banish the voice in our heads that tells us we need to be productive every minute and that relaxation is a form of laziness. Taking breaks makes us stronger, smarter, and happier! And remember that everything improves with a long, uninterrupted night's sleep.
A is for Accomplishment. Take care of at least one thing on your list every day. If you're in a very low energy space, it can be something small. But taking some form of action keeps you connected with your life and mentally engaged.
P is for Physical Activity. We don't need to call it exercise. Move your body for 10-15 minutes, preferable outside if possible. Breathe some fresh air, oxygenate your insides.
E is for Eat. Be sure to nourish yourself throughout the day. If you can include fresh foods with vitamins, protein, and fiber, all the better. There are two rules I try to follow: 1) whenever you eat, eat a fruit or vegetable. So either include a fruit or vegetable in your meal, or if you're just having a snack, make it a fruit or veg. 2) Whenever you drink, drink water. If you're going to have a coffee, soda, or other flavored beverage, have a full glass of water first.
S is for Social. Try not to fully isolate yourself. Keep in touch with your support network or social circle. Greet people you pass while walking. Meet with your therapist, doctor, or mentor. Interact with friends through games or social media. Social connections are imperative to robust mental health.