7 Powerful habits that can maximise your free time
Life can be funny, we spend most of our time complaining that we don’t have time to do “something”, but whenever we actually have some spare time, often we end up wasting it. Why?
We live in the illusion that when we work full time, we just have couple of hours per day left for us to relax, but actually if we sleep for 8 hours (on average) and work for 8-10 hours (on average, including travel time) we still have 6-8 hours left. This is a massive amount of time that we have daily, is just a matter of prioritise the things that we want/like to do (and others that we HAVE to do).
Most people though, don’t know what to do in those hours and end up watching Netflix and scrolling their phone on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat endlessly.
I firmly believe that there is more in life than this, to keep our mental health and physical wellbeing at optimal levels. So, if you don’t know what to do in your free time, read on and find what picks your interest.
Cooking can be considered a chore or a passion. You don’t have to have great skills to have fun while you prepare food, you can try to reproduce your favourite take away food, or try something new. There are so many websites that offer you free recipes that range from very easy to difficult, one that I really like is Minimalist Baker which have a wide range of plant-based recipes that you can prepare in max 30 minutes and require 10 ingredients or less. Another of my favourites is Jamie Oliver where you can find all the classic recipes, but also Deliciously Ella for a more plant-based options. Why don’t you also put some music on? I definitely do!
For millennia humans have been active throughout their life in order to obtain food and shelter. Now we have all we want, anytime, from our phones or computers: we are increasingly sedentary, and our bodies are suffering. I know, is so easy to find excuses to engage in some sort of movement or exercise, but let me tell you some of the benefits of exercise and you might change your mind:
1- weight loss (of course). Most studies agree that calorie restriction plus physical activity helps to achieve weight loss and maintain it on the long term, especially if done for over 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity.
2- improve your mood and mental health. A recent study underlines the positive impact of various levels of physical exercise with improved cognitive function and a decreased or mitigate cognitive decline. Exercise can also help with self-worth and consolidate more of a positive body image, but the most researched aspect is the connection between physical activity and depression, with results comparable to mainstream therapies.
3- reduce your risks of cardiovascular disease. This is done in different ways: firstly, exercise could impair the progression of atherosclerotic lesions (that is, accumulation of fat and other materials that can, over time, block the blood vessel), keeping the blood vessels walls free from debris. Secondly, it can improve blood lipids profile by improving insulin sensitivity. Lastly, while during exercise your blood pressure rise, on the long term it decreases it.
My favourite type of exercise is yoga, and if you like to do it at your own pace check out www.yogawithadriene.com but you can experiment and find what float your boat.
So simple, so quick, so powerful. There are many types of meditation that you can find online for free and you can do it for as little as 5 minutes daily to reap the benefits: there is promising evidence that meditation could help reduce stress, anxiety, insomnia and depression, while confirmed evidence shows improvements in attention and memory. A very interesting 2009 study point out that by focusing on the present moment, meditation can reduce cognitive stressors, a risk factor for shorter telomeres (a region at the end of the chromosomes that protects it from damage).
During the spring and summer months is a pleasure to stroll outside, with the added benefit of getting some extra Vitamin D: helps to strengthen our immune system while lower inflammation, improves your mood and cognition, supports bone health and, lastly, there is an interesting link between low Vitamin D levels and increase risk of obesity. Even the autumn and winter months have their benefits though: a brisk walk can elevate your body temperature and you have all the associated benefits of the other forms of exercise (see weight loss, improve mood and mental health and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease).
5-LEARN A NEW SKILL
Recently, I stumble across an old “The Next Web” video from Tim Ferriss (How to master any skill by deconstructing it) and got fascinated by his way of think outside the box and his perpetual curiosity. There is a powerful feeling that arise when you master something new, but is not just a feel-good factor, is the process of improving brain plasticity by creating new neural pathways that get stronger with every repetition, make new and strengthen old synapses and make the learning process faster next time that you want to learn something. In other words, you keep your brain more active for longer, possibly reducing the risk of degenerative pathologies like Alzheimer’s. Got an hour to spare? Perhaps is not enough to be proficient in any skill, but you can start! Or better, set aside 30 minutes every day for something that you want to learn, be it a new language, a musical instrument or perhaps cooking.
Another powerful way to spend some time is declutter and organise your desk/room/house or whatever needs a tidy up. We live in a world that bombard us with things that we must have or should like, but do you? If the environment around you is cluttered you could feel restless and find it more difficult to concentrate and might increase your stress levels. This has an even greater impact if that environment is where you take decisions, work or relax. An organised room helps you have clearer thoughts, feeling less distracted and you can find things more easily (plus saving time in the process). Another benefit is that by organising your space is that it becomes easier to clean, keeping dust, pollution and bacteria at a minimum. If you ever heard about the KonMari method then it’s time to give it a go, the sense of accomplishment, self-worth and wellness that you can achieve after decluttering a space is astounding.
Taking care of yourself is pivotal in keeping your health optimal, be it physical or mental. Take a magnesium salt bath, is a relaxing ritual and you have the added benefit of absorbing some magnesium as well, a mineral involved in more than 300 processes. Or perhaps you can have a beauty evening by treating your skin to a face mask, a face scrub and some gua sha face massage to stimulate blood and lymph circulation.
Above are just few ideas of things that you can do and get you started, but your imagination is the limit.
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Nystoriak, M. A., & Bhatnagar, A. (2018). Cardiovascular Effects and Benefits of Exercise. Frontiers in cardiovascular medicine, 5, 135. https://doi.org/10.3389/fcvm.2018.00135
Chételat, G., Lutz, A., Arenaza-Urquijo, E., Collette, F., Klimecki, O., & Marchant, N. (2018). Why could meditation practice help promote mental health and well-being in aging?. Alzheimer’s research & therapy, 10(1), 57. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13195-018-0388-5
Epel, E., Daubenmier, J., Moskowitz, J. T., Folkman, S., & Blackburn, E. (2009). Can meditation slow rate of cellular aging? Cognitive stress, mindfulness, and telomeres. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1172, 34–53. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04414.x
Nair, R., & Maseeh, A. (2012). Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin. Journal of pharmacology & pharmacotherapeutics, 3(2), 118–126. https://doi.org/10.4103/0976-500X.9550
Oby, E. R., Golub, M. D., Hennig, J. A., Degenhart, A. D., Tyler-Kabara, E. C., Yu, B. M., Chase, S. M., & Batista, A. P. (2019). New neural activity patterns emerge with long-term learning. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(30), 15210–15215. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.182029611