by Jenny Leigh Hodgins. Photos, music, video content by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
We know the importance of balancing our lives with self-care. There are research-based blogs, news, videos and magazine articles stressing this point everywhere you look.
The benefits of taking time for yourself to do something you enjoy, play, relax, rest, or simply do nothing are powerful. Studies prove that doing nothing or taking time to play games or just relax leads to better productivity, inspired creativity, and greater wellness overall.
How To Change Your Old Habits With New Proof
However, getting more accustomed to taking a break for yourself takes practice for those of us who aren't used to it. For people like me, changing old thought processes can feel counterproductive. But I am challenging my mindset habits like thinking, "doing nothing is lazy" or "will cause me to fall behind", because science proves the opposite is true.
Proactively Look For Easy Self-Care Opportunities
Both the success of my entrepreneurial life and my mother's health depend on me being in the best shape. So I'm becoming more proactive toward finding more opportunities to take care of myself.
The truth is that when I feel good, I have more positive energy, take better action and am more compassionate for others. So self-care is becoming more of a priority.
5 Self-Care Ideas To Try
I've found several things work for me. Perhaps some of these suggestions will be helpful for you to embrace a bit of self-care in your life, too.
1. Pool or Garden. When I lived in Florida, I found relaxing in my saltwater pool while enjoying my tropical garden of flowers, fruits, plants, butterflies, bumblebees and dragonflies brought me great relief. Now that I've moved back to my Kentucky hometown as caregiver for Mom, I enjoy the pool here only during summer months.
If you have a chance to swim, whether in your backyard, at your condo or apartment, a local YMCA or gym, take advantage of it. Swimming is great exercise, and even better if you have your own oasis to enjoy while floating in your pool.
2. Cycle. Here in beautiful Lexington, I have found cycling on the Legacy Trail to be another self-care practice. If you are able to ride a bicycle, find a local trail or even just cycle around your neighborhood to refresh your energy.
Pedaling gets your heart rate up, and the fresh air against you while rolling forward feels great. If you're lucky enough to have a beautiful greenway like Legacy Trail, or Tarpon Springs and Dunedin, Florida's Pinellas Trail, take advantage of the adventure.
3. Take A Walk. During cold winter months (when there is no ice or snow on the sidewalks), taking a walk outdoors has become my short, meditative practice. It's tempting to avoid going out into the cold weather, but every time I take a short walk I come back invigorated.
4. Be Still With Yourself. Meditation is another form of self-care and can include anything from watching the sun set, listening to a guided audio meditation, reading upon first waking up, sitting silently with your thoughts, or chanting. For me, just being in nature is meditative.
When I lived in Florida, meandering through my tropical private garden, looking for Monarch eggs or caterpillars, weeding, harvesting pineapples, squash, lettuce or kale, or planting new wildflowers was my meditation.
The quiet of the morning, with the sun just rising, surrounded by greenery and colorful plants eased me into the day. Nature's abundance and life cycles never ceased to encourage me.
5. Explore Creativity. Nature or meditation often may lead to self-expression through a creative outlet. Creative expression is good for the soul and often considered another form of 'play.' Creative play boosts wellness, cognitive function and productivity.
Time in nature inspires me to create. Nature walks and my cycling adventures led me to start taking nature photos with the simplicity of an iPhone button push.
Explore creative outlets like playing a musical instrument, composing music, drumming, taking photos, painting, knitting, writing a poem or a journal entry. Taking an acting class or experimenting with stand-up comedy, or a dance class are all fun options for tapping new creative paths.
Standing Still With Yourself Inspires New Creative Energy
When I take time for nature's beauty, I'm inspired to create music and take photos. Initially, I gratefully absorb the textures, sizes, colors, lighting, shapes, silences, and sounds from the wind, animals, and in the environment.
Being still with my spiritual core while experiencing fresh air and taking in nature's vibrations and visual stimulation, fills me with appreciation and calms my thoughts. This does wonders for stress relief.
Take A Moment To Relax With Nature And Music
Below is a nature video I made as a kind of self-care meditation for you. Even in the coldest of wintry elements, nature is abundant with pleasing, meditative, healing force. Take a moment to relax while watching my nature music video below.
Click on the play button below to enjoy my winter scene nature video and hear my original music, "Moonlight In My Heart".
If you enjoyed this blog, please share or let me know in the comments below!
My Pinterest spiritual wellness and caregiver boards have more self-care ideas. Please check them out and let me know if you've found any of my ideas helpful.
You may also find some lovely nature photos at my Instagram account here.
For a list of self-care resources and products I recommend, click here.
For a list of music resources and products I recommend, click here.
by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
My last conversation with my brother, before he tragically died in a late-night car accident ten days before his 29th birthday, was about riding a bicycle. John was a true naturalist, hiker, camper, gardener, cyclist, outdoor-man. In our last chat at our parents’ Kentucky home, he put his all into coercing me to get a bike and take up cycling. So, after he died, in my 42nd summer, I bought my first bicycle since my youth. It was a Trek road bike that cost me almost $1000.
Just before purchasing, I had a bit of a desperate conversation in my heart with John, neurotically seeking his approval of my first fairly-expensive-for-me bike choice. As if on cue, and out of the blue, John’s best friend, James, walked into the bike shop!
Of all days, he had come to the same bike shop to check on repairs of an old bicycle my brother had given him. I showed him the Trek, explained this was something John had wanted me to explore, and got enthusiastic approval from James that this bicycle was a great choice. I felt as though my brother was speaking to me through his buddy to encourage me to get on this bicycle and roll forward.
Since that day, I’ve ridden my cherished road bike up and down suburban hills, behind the Kentucky Horse Park in (my hometown) Lexington, Kentucky, through Talon Winery & Vineyards for a quick tasting with a cheese snack, to the beautiful Raven Run Nature Sanctuary, the Arboretum on Alumni Drive (both Raven Run and the Arboretum must be explored only on foot, so bring your bike lock!).
I've cycled through winding, country roads where gorgeous horses trotted parallel to my dual road wheels past scenic farms with white fences in Paris, Kentucky. Each of my bike rides is a personal tribute to my brother, his ode to the natural world, and to living fully in the present.
Having moved to Florida in 2006, my days of huffing and puffing up Kentucky hills were replaced with sweating bullets through the heat and humidity of Florida's tropical flatland. I’ve pedaled my way on multiple rides through the Starkey Park Trail in New Port Richey to the Suncoast Parkway, along the Pinellas Bike Trail from downtown Tarpon Springs to the Greek Sponge Docks, to Honeymoon Island Beach, Caledesi Island State Park, Wall Springs Park in Palm Harbor, and through downtown Dunedin.
As I have passed the big five-OH, I’m more interested in getting off my bicycle for some R & R. There are some fun things to explore along the northern Pinellas Trail if you want to park your two wheels along the way.
Start in downtown Tarpon Springs and cycle to the Sponge Docks for a look-see (and maybe even buy) at the plethora of small shops on Dodecanese Boulevard. A unique way to explore Greek culture, or introduce a guest to a leisurely afternoon in Florida, is to view the beautiful hand-made Greek jewelry, wonderfully aromatic, organic hand-made soaps, explore a tea and spice shop full of unique fragrance and flavors, or grab a few, big, soft sponges and assorted, fun souvenirs. Make sure you’re wearing a backpack for your treasures!
There are short boat cruises featuring dolphin sightings and sunset views you can book ahead on days with good weather. I love grabbing a delicious Greek lunch or dinner at Dmitri’s On The Water and enjoying a quiet view at the dock alone, or with friends before getting back on my wheels for the jaunt to my car at downtown Tarpon Springs. On one of my previous rides, upon return to Tarpon Springs, a friend and I got a coffee and decadent chocolate dessert at what used to be an Irish pub (it is currently Currents upscale restaurant), and sat outside listening to a young guy playing the bagpipes on the Pinellas Trail at sunset.
Another great bike ride is from Tarpon Springs to Honeymoon Island Beach. Nothing beats a moment to take in the relaxing atmosphere there; colorful kites floating above invisible strings held by kids on family outings, sailboats skating smoothly past the horizon in the distance, the distinctive yakking of sea gulls flying a little too closely as they scout for food, the salty, gentle breeze brushing over you, the warmth of the famous Florida sun, and those beautiful waves of water slapping and bubbling onto the white, sandy shores. Another fun option is to lock your bike wheels to rent a few hours on a kayak, sailboat or a paddleboat at Sail Honeymoon, Inc. The bright rainbow of upright kayaks there has been the subject of many photos (mine are hanging in my ocean-themed bathroom).
On the way back from the beach, boost your energy at Strachan’s Ice Cream & Desserts on Dunedin Causeway, then ride back to Tarpon Springs for dinner. Burning calories makes you hungry! Speaking of food; you can go all the way to Dunedin from Tarpon Springs to have a scrumptious pan-seared salmon dinner at Cafe Alfresco.
Dunedin is full of options for future bike trips to include leisurely strolls in its abundant, small art galleries and gift shops. On my last bike ride, at Lafayette and Rushmford Home, I found an almost realistic, brown Cuban cigar ornament with a glittery red and gold-painted label—a silly, impulsive Christmas gift purchase that held a private history and packed a humorous punch for my four-foot eleven-inch, petite, blonde, younger sister.
One of my favorite places along the Pinellas Trail is an old boxcar called Express Cafe, where you can get an amazingly delicious chocolate smoothie. They also have hot and cold coffee, quiche, breakfast, dessert items and various snacks. A great place to chill on a bench with your bicycle parked close-by in a bike rack.
All these food options give me the sustenance to cycle my way back, taking time to view the lovely Wall Springs Park in Palm Harbor, or stop on top of the overpass at Palm Harbor Boulevard to catch my breath while I snap a few photos of the mangroves down below.
Every bike ride I’ve taken along the northern end of the Pinellas Trail has been a wonderful tribute to my brother’s adventurous spirit, as well as enjoyable, leisurely and refreshing.
It’s about discovery, getting out there, doing new things, touching the spirituality in nature, being present and appreciative of the small things and little excursions, always inspired to continue pedaling ever forward, on to the next adventure. Just have some fun. Get rolling.
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In my Spiritual Wellness blogs, you’ll find ways to overcome obstacles, reach goals, and experience more joy in the moment with spiritual awareness and inner transformation.