If you had a quarter every time you heard the phrase “self-care,” you’d probably have enough for a decent down payment on a house.
The term, which demands us to do things that improve mental, physical, and spiritual health, is everywhere. It’s in commercials, songs, and the conversations of acquaintances and loved ones. There’s a reason why.
Now more than ever, in a Covid world of chaos, tragedy and trauma, taking on practices that improve our overall well being are essential.
This is especially true for Black men, who statistically have less access to medical and mental health care than any other demographic group in the U.S. We also have the shortest life spans of anyone – surprise, surprise.
To kick off Men’s Health Month, we have included a list of 15 real-deal actions you can take to implement self-care into your lives.
1. Talk to a therapist, bro. To be Black in America is to be bombarded with messages designed to make you feel inferior, all because of your skin color. This messaging is contemporary and historical. Getting therapy is the best way to address the trauma, whether it stems from racial discrimination or personal trauma. There are some useful resources to get you started. You can visit alkemehealth.com, therapyforblackmen.org or blackmenheal.org for resources and affordable therapy options.
2. Go to the doctor. If you haven’t been to the doctor in years, just “eat the frog” and see how you can improve your health. The number one reason many Black men age poorly and die sooner is that they don’t go to the doctor until it’s too late. If you don’t have insurance, check out the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) directory of health centers for free or low-cost healthcare.
3. Exercise regularly. No, you don’t have to train for a marathon. But it would be beneficial for you to regularly engage in physical activities you might find enjoyable, like going jogging, taking dance lessons, or playing basketball. The physical and mental health benefits of exercise are plentiful. You’ll look and feel better.
4. Practice gratitude. There will always be things to complain about – your job, personal life, finances, or favorite sports team. One of the most revolutionary ways to practice self-care is to adopt an attitude of gratitude. Think of the things you are grateful for daily. You can write them down in a journal at the start of the day or when you lay down at night. Try to recall them during the day, especially if you encounter troubling thoughts or situations. It improves your mood and transforms your outlook on life.
5. Laugh more. Whether it’s rewatching “Coming to America” for the zillionth time or going down memory lane with friends, laughter improves your mood but also stimulates organs like the heart and lungs. Over time, laughter even improves immune function.
6. Read or listen to books. There is no downside to gaining knowledge, expanding your vocabulary, or improving your mood. That’s what you get from reading or listening to books.
7. Spend time with the people you love. Think a movie night with the family, date night with the spouse, or watching sports with the boys. Studies like this one show that people who focus on relationships tend to be happier.
8. Discover your “Why.” What are you meant to do in life? Journal to discover the hobbies and activities you most enjoy doing. Engage in a spiritual practice to draw a deeper meaning from life. We like this quote from Bishop T.D. Jakes: “If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose.”
9. Forgive and let go. Among other benefits, forgiving people and letting go of grudges lowers stress and blood pressure and improves heart and mental health.
10. Disconnect from social media for a bit. It doesn’t have to be anything drastic, but try fasting for a few days from Facebook and Instagram to engage in real-life activities you actually enjoy. This article provides 10 reasons why you should consider a social media break.
11. Have sex. Provided that it’s safe and with another consenting adult. Yes, it feels great. But did you know that having a healthy sex life lowers blood pressure, boosts your immune system, improves heart health, and raises self-esteem? Nothing but wins.
12. Give. Whether you’re giving time or that daily coffee money, give to someone or some charity in need. It could be something simple, like paying for someone’s drive-thru order or volunteering to mentor youths. Few things feel as good as giving without the expectation of receiving anything in return. Try it.
13. Tackle what you’ve been putting off. We all have those tasks we’ve been putting off, whether that’s painting the bedroom, taking an online course, or putting together that play set for the kid. The sense of accomplishment you’ll feel is all worth it.
14. Set goals and accomplish them. This one should be self-explanatory. Few things are as fulfilling as setting a goal and meeting it. Doing so makes you feel good and allows you to live your best life.
15. Have fun. You can take this attitude by losing yourself in an activity you love or by taking on an arduous task or goal. You have the ability to make almost anything fun. Okay, maybe being forced into a conversation with someone you don’t care for doesn’t qualify. Having to change a diaper or clean up vomit doesn’t either. The main idea here is to take the most mundane tasks in your life and have fun with them.