To-do lists can feel a bit overwhelming from time to time. Sometimes it seems like the more you get done the longer your list gets, and prioritizing what to do when can feel like a herculean task. But how many of those items on your to-do list are actually serving you? Rarely do we bother to think about what we could do for ourselves. If you don’t take care of yourself, everything else gets harder. I’ve found five essential things to put on my to-do list that make my days more mindful, productive, and healthy.
1. Move your body
Carve out at least a few minutes to move your body every single day, especially if you work a desk job. Go for a walk, do a 10-minute yoga sequence, attend a full hour-long class at your local studio… it doesn’t matter how you do it, just get up and get moving. Regular movement can help you maintain a healthy weight, fight off heart disease, maintain low levels of cholesterol, keep your blood sugar down, and so much more.
2. Take a breather
Adding five to ten minutes of meditation to your morning routine is ideal, but even taking time throughout the day to focus on your breath can be extremely powerful in helping you reduce stress and manage anxiety. Next time you are in a long line at the grocery store or stuck in traffic, rather than stressing about the wait, use the pause as an opportunity to connect to your breath.
3. Practice gratitude
Gratitude has been scientifically proven to lead to healthier relationships, better physical health, better psychological health, higher empathy, lower aggression, better sleep, higher self-esteem, and more mental strength. So whether you start keeping a gratitude journal or just pause once a day to remind yourself what you are grateful for, gratitude should absolutely be on your daily to-do list.
4. Spend time in contemplation
How often do you sit down with no other agenda than to sit and contemplate? We are always moving, doing, and acting, often with little or no time spent considering why. By giving yourself just five minutes a day to sit with your thoughts, you can bring intention to everything you do. Ask yourself questions like, “What do I need?” and “Are my thoughts and actions helpful?” When you contemplate questions like these you clear the way for more meaningful and focused behaviors.
5. Embrace silence
Recent studies have shown that silence can be incredibly beneficial for our brains and bodies. By adding silence to our daily practice we are giving our brain some much needed TLC. I like to wake up before the rest of my household every morning and sit with a cup of tea and a journal, just contemplating in silence and writing anything down that might pop up. I know others who prefer to sit in silence for a few minutes before going to bed. Even just showering in silence instead of playing music can be a worthwhile change to try.
I created this list as a framework. It has a few general ideas of ways to improve your day every day, but don’t become obsessed with trying to follow this (or any) to-do list. Every day is different and we are all imperfect beings, so take it day by day and minute by minute. While I think this to-do list can be extremely powerful if practiced every day, the real goal is to learn to take care of yourself and carve out a little bit of time every day to do things that make you a happier and healthier person.