Pegasus_LogoThe start of a new year is a time when many of us look to change our behaviour for the better. Some might look to adopt a new positive habit – like reading a book every month, or saying yes to more things – while others might take steps to improve their health and wellbeing.

When doing the latter, it can be easy to focus narrowly on two rules: eat healthier and do more exercise. And while these are well-known components of a healthy lifestyle, there are also plenty of other ways we can do something good for our minds and bodies.

With that said, we’ve partnered with Pegasus – who build and manage later-living communities with an emphasis on health and wellbeing – to bring you eight ways to boost your wellbeing (that aren’t diet and exercise).

Below you’ll find activities that can benefit your mental health, add purpose to your life, and offer a little bit of much-needed TLC.

1. Spend more time with others

Spend more time with others

There are lots of reasons why your social life might not be your number one priority right now. For example, maybe you’re hard at work pursuing an ambition or caring for a relative. Or perhaps you’re going through a tough time and are finding it difficult to muster up the motivation to meet your friend for a coffee.

But spending time with others on a regular basis is important for both our physical and mental health. Experts tell us that face-to-face contact can reduce our stress and anxiety levels – both in the short and long term – and raise our confidence and self-esteem.

There’s also mounting evidence to suggest that socialising regularly can boost our brain health and reduce our likelihood of developing a range of conditions, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Plus, it’s even thought to have a positive effect on cardiovascular health.

Spending more time with others might mean being proactive and reaching out to friends and family to make plans, or saying yes to dinner with a friend even if you don’t really feel like it. More often than not, when you get home, you’ll be glad you went after all.

It’s also common for us to go through times in our lives when we don’t have many people to turn to. If you’re currently in this position, hopefully you can find some helpful tips for extending your social circle in our article; 8 different ways to meet new people.

Our living arrangements can have a significant impact on how (and how often) we interact with others. With this in mind, Pegasus’ later living communities are designed to bring their residents together. Not only do they run a wide range of activities, which are perfect for meeting new people, but spaces like communal areas and on-site restaurants are ideal for entertaining friends and family.

2. Keep a journal

Keep a journal

For some, journaling is a popular new year activity – and for good reason. It’s proven to have all sorts of positive effects on our mental health, for example, lowering stress levelsboosting mood, and keeping our memory sharp. Experts think it may also help our physical health too.

Journaling involves keeping a written record of your thoughts, feelings, and goals. It’s a space for creativity, reflection, and exploration – a chance to practice gratitude and foster a deeper relationship with yourself.

What many people love about journaling is that there are no fixed rules. Your journal can take the form of a diary, where you recount the events of the whole day and how you felt about them, or you can focus on a specific incident. If you like, it could take the form of poetry or short stories. You don’t even need to actually write your journal, as lots of people these days choose to record theirs in voice memos, or on video.

If you’re interested in giving journaling a go to boost your wellbeing this new year, check out our article on the subject. Here you’ll find some more tips and tricks on how to get started, as well as some more information on the benefits.

3. Unwind with a massage

Unwind with a massage

From Swedish to deep tissue, there are many different forms of massage – all of which have different purposes and benefits. Some of the most common benefits include reduced feelings of stressanxiety, and depression, increased feelings of relaxation, and improved sleep.

Massage is also good for relieving muscle soreness, tension, and stiffness, as well as improving circulation and lowering heart rate and blood pressure. Scientific research even indicates it can have a positive effect on our immune system.

While you can find massage therapists at local salons, spas, and health clubs, experiencing the benefits of massage doesn’t need to be expensive.

In fact, there are lots of resources available online where you can learn the basics of massage for free – YouTube and Skillshare are two of the best. For example, this video will introduce you to four simple techniques.

Once you’ve learnt some of the fundamentals, you and a friend can take turns giving each other massages. Or you can learn how to massage yourself if you don’t have a partner.

There’s also a wide range of products available to help you relax and find relief at home through massage – from handheld massage guns to massage balls. Check out this article from Very Well Mind to find out about some of the best. And to learn more about the benefits of massage, take a look at our article on the subject.

At a handful of Pegasus’ later living communities – such as The Vincent in Bristol – massages and other beauty and therapeutic treatments can be enjoyed in the spa’s wellness rooms. Having these services on-site helps residents to enjoy their benefits on a daily basis.

4. Practise good sleep hygiene

Practise good sleep hygiene

In the short term, a lack of sleep can result in lowered alertness, impaired memory, and general tiredness. However, over time, it can have some more harmful effects on our overall wellbeing.

For example, a lack of sleep may lead to a diminished immune system and an increased risk of developing conditions like cardiovascular disease, and perhaps even cancer. It’s also been linked to things like weight gain and diminished libido – not to mention psychological conditions like anxiety and depression.

So if you’re looking to boost your overall wellbeing this new year, making sure that you’re getting enough good quality sleep should be a top priority – and one of the best ways to do this is to practise good sleep hygiene.

Good sleep hygiene basically means healthy sleep habits, which can involve behaviours both at bedtime and throughout the day. One of the most effective habits is turning your electronic devices off before bed. This is because the blue light emitted from your phones, laptops, TVs, etc, suppresses our melatonin production (a hormone that helps to regulate our sleep cycle).

Good sleep hygiene also involves things like sticking to a regular sleep schedule and limiting your caffeine intake. You can find out more about healthy sleeping habits in our articles; What is insomnia and how can you improve it? and Can’t sleep? Try these 8 tips…

5. Spend more time in natural spaces

Spend more time in natural spaces

There’s nothing quite as uplifting and emotionally nourishing as spending time in nature. Scientific research suggests that being out and about in natural spaces can reduce feelings of isolationstressanxiety, and depression, and increase feelings of calmness.

Plus, it’s even thought to boost our immune system, help us recover from illnesses faster, and increase our energy levels.

Though, how much time do we need to spend in natural spaces to reap the benefits? This study from the University of Exeter found that people who spent 120 minutes in natural spaces per week were much more likely to report good health and psychological wellbeing than those who didn’t. So this could be a good goal to set yourself.

Time spent in nature might involve a picnic on a beach, a cycle through the woods, or simply reading a book in your garden. For more ideas on how to feel the positive power of nature, check out our article; 32 ways to connect with nature and feel inspired.

At Steepleton– Pegasus’ later living community in Tetbury – there’s plenty of natural space, including well-kept gardens and an outdoor swimming pond. Plus, it’s located in the heart of the Cotswolds amongst plenty of twisting walking trails, so your next nature fix is never too far away.

6. Practise mindfulness

Practice mindfulness

Life is full of challenges and we can never be certain of what’s to come. So it’s no wonder that many of us spend a lot of our time worrying about the future. But these anxious thoughts can often get in the way of us enjoying the present.

Mindfulness is a practice that helps us to take control of our emotions and improve our focus by allowing us to concentrate on the present moment. Engaging with mindfulness regularly is thought to have a myriad of benefits. For example, it can reduce levels of stress, anxiety, and depression; affect how emotionally reactive we are to stressful situations; and improve focusmemory, and cognitive flexibility.

Another great thing about mindfulness is that there are loads of ways to engage with it, and it can be practised anywhere, at any time. It could be as simple as closing your eyes for 5-10 minutes, and concentrating on your breathing and the sensations around you – such as the weight of your body on the surface you’re sitting on, or any smells and sounds around you.

You can also practise mindfulness by engaging in an activity that requires you to focus on the present moment – like these activities here. Or, you might choose to use an online service that’ll lead you through guided mindfulness sessions – Calm and Headspace are two of the most popular, and they both offer a free trial.

To find out more about the different ways to practise mindfulness, and the benefits it can bring, check out our article; An introduction to mindfulness.

7. Sweat it out in a sauna or steam room

Sweat it out in a sauna or steam room

From the Romans and the Finnish to the Mayans and Native Americans, saunas and steam rooms have been used as a form of relaxation and therapy for centuries.

While sauna and steam room bathing both involve sitting in a small, hot room, they’re easily distinguishable and offer different benefits. While saunas use dry heat – traditionally from hot rocks or a stove – and typically have wooden walls, steam rooms are heated with steam from boiling water and usually have tiled walls. In a nutshell, saunas are dry and steam rooms are humid.

Both saunas and steam rooms are thought to have a few positive effects on our health and wellbeing. For example, studies like this 2017 one and this 2012 one have shown that they both improve circulatory health. Plus, sitting in both a steam room and a sauna can trigger the release of ‘happy hormones’ like endorphins and dopamine, which can reduce stress levels.

Due to their high humidity, steam rooms have some extra benefits that you won’t get from saunas. For example, they can have a moisturising effect on our skin, and inhaling the steam can help to relieve symptoms of cold and congestion. Though it’s important that you don’t use a steam room if you have a fever, as this will raise your body temperature even more.

While saunas and steam rooms are generally safe for many people to use, the high temperatures can pose a danger to certain individuals – for example, people suffering from heart disease or breathing conditions like asthma. So it’s worth speaking to your GP before using one.

Some of Pegasus’ later living communities – such as One Bayshill RoadChapelwood, and The Vincent – feature spa facilities like herbal saunas, steam rooms, and salt-inhalation rooms, so residents can use them as part of their regular wellness routine.

8. Volunteer for a cause you believe in

Volunteer for a cause you believe in

Like taking steps to improve our physical and mental health, fostering meaning and purpose in our lives is vital for our overall wellbeing. So much so that this 2019 study found that having it in your life is associated with a lower risk of death.

Purpose isn’t simply the responsibility to fulfill daily tasks – like going to the supermarket or taking out the bins – it is, as psychologist William Damon states, “more stable and far-reaching”, and generally involves helping others.

There are lots of ways to find purpose in your life – our article on the subject explores five – though, one of the best is to volunteer for a cause that you believe in. Volunteering gives you the chance to boost your self-confidence, learn new skills, and socialise (which, as you’ll recall, is another one of our other tips) – but above all, it can give your life immense purpose and meaning.

Perhaps there’s a cause that’s close to your heart that you’d like to help fight; maybe it’s sexism in the workplace, cruelty to animals, or environmental issues. Although, it’s perfectly okay if you’re not sure what cause you’d like to get involved with.

In this case, it might be worth taking some time to do some self-reflection, to explore what matters to you. You could also try to find some inspiration on the volunteering section of our website.

Final thoughts…

Our wellbeing is incredibly precious, so the importance of taking the time to do beneficial things for both our physical and mental health cannot be understated.

But as this article hopefully shows, looking after ourselves extends past eating a balanced diet and doing plenty of exercise. It can involve a range of different activities; from practising mindfulness to help keep our stress and anxiety to a minimum, to spending time doing things that we find relaxing and invigorating – like getting a massage.

For more information about how to boost your health and wellbeing, check out the health section of our website. And to find out more about Pegasus and how one of their later life communities might benefit you, you can head on over to their website.

What are your favourite ways to look after your health and wellbeing? We’d love to hear from you. Join the conversation on the Rest Less community forum, or leave a comment below.