Back when the west was still wild, hardscrabble cowboys – the kind played by John Wayne – enforced civility within their communities. Through sheer grit and self-sacrifice, they prevented outlaws from pilfering horses and cash registers from local ranches and saloons.
But fellas, times have changed. Times have softened, and the tough-guy schtick is no longer necessary. It’s now safe to relax, and you’d be wise to do so.
When many guys think of self-care, they often think of bubble baths, pedicures, and other, typically feminine indulgences (and there’s no reason you shouldn’t enjoy those, too). Another way to think of self-care is as routine maintenance for your mental health. Self-care is a simple matter of doing what you enjoy and reaping the health benefits, while at the same time becoming a better husband, dad, or friend to the people around you.
This Father’s Day, think about what you can do for yourself. And not just for the day: How can you treat yourself better from here on out? We've compiled five science-backed self-care strategies to get you started.
1. Take a hike
Pack a snack, lace up your boots, and spend some time exploring whatever trails you can find near your house. A growing body of research suggests hiking and spending time in nature may help reduce stress and feelings of anxiety. Another benefit: your core strength may improve. Walking on slightly uneven surfaces can naturally engage your core muscles and improve your balance.1
A daily walk is particularly good for those who work desk jobs. It’s a great way to break up the long periods of sitting. (And while you’re thinking about fitness, check out these 5 Tips for Men Over 30.)
2. Buy some new threads
To prove that clothing has a noticeable effect on those wearing it, researchers from Northwestern University asked subjects to don a white coat while taking a cognitive exam.2 Some subjects thought they were wearing a “painter’s” coat, while others thought they were wearing a “doctor’s” coat. Those in the second group performed measurably better on a test of attention.
Odds are you aren’t in the market for a new doctor’s coat, but the theory – the researchers call it
“enclothed cognition” – likely applies to whatever clothing makes you feel powerful. So today might be a good day to go shopping for those killer boots or jeans that you’ve had your eye on.
3. Put pen to paper
Find a quiet place where you can think (maybe outside in a hammock?) and then spend 10 or 15 minutes a day writing out your thoughts and emotions. The practice may feel awkward at first, and the words might not come easily. But stick with it. In a short time, the practice will come to feel natural, and as a result, you’ll reap real benefits. Journaling may help boost your mood and may reduce stress and anxiety.3 Logging your meals in your journal can make it easier to spot eating patterns, keep you accountable, and may help manage your weight.4
4. Plan a standing game night
If you need an excuse to occasionally take some time away from home to hang out with friends, then here it is: Your pals may have a measurable impact on the quality of your life. In a review of 148 studies, researchers found that people with strong social ties had a 50 percent lower mortality rate over a specific time period.5 What’s more, the Mayo Clinic reports that strong friendships may reduce stress and promote healthy lifestyle habits.6
If your pals are hard to wrangle, try planning a weekly or monthly hang session around poker, golf, Scrabble – whatever your crew is into. Even if the group is small at first, once it’s a regular event, you’ll be able to start recruiting more friends. And hey – you’ll be doing them a favor.
5. Find your hobby
Paint a portrait. Plant a garden. Work on your prized classic car. The point is: Do something fun. People who carve out time for leisure activities have lower blood pressure and waist circumferences, according to a study from the University of Kansas.7 They also have lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can affect your health and happiness. And if you need another excuse to pick up a hobby, researchers from San Francisco State University found that “non-work creative activities” can actually act as a recovery tool that will help you perform better when you’re back on the job.8
Ultimately, it pays to remember: Your health is in your hands. Ready to start eating healthier and feeling your best with a little help from Jenny Craig? You’re one click away. Get started today.
Clint Carter is a reporter with more than a decade of experience in health, nutrition, and fitness, and his stories have appeared in Men's Health, Women's Health, Shape, and other fitness-driven magazines. His reporting is driven by the belief that foods are rarely ever "good" or "bad," but rather, their value depends on how they fit into an overall diet. His favorite meals are those consumed at a campsite, and much of his time is spent cycling and hiking around his home in New York's Hudson Valley.
Favorite healthy snack: Sardines and avocado on toast.
Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, RDN
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and reviewed by certified professionals.
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