Above and Beyond the Basics

Yesterday I blogged about daily self-care. The stuff you need to do each day to stay healthy. Not just physically, but holistically.

Today I want to go a step further: what are the things you need to do (maybe not each and every day, but frequently) to live a full, healthy, vibrant, and rewarding life?

Ready? Yes? Here comes another list!

1) Nurture someone else. I'm putting this at the top of my list because I think I tend to be just a wee tad bit selfish. Until I had children, I was pretty much insufferable. These days I'm sure I'm still obnoxiously annoying, but at least I've learned that I don't always come first. Caring for others, whether those others are your own children, your foster children, your students, your neighbors, your aging parents, your pets, the homeless, or your community as a whole, will help to stretch and open your heart, develop compassion, and help you understand exactly how we are all connected. It can be a lonely world out there with those connections.

2) Challenge yourself. I strongly believe this is what life is all about. Try something new, something you enjoy but do not excel at (yet!), something outside your wheelhouse. For about 25 years, I studied, performed, choreographed and taught modern dance but at the age of 45, I began working on my first novel. It sucked, for sure, but then I chucked that one on the trash heap and wrote another. I now have 3 novels in a series of murder mysteries; the first (titled Blind Angel) will be published soon. I plan to begin writing the fourth this November during National Novel Writing Month. What have you always wanted to try? Skydiving? Caving? Ice carving? Crochet? Get started now.

3) Push yourself physically. There is an athlete inside you. Don't shake your head no! No matter how long you've been ignoring that side of yourself, that athlete is still in there, lying dormant, just waiting for you to awaken your true potential. We are physical creatures and we have been given these amazing bodies to use for a short amount of time. Don't waste your physicality! Explore the huge potential of your body: try lifting heavier weights, or running faster up a hill, or training for a marathon, or swimming a mile, or climbing a mountain. Without a doubt, no matter who you are, you can become stronger, faster, more agile, more flexible, or longer lasting. (I couldn't figure out how to say having more endurance!)

4) Get creative. Innovation can take a billion different forms. You can express your creative side by rearranging your furniture. Or baking and decorating a cake. You don't have to win an award or sell your work to be successful as an artist. You just need to allow that side of your nature to come out and play. Everyone owns a camera these days, since everyone carries a phone. Try taking photographs and posting them on your Facebook page. Or write a poem. One of my Facebook friends has been hand-dying old sheets and clothing, then weaving the strips into beautiful rugs. Explore and have fun without putting any pressure on yourself to produce anything perfect. Keep in mind that the process is more important than the product.

5) Dream. I think this one goes hand in hand with creativity. I encourage you to spend some time being idle. Hammocks are great for this, but you can also day dream while you're walking your dog or swimming laps or climbing a mountain. Instead of focusing your energy on the tasks you have to accomplish or your next big project at work, let your mind wander. Let new ideas pop into your brain and explore the possibilities. When you get a good one, write it down. You might also want to keep a journal by your bed and track your nighttime dreams. Sometimes the images imbedded in our dreams reveal subconscious desires or solutions to problems we've been trying to solve.

These are just a few more of the activities I hope we can all make time for in our busy lives. Some of these might involve getting out of your comfort zone, but that is a great thing! Take a risk and see what happens. You might just end up happier than you've ever been before.