“Imagination is more important than knowledge”
– Albert Einstein
When was the last time you learned something new in-depth just because you wanted to? Challenging our brains and expanding our knowledge can help us recharge and expand our mindset.
Taking care of your intellect is important because a healthy mind is critical to a healthy self. Spark your inner thinker with these critical pillars of intellectual self-care:
It is within our nature to create. Human beings are innovators, artists, problem solvers, engineers, writers, decorators, chefs, poets, actors, scientists, and many other things that involve creativity. Creativity puts you in direct contact with your imagination–and your imagination has the power to unlock magic in the world.
Being an artist has nothing to do with being “good” or “bad” at creating. Art is just that–art. When you were a child, you likely found a great deal of joy in finger painting, and whether the outcome was objectively beautiful or not, it didn’t stop you from enjoying the process of creation. You also probably colored as a kid and found joy in it, even if the colors ended up outside the lines.
To put you back in touch with the artist within, you must remove your attachment to the outcome. Don’t worry about whether or not the final product will be worth framing–the true joy of being an artist is the process of creation, not the result. Removing the need to be “good” at creating allows you to tap into the imaginative freedom you relied on as a child.
Music has the power to evoke memory, capture a moment, and shift a mood. It’s a powerful form of self-care because it immediately impacts your brain. When you hear music you enjoy, your brain releases dopamine, a chemical that positively shifts your mood by rewarding your brain. Music provides a host of additional befits:
You can bring music into your life by attending a live show, making your own music, or curating a playlist of music that brings you joy.
A happy playlist is exactly what it sounds like: a music playlist that makes you happy. Taking the time to create and curate this playlist is a beautiful exercise in self-care.
You can cue up your happy playlist anywhere and at any time. Play it in the car, at home, in your headphones on a walk, or connect it to a speaker as you do chores around the house. Listen to it when you’re happy to make yourself even happier. Play it when you’re feeling stuck or sad to remind your brain of the happier items and to put you in a better mood. This playlist will be ready and waiting for you when you feel like you need a boost.
Step One: Brainstorm. Sit down with a piece of paper and a pen and think about the songs that make you happy. These should be songs that instantly lift your mood, that you connect with, and that makes you want to sing and dance. If you’re stuck, think back to your teen years and the music you listened to in adolescence. Studies have shown that music connected to these years brings an added boost to our endorphins (Levitin, 2019).
Step Two: Go through your music collection. Since music is primarily digital, scroll through your phone’s music library, the music stored on your computer, or any music you have saved on a digital music platform (like Spotify, Pandora, or Apple Music). Find the songs that make you happy and add them to the list you started creating in Step One.
Step Three: Take note of the music you choose to listen to when you’re happy or feeling good. This could be the radio station you turn on in the car or the songs you find yourself playing that feel like “anthems” to you. Add these to your list.
Step Four: Create a digital playlist from your list of songs. Use your music service provider (if you don’t have one, Spotify and Apple Music are both simple to use and have extensive music libraries) to locate the songs on your list. Add them to a playlist titled “Happy.”
Step Five: Rearrange the order of the songs on your playlist until to flow makes sense to you. Now you have the ultimate happy soundtrack for your life!
The written word is so important. Writing is how we can communicate with each other, and it’s also a way you can communicate with yourself, tapping into your thoughts, identifying and releasing yourself from your fears, and manifesting your dreams. When you take time to put your thoughts on paper, you’re providing space to understand yourself more fully so you can live a more authentic life.
Setting aside five minutes each morning to connect with yourself is one of the most important things you can do to set yourself up for a good day. If you don’t have five minutes in the morning to write, set your alarm five minutes earlier than usual. These extra five minutes can have a massive impact on the rest of your day if you use them correctly.
If you make it a daily habit, the following exercise can reduce anxiety, increase joy, and help you focus. How does it work? Your morning pages let you acknowledge and let go of pain points. It gives you clear, achievable objectives for the day helps set your mood, and shifts you to a space of gratitude, imagination, and hope. This exercise is so effective it can feel like you took a magic mood-boosting pill. Print a copy of these Morning Pages, or make a version of your own in a notebook or journal. Take the time to fill in each section.
Write freely. You may find that you wake up and have anxious thoughts about the day ahead, or maybe you feel tired. Perhaps you’re excited, or maybe you feel a little foggy. Write it out. Honestly, these words don’t even need to make complete sense. Put anything and everything you’re thinking about in this section. Get it out of your head and onto the page. This helps you clear space for the thoughts you want to put in your mind consciously.
Jot down no more than six goals for the day. They can be big or small. They can feel significant or trivial. But they should all be achievable within a single day. You can write anything from “eat a balanced breakfast” to “tackle the laundry pile” to “spend 30-minutes in a bubble bath.” Use this section to get a clear view of your objectives for the day and – this is important – celebrate each time you check something off the list. You can give yourself a standing ovation, dance around the room, or do a quick fist bump. By celebrating your victories, big and small, you train your mind to act like your biggest cheerleader.
Write down who you want to show up as today. It can say something like “I am a patient and loving,” or “I am an active listener,” or “I am powerful and confident.” Whatever you write here should reflect the best version of yourself. You form a mental commitment to your intention when you write it down. You can then draw on your intention throughout the day to bring yourself back to center and stay focused on who you want to be.
Write down three particular things you’re grateful for. Nothing is too big or too small because the simple act of appreciation gives even the little things weight. You can write something like, “my best friend who will puck up my phone call any time of the day,” or “nighttime baby snuggles,” or “the bright nail polish I’m wearing,” or “sunshine, clean water, and freedom.” Again, whatever you write here has to be true to you. Bonus points if you read your gratitude list out loud after writing it.
Put this list somewhere where you will see it often throughout the day. It can go on your fridge or snap a photo of it and make it your phone backdrop. You want to put this sheet of paper in a convenient place so, amid the day’s hustle and bustle, you can look at it and remember how grateful, clear, and calm you were when you wrote it.
Think again if you consider reading merely a hobby, pastime, or optional activity. Your brain needs a workout arguably more than your body. There are numerous worthwhile benefits to reading:
You are likely exposed to similar people, patterns, and experiences in your day-to-day existence. When you read books written by someone else, you instantly step into another entirely distinct individual’s mind, ideas, and perfections. In this way, reading is one of the most efficient ways to expand your mind, broaden your worldviews, and show your intellect some serious self-care. Taking 10-minutes a day to read something someone else has written creates new connections in your mind. It encourages neuroplasticity, which is your brain’s ability to shift, change, and grow throughout your life. This daily brain workout can be heavy lifting–like a scientific article–or just a quick brain-walk-around-the-block with a simple beach read or magazine. Because this is self-care-oriented, keep your focus on your enjoyment.
You can now “read” almost any book by listening to it with today’s technology. There are a variety of apps and programs that let you download books and listen to them; you can pay for these apps or use the downloadable audiobooks provided for free by many local libraries. If you use this technology with intention, you can find time in your day to constantly “read” and learn by listening. Turn your car into a classroom while running errands. Wear headphones or use a Bluetooth speaker to listen to an audiobook while washing dishes, making dinner, stretching, folding laundry, or clearing your house. Go on a walk around your neighborhood and listen to an audiobook to get your physical and mental exercise done simultaneously.
– What does intellectual self-care mean to you?
– What’s one way you can improve your intellectual self-care?
– How will you start implementing this change? When, where, how. Be specific!
We’ll discuss the fifth pillar in the next lesson: spiritual self-care.