My brother was recently involved in a project for Scottish Widows titled ‘Change Your Life in an Hour’. To launch the campaign, Scottish Widows have released some inspiring videos. The concept got me thinking about the small things I have done that have helped me to improve my life with fibromyalgia. I credit three simple actions for helping me to feel more positive and happier in myself. Setting aside time in the day for ourselves can often be a challenge. However, I realised that the exercises I do only amount to around 20 minutes per day and they are also really easy. They have certainly helped me to feel significantly better in myself; I am happier and more positive than I was before I added them into my daily routine. Today I want to share these with you in the hope that you will set aside 20 minutes for yourself too:
Spend 5 minutes stretching in bed each morning
I know that stretching is so important for living well with fibromyalgia. However, fitting in stretching felt like a chore to me. I did not enjoy it, so I simplified it. I observed that each time my dog got up from a position he had been lying in for a while, he would do a couple of big body stretches. I decided to take a leaf out of his book. Now I spend 5 minutes after I wake up each morning stretching in bed. I can’t say I follow a particular protocol, I simply do what feels good to me but in case it helps you here is a rough description. Typically I will stretch through the whole length of my body, imagining that someone is pulling my head upwards and someone else is pulling my feet downwards. I will point my toes forwards, hold them there and then point my foot upwards and stretch my toes back towards my body. I will rotate my ankles. Sometimes I will pull my knees up towards stomach. I will bend my knees up, arch my back and tilt my pelvis into the bed then do the opposite of this action; sinking my back down and pushing my pelvis forward. I will pull my chin forward towards my chest and hold it there, then push it up towards the ceiling. I stick my arms out to the side and reach as far as I can with them. I will then stretch each arm over the top of my head and reach as far as I can to the other side (one at a time). I will then do big circles with my arms, starting with them by my sides and ending up with them above my head. I roll my shoulders. I will hold stretches so long as it feels good. I never push myself or cause pain. My body always pops and cracks and I feel much better when getting out of bed for doing this. I generally feel stiff after a night’s sleep and this helps my body to relax and releases any tension.
Take 10 minutes each day to focus on deep breathing
I wrote an article over on Counting My Spoons about deep breathing for improving your life with fibromyalgia. This is such an important exercise that we should all prioritise every day. It only takes a minimum of 10 minutes and it is very effective for relaxing the body, releasing tension and reducing pain. I’m not one for meditating but I find the following exercise is fundamental to my well-being:
1. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent. Use pillows to help yourself feel comfortable if you need them.
2. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Let all other thoughts fall out of your mind. Placing your hands just above your belly button will help you to feel how you are breathing. You are going to be breathing with your abdomen.
3. Take a slow, deep breath in and concentrate on pushing your hands up with your abdomen. Let your abdomen expand before your chest. Your chest should only rise slightly, let your abdomen do all the work.
4. Without holding your breath, slowly breathe out through your mouth.
5. Repeat for at least 10 minutes.
Build it up so that each inhale and exhale lasts for at least 10 seconds each. This may take time and never push yourself. This exercise should not cause discomfort. Although lying down is ideal, you can do this any time, any where. Any time you feel tension or pain building, close your eyes and focus on nothing other than deep breathing. It honestly makes such a difference.
Write down the things you are grateful for each day
This is such a simple exercise that only takes 5 minutes but it is very powerful. Last year I kept a gratitude journal and wrote down either what I was grateful for or what made me happy each day. To make myself accountable and to ensure I did this, I also set myself the task of writing a monthly gratitude post on the blog. I cannot stress enough the positive impact this had on my way of thinking. I didn’t realise it at the time, but before I did this I focused too much on negativity. Through writing my gratitude journal, my perspective on life slowly began to shift. I am a much more positive person now and one of biggest influences that has helped me to achieve this is practising gratitude. I no longer keep a journal as I am able bring my awareness towards the small things I am grateful for without the need to write them down. However, I do have a document where I am writing down what my achievements are each month.
And there you have it, that’s it. Three simple, easy-to-do actions that take only 20 minutes per day. I challenge you to add these into your day to see if they have a positive impact on your life.
Is there anything else that you do that has helped you to improve your life with chronic illness? Let me know in the comments below.
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