There’s no avoiding it — stress is a normal part of life. But instead of letting it wear you down, try giving your mind and body a break with healthy restoration practices. Let’s dive into why restoration impacts your weight-loss and longevity goals and how adopting proactive strategies will help return your health and vitality to the baseline — or better.
What Is Healthy Restoration?
There’s no way to sugar-coat this: Life is corrosive. Everything new becomes old. According to the laws of physics, anything in order, over time, becomes disordered. This applies to everything from the cells in your body to the dirt underfoot! Luckily, there are many restorative practices you can incorporate into your lifestyle to help you slow the “disordering” otherwise known as biological aging.
Healthy restoration refers to activities that keep your body and mind functioning optimally over time. Like changing the oil in your car, think of healthy restoration as the care and maintenance you provide your body, mind, and spirit to reduce wear and tear and reverse the effects of maladaptive stress.
The Key Principles of Healthy Restoration
The biggest obstacle to a healthy restoration practice is often perspective. Many people think “I don’t have time,” “restorative practices won’t work for me,” or even “I hate yoga so I can’t do anything restorative.” If these mindsets sound familiar, we’d like to try and change your mind with just three key principles of restoration. They’re simple, straightforward, and — perhaps most importantly of all — universally achievable.
Healthy Restoration Counteracts Stress to Create Balance
In order for your body to improve — whether that means losing weight, gaining strength, or something else — it needs some stress. Stress is how your body recognizes it’s time to make a change. This is where motivational statements like “embrace the grind” come from; however, if you’re only motivated to grind and consistently neglect recovery and restoration, you won’t be able to reap the full benefits of all that grinding.
To make sustained progress, you must experience manageable stress and restoration. Restoration is a mandatory component of improvement because it’s when your body reacts to the stress and adapts (i.e., improves) to better handle that stress next time.
Healthy Healthy Restoration Includes Physical, Mental, and Social Components
Complete health includes your physical, mental, and social well-being. Therefore, healthy restoration should leave you feeling refreshed in at least one (or, ideally, all) of your health domains. For instance, physically restorative activities like foam rolling have been shown to decrease signs of physical stress, like soreness. However, an hour-long massage in a dark, quiet room will achieve the same physical effect and might also help you restore mentally from the stress of work or socially from the stress of being “on” with your colleagues or family. Likewise, taking a relaxing walk with music or in the company of friends or pets may provide a respite in all three health domains.
Restorative Habits Can Fit into Any Lifestyle
No matter what your daily routine looks like, there are a variety of restorative habits available to you. The little habits in your day are often the ones that can be most easily leveraged for restoration. Often, a simple shift in mindset is all it takes to transform a monotonous habit like drinking your morning coffee into a restorative practice.
Take a brief pause to fully experience your coffee. Maybe even rotate brands or flavors so that you experience a new sensation every so often. Of course, if you don’t drink coffee, that’s OK — there are plenty of other opportunities available to you, if you are present and mindful enough to identify them. By investing the time and effort to find restorative behaviors that work best with your busy schedule and preferences, you’ll be able to form habits that fit seamlessly into your day instead of feeling like one more box you have to check.
How to Start Building Healthy Restoration Habits
#1. Form Daily Habits
If your daily life feels perpetually busy and stressful, then going on a weekend getaway or having a spa day won’t be enough; you need to establish daily restoration practices. One such activity might be a short sun salutation session to solidify your circadian rhythm, start your day centered, and lower your stress levels. Another option is a quiet unplugged walk after lunch to refresh your body and mind before your jam-packed afternoon. Consistent daily restorative inputs like these are crucial to maintain health and minimize effects of chronic stress or burnout.
#2. Embrace Variety
Your go-to daily restorative habits are important, but every now and then, try exploring additional options or strategies. For instance, maybe you have a daily restorative yoga practice you do in your bedroom. To mix things up, consider trying a group yoga session, which might provide a new pose sequence and offers the added benefits of community. New (to you) restoration activities can be even more effective than your daily routine because they represent a novel restoration stimulus to your body.
#3. Find What Works for You
Are yoga, coffee, and foam rolling not exactly up your alley? No problem! Part of building a healthy restoration practice is sticking to your daily habits, which is a whole lot harder when you don’t actually enjoy what you’re doing.
If you’re needing a little inspiration, consider the following:
- Cold exposure
- Heat exposure
- Low-angle sunlight exposure
#4. Be Proactive in Balancing Stress with Rest
Many people tend to “muscle through” stress and let self care go by the wayside. Don’t fall into this trap. The more stress you experience, the more you will need to counterbalance with healthy restoration practices. Allowing yourself the space to prioritize restorative behaviors, especially when your schedule is busy and/or stress levels are high, is essential. In fact, taking a break to rest and recover now can help you ward off future burnout. Research suggests that leisure is a potent stress recovery tool, and it can also increase resilience to future stresses you have yet to experience.
#4. Tap into the Power of Restorative Relationships
The social fabric of your community can be a powerful asset as you develop restorative practices and improve stress resilience. Researchers have found that humor and laughter provide robust health benefits, even during high stress. Affectionate touch, including hugs, also produces a multitude of health and restoration benefits. And people who find purpose, help others, and interact with thriving social communities are shown to experience better health and extended lifespan. Engage regularly with friends, family, and neighbors, and be mindful of benefits that come from social and altruistic interactions to help you restore your body, mind, and spirit.
Developing healthy restoration habits is a crucial part of pursuing your health and lifespan aspirations. You need restoration practices to balance stress and to provide your body the recovery necessary to get a little bit better each day, so you can live a healthier, longer life.