On airplanes, we are always told to put oxygen masks on ourselves first before helping others. This is because if we suffocate, we won’t be able to help anyone else. If you don’t take care of yourself mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally you won’t have the strength and energy to thrive or even survive on earth.
Putting yourself first is the practice of recognizing your importance and making your self-care a priority. For many people, this amounts to setting aside time to exercise, meditate or sleep. But putting yourself first is more than that. It could include allocating part of your budget to pay for therapy, taking a raincheck on plans you made so you can rest, honoring your bedtime, setting boundaries with loved ones, etc.
Keep reading for some of the best ways you can put yourself first to boost your mental wellness.
1. Eat Nutritious Foods
Most people are surprised at how much influence nutrition has on mental health. We are keenly aware that for our physical health we must eat a balanced diet and avoid processed foods. But junk food has also been proven to increase psychiatric distress as well as instances of violence in children.
So eating a healthy diet is the first way you should put yourself first. Doing so will form a foundation of mental and physical wellbeing that enables you to live a happy life.
2. Choose an Enjoyable Form of Exercise
Another great way of putting yourself first is taking part in a daily form of enjoyable exercise. Health professionals recommend that we do at least half an hour of physical activity each day. This keeps our cardiovascular system healthy and helps ward off obesity. Exercise also improves mental health and reduces instances of depression.
But your chosen form of exercise should be something you enjoy and look forward to doing each day. Forcing yourself into an activity that you despise may make you feel like you are engaging in self-destruction rather than self-care. For instance, if you are social and love dancing you should consider doing group aerobic exercises rather than going on solitary runs.
3. Set Personal Boundaries
Another great way to put yourself first and protect your mental health is to set personal boundaries with the people you engage with. Protect yourself and stand up for yourself when people try to take advantage of you. Surround yourself with positive and inspirational people that want the best for you.
Hanging out with negative or manipulative people can wreak havoc on your mental health. You may not realize it but we slowly start taking on the thoughts and beliefs of those around us. This is why gurus say that we are the sum of the five people closest to us. If you don’t like someone’s beliefs, actions or life results it’s best to minimize your contact with them.
4. Ask for Help
No man is an island and trying to become one can be detrimental to your mental health. Recognizing when you need help and knowing how to ask for and receive it is a key way to put yourself first. Some of us enjoy giving and find it hard to ask for or even receive help.
This leads us to burn ourselves out while holding unjustified resentful thoughts towards our loved ones. Know the people that are willing to support you and ask them for their help whenever you need it.
5. Practice Delayed Gratification
Sometimes putting yourself first may mean denying yourself some things you want, so that you can achieve a life goal. For instance, you may need to stop eating junk food to achieve a healthy weight. You may also need to avoid buying some things you want to save for retirement.
6. Be Present
Practicing presence and awareness is a great way to put yourself first. Most of us have constant demands on our time which tempts us to do several things at once. The problem with multitasking is that nothing gets done well and some tasks don’t get completed, which leads to us getting stressed.
For instance, if you are trying to read a work report when playing with your child, you may miss important points in the report and your child may hurt himself as you weren’t really watching them. Put yourself first by being present and giving your full attention to everything that you do. This will increase your enjoyment of life’s experiences and make you more effective at everything you do.
Another popular way to be present is to have a daily meditation practice. Meditation helps us to be more mindful and less reactive to life situations. It is also a proven stress reliever that aids our mental health.
7. Learn To Say No
You can also put yourself first by learning to say no to anything you don’t want. For example, you can say no to weekend plans that you don’t want to be part of. You can also say no to friends and family that ask to borrow money from you. Whenever someone asks you for something, always check in with yourself to see if it’s something you want to do. Say no if you don’t want to do it.
8. Keep Learning
Finally, you can also put yourself first by having a growth mindset and always looking for opportunities to upgrade yourself. Learning new things increases your self-esteem and gives you life skills that can be used to earn a great living and live a more pleasurable life. As you upgrade your skills and learn new things you may also discover new hobbies and activities that you enjoy doing. Filling your days with activities you enjoy is a great way to put yourself first and have a great life.
Putting Yourself First Is Great for Your Emotional Health
Taking care of your physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing will lead to greater levels of happiness for yourself and your loved ones. The more you take care of yourself by making our suggested lifestyle changes, the more energy you will have to take care of others. Conversely, the more you put others first, the more your energy gets depleted and you may even end up depressed.
A healthy lifestyle is the best way to start putting yourself first as it sets a great foundation for all the other practices. For more information on being healthy check out our wellness library.