January has been a transition month for me as I have switched from a lifestyle of parenting, teaching and athletics, which admittedly had me feeling like I was always in perpetual motion, to one in which I suddenly owned my time.  Like many, though, when I have too much time on my hands, I can become unproductive with it and that become frustrating for me.  So during the bottom half of January, I have worked on structure: establishing new routines and filling my day with positives.

There are three things that we need to do every day: something active, something creative and something that we love.  It is a known fact that exercise increases our blood flow, which helps fire our neurons and keep our brain healthy.  But it also lights up our endorphins, our “feel-good” transmitters.  So physically, mentally and emotionally, being active is good for us.  For me, the physical task is the easiest and my dogs make sure that my daily minimum is a morning walk with them.  Swimming, biking, running, and yoga – or any combination – are also happily built into any day; they are always what I look forward to the most.

Being creative also lights up the part of the brain that produces positive moods.  As these positive feelings are developed, the anxiety, stress and negative feelings that can creep into our days gradually disappear.  One of the great things about creativity is it is everywhere: at work, at home and at play.  For example, while teaching, I designed my own materials – slides and worksheets – for the lessons that I taught.  Other creative careers include gardening, marketing campaigns and working with code. Knitting, experimenting with recipes, colouring, and singing or playing an instrument are ways that you can be creative at home, as is working on a crossword, a puzzle, or Sudoku. The list goes on and on, and each item on it leads to the same result;  endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, the brain’s chemicals that help us to feel good.

Lastly, we need to make the time to do something that we enjoy.   This might be tricky as there is often an overlap with the physical and creative activity.  For example, I use knitting as something that I love and will pick a different creative outlet.  As long as I have finished something in each category – physical, creative and emotional – I have covered my three dailies.

What do each of these have in common?  First, they all light up different parts of the brain, and we know is important to actively use our brains as we age.  Secondly, each of these is task-oriented; we start something and finish, and task completion always feels good.  So take the time to think about your big three?  How can you fill the physical, creative and favorite activity time each day?  Plan for it and make it happen.  It can only lead to positive vibes.


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