If you feel like you don’t have enough time for daily self-care beyond the basics, you aren’t alone. Many people cite their busy schedules as barriers to having healthier lifestyles.
A new study has found that an 8-week mindfulness and meditation program was just as effective at reducing anxiety symptoms as a common anti-anxiety medication.
Mindfulness works just as well as medication to curb anxiety, study finds
But what if you only needed five minutes?
Believe it or not, there are quick, practical activities you can do in five minutes or less to make a measurable positive impact on your health and wellness.
If you’re still not convinced you can find the time, consider reclaiming those minutes from a less productive, time-consuming activity. How often do you check social media accounts, mindlessly scrolling through posts only to look up and realize five, 10 or even 20 minutes have passed?
With excessive social media use linked to negative mental health implications, if you’re one of the 7 in 10 Americans who use social media, it may be in your best interest to trade five minutes of scrolling in favor of one of the five science-backed, health-boosting activities listed below.
Focus on your breath
Want to reduce stress and boost your physical and mental health almost immediately? Take a breathing break. Simply pause and spend a few minutes taking long, deep breaths in and out of your nose.
Better yet, it doesn’t even require a full five minutes to begin reaping the wellness benefits. In as little as 90 seconds, deep breathing stimulates a physiological relaxation response that inhibits stress hormone production, lowers blood pressure and decreases heart rate, according to research. Consistently working on breathing better can also improve posture and decrease pain.
Move your body
Being sedentary, specifically prolonged sitting, is not only detrimental to your physical health but also your mental well-being, increasing your risk of both death and depression. Moving your body for even five minutes at a time can make a difference. In fact, a 2020 study found that just 11 minutes of exercise every day, done in any increments, increases your life span.
How you move your body is up to you. As long as you keep your body in motion, the type of exercise doesn’t matter. You can do a five-minute yoga flow, body-weight exercises or any other creative means of moving your body, such as dancing to a couple of your favorite upbeat songs.
Connect with a friend
Take five minutes to feel seen and heard each day — and return the favor for someone else. If you can’t meet up with a friend or loved one in person, screen time can actually work in your favor by enabling video chatting. It’s always better to talk in person, but socializing in any way that helps you feel supported can ward off loneliness and feelings of isolation, which are associated with declining cognitive skills, depression, heart attack, stroke and early death.
If scheduling makes it difficult to connect with friends daily, make a point to strike up conversations with others as you run errands. For example, you can easily talk with cashiers at the grocery store by asking how their day is going, responding with genuine interest and volunteering information about your own day. A smile and sincere interaction can go a long way for your own health and the health of those you encounter. You might even make a new friend!
Prep healthy snacks
Have you ever been watching TV and wanted a snack but didn’t want to take the time to wash the fresh fruit in your fridge, so you grabbed a bag of chips instead? I know I have. Accessibility is a significant factor in our ability to make healthy choices, so taking five minutes to prep fresh foods for snacking can be impactful.
You’ve likely heard nutritionists and fitness influencers alike touting the benefits of weekly meal prep, where you make all the meals for your week on one day. Although that sounds great in theory and is convenient throughout the week, it can be logistically demanding and time-consuming. Spending only five minutes every other day or so to wash and cut up some of your favorite fresh fruits and vegetables is less intimidating and serves as a good entry point to larger-scale meal prep.
Take a quick stroll
Research has shown that 10,000 steps a day can reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease and early death, but newer research has found that any amount of walking helps. So just one five-minute walk around your neighborhood or inside your office building has health-boosting benefits.
Taking it a step further (pun intended), walking for five minutes every 30 minutes produces an immediate measurable reduction in both blood pressure and blood sugar, according to a recent study.
Unlike lofty resolutions for better health, such as giving up cheese or chocolate forever, the five-minute activities listed above are more practical. With consistent practice, they can become sustainable healthy habits that will deliver wellness-boosting benefits over your lifetime — a potentially longer lifetime because of those five-minute habits!