Feeling stressed or down? Go out to play, create something new, find someone to help, complete a task, and laugh yourself silly. Then, take a rest. These wellbeing activities stand the test of time and experience because they work.
However, procrastination, sometimes disguised as the “It’s a good idea, but…” syndrome, often sabotages the best of intentions. The five-minute rule can be an effective tool to counter the inner demon of procrastination. Pursue a task for five minutes. If it’s too intolerable to continue after five minutes, then stop. Try another time. What often happens is that the effort becomes more manageable after five minutes.
Here are six ideas for applying the five-minute rule to practical wellbeing activities that will ease your stress and boost your mood.
Many people play games on screens, which can be very engaging. It can also be quite rewarding to play without the use of screens. Start by taking five minutes to make a list of all the ways you played as a child.
During the pandemic, John and his wife spent their entertainment budget on nostalgic toys from their 1970's youth. They felt shocked that so many of their childhood favorites, Mr. Potato Head, Barrel of Monkeys, and Rock-em Sock-em Robots were still available for sale. They also resurrected board games like Monopoly and card games like Solitaire and Shanghai Rummy for hours of entertainment.
After a few hours of brain strategy, they relaxed in their living room while traveling on virtual vacations via YouTube. They searched for destinations on their bucket list along with favorite adventures from past trips.
Typically, they would find several videos tours of exotic places filmed in brilliant color. Imagine viewing panoramic scenes of the Grand Canyon or the Pyramids in Egypt without enduring miserable heat, searching for clean bathrooms, or wading through long lines of tourists!
Of course, few wellbeing activities can fade the blues better than playing with a favorite pet. Just walking a dog or petting a cat will boost endorphins. If you don’t have a pet, visit a local pet store, or watch adorable pet videos online.
Everyone has an inner artist, poet, chef, inventor, gardener, crafter, musician, dancer, actor, or idea genie.
With a bit of practice and dedication, a little talent can produce a satisfying masterpiece. Remember, even Rembrandt received criticism for mediocre work during his career. Pursue a creative task for five minutes, focusing on the process, not the result.
For those who prefer to see fruitful efforts, diamond painting may be an option. Similar to paint-by-number projects, diamond painting requires crafters to place tiny diamond-shaped beads in color categories.
During the pandemic, Nancy learned about diamond painting on Facebook and she quickly ordered a beginner’s kit online. She found the process easy and relaxing while she often lost track of time. Soon, she would create a lovely work of art worthy of giving to family and friends. In the last 18 months, she created 24 wall hangings, 18 greeting cards and 36 keychains, a purse, a bracelet and 20 ornaments!
Perhaps the best way to put your life troubles into perspective is to help someone worse off than yourself. Take five minutes to send a text, make a call or do a practical good deed.
Sandra, a recent widow with no living family, spent her first round of holidays completely alone. Determined not to suffer that experience again, she set out to find people who were also alone during the holidays.
She contacted local churches, nursing homes, and grief support groups for ideas. Although her holidays were not as fulfilling as they were when her family members were still alive, she did feel a strong sense of satisfaction from brightening another person’s Christmas or Thanksgiving.
4. Complete a Task
Whether faced with a dreaded chore or an engaging project, completing a task fosters a sense of accomplishment and builds self-confidence.
If a particular task feels overwhelming, spend five minutes organizing the project into bite-sized chunks.
Every April, Jan faces her most dreaded chore of the year – income taxes. Since she owns a business, tax preparation usually requires a good 30-40 hours. To psych herself up for the project, she starts by dumping her file drawer of mangled, disorganized receipts collected over the past year into an enormous banker's box.
Each night as she binge-watches a TV series, she spends five minutes sorting the receipts into business expense categories. After a few evenings, she grows tired of the mountainous paper mess, so she embarks on a sorting marathon until all the receipts lay neatly placed in labeled envelopes.
Similarly, she completes the remaining chores of running adding-machine tapes, logging expense totals, and completing forms until the entire project is finally over. At this point, she treats herself to a nice dinner with a friend, with the happy consolation that she won’t have to deal with income taxes for another year – a wellbeing activity with a happy ending.
Find a funny movie, TV show, photo, or friend. If you can’t find something funny, pretend to laugh for five minutes. In short order, the fake laughter turns to real laughter.
Years ago, Mike worked at a community expo, staffing an exhibit next to one created by a certified laughter leader. Discouraged by poor attendance, Mike and the laughter leader decided to grab a little attention by laughing aloud. Expo attendees did pay attention by looking at them as if they were silly. After five minutes of laughter, both felt energized and more positive to reach out to attendees in a less silly manner assertively.
Laughter, one of the best wellbeing activities, promotes physical and mental health in many ways. Find time to laugh a bit more.
After pursuing so many wellbeing activities, make sure to rest. Take a break from screens, phones, and noise to enjoy some time in nature or just relaxing in a favorite easy chair.
At age 70, Edward mastered the art of retirement. Each day, he started his daily routine by rising at his natural wake-up time around 8 a.m. After a nourishing breakfast, he would tend to his garden and a few household chores or play golf a few days a week.
Savoring a long lunch, he would spend five minutes planning the remainder of his day. Feeling refreshed from a brief nap, he would read textbooks for the blind and dyslexic for several hours before he started preparing dinner. When he finished doing dinner dishes, he relaxed in his recliner to watch a movie or documentary. After the evening news, he would read until his eyes felt sleepy. Then he would head to bed for a restful slumber. He lived with an excellent quality of life until the age of 88.
Here is a recipe for a happier life: Play a lot, create a little, help some, work a bit, laugh a ton and rest plenty. Use the five-minute rule to get yourself going so you reap the rewards of sound wellbeing activities.
About JessicaJessica Loftus, a licensed clinical psychologist, and national certified career counselor, offers individual counseling in her private practice located in Palos Heights, Illinois.
She shares her 20 years of clinical experience in her writings, including a self-help book on bad habits, two stories published in Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and multiple articles and blog posts.
Visit her blog, Pet Ways to Ease Stress, where prominent members of the pet community offer tips on easing stress with a woof of humor, a purr of insight, and a tail of wisdom.