As a parent, the excuse for everything is: I just don’t have the time. That goes for exercise, reading a novel, ‘me-time’. So we’ve come up with 10 daily activities that will only take up five minutes of your time, but will make you feel amazing…
A few years ago, I went to a talk by Alan Rusbridger – the (then) editor of the Guardian. He’d just written a book: Play It Again: An Amateur Against the Impossible – about a challenge he’d set himself to learn Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 in a year.
This was considered the impossible task by most amateur pianists, because of the complexity of the piece. But as Rusbridger’s children had now grown up, and so he no longer had the excuse of looking after young kids, he decided it was time to master it.
How did he do that? By committing to practising the piano for five minutes every morning. This felt like a good starting point. It would get him back into the swing of playing the piano every day. And once he started to improve, and really enjoy himself, that five minutes became 10 minutes. And then 20.
What Rusbridger learned was that anyone can find five minutes to do something for themselves. It doesn’t get much busier, career-wise, than editor of a major international newspaper. And yet he managed to carve out that time.
The same theory has been used to encourage people to exercise each day. Promise yourself that you’ll do five minutes of yoga every morning and the likelihood is that you’ll enjoy it so much, you’ll soon be getting up earlier to accommodate a longer session.
Five minutes is better than nothing
I’ve been seeing an osteopath for the past month. I started long distance running too soon after childbirth and caused myself some damage – pelvic and spinal – so after our first session, she advised me to stop running completely until I’d recovered.
I took the osteopath’s advice but a few weeks later, at our next appointment, explained that while the break from running was helping me to recover physically, it was becoming detrimental to my mental health. I couldn’t focus on my work, and I felt a big sluggish.
She suggested very short (and slow) runs each morning.
At first, I felt frustrated at the idea of not being able to go for longer runs. But I changed my mindset and soon started to relish these daily five-minute jogs. I go round the block, get some fresh air, feel my heart racing and the endorphins flowing, and return home to my family feeling refreshed.
It also means there’s less of a rush in the mornings. Going for a 1/2-hour run meant leaving my husband to do breakfast with the kids and get them ready. But taking only five minutes means I can help with almost everything before I leave and upon returning. (Lucky him).
Another five-minute exercise I cherish is my quick-dip baths. Every evening, after early dinner with the kids, I run a very hot bubble bath. I get in it for just five minutes, sliding down under the water, feeling goosebumpy from the heat. Then I whack on the cold water to cool it down before they get in with me.
It’s amazing how such a short spurt of ‘me-time’ can be so rejuvenating. Five minutes running in the morning, five minutes of bath-time in the evening. The run gives me energy and sets me up for the day; the bath allows me to relax and de-stress after a busy day.
I think it’s plausible for every parent to find five minutes to dedicate to themselves every day, so asked our Instagram followers what five-minute activities they do that make them feel amazing. Here are some of my favourites (and a few more from me)…
10 ways to make yourself feel amazing (in just five minutes)
veryalmost: I do a mini yoga sequence every day. A bit of downward dog helps me to stretch out first thing.
andersvic: Definitely a little yoga before bed! It helps me stretch out my poor tired body and makes me fall asleep a little easier (until the babe wakes me up).
2. Read a book
freshstartpt: Five mins of a good book before sleep for me. A bit of escapism at the end of a long day!
3. Have a cuddle
southlondontot: I like to give my partner a big cuddle when we get in from work. We each have two days at home with a toddler in the week, which can be tiring – this helps us remember we’re not just parenting machines but people too!
clementineappuk: I focus on my breath for five minutes before I go to bed, using my app – Clementine. It’s like a guided meditation and it helps me to unwind and relax.
southlondontot: Agree on the breathing – I used the Headspace app for ideas on how to meditate.
nicola_emmett: Music has the most calming and uplifting effect on me. Singing along to radio 2 in the morning sets me straight.
6. Go for a jog
Even if it’s just five minutes around the block – slow, fast, whatever you’re comfortable with. Put on your favourite music, or a podcast, and revel in the alone-time. For me, it’s best first thing in the morning but if your partner leaves for work early, evenings are good too.
7. Dress up
If I’m feeling a bit rubbish, spending five minutes deciding on an interesting outfit to wear will always lift my mood. Rather than just putting on leggings and a jumper – comfy, but not hugely exciting – I’ll put on some colourful shoes and a vintage dress or smart trousers.
Food should be a source of nutrition, not used as a mood-lifter (that chocolate brownie will taste delicious but won’t necessarily make you feel great afterwards). However, if you eat the right food at the right time, it can make you feel amazing. A protein ball with peanut butter, seeds and coconut never fails to give me an energy boost.
9. Step outside
Sitting at my computer for hours on end makes me feel lethargic and – eventually – unmotivated. It’s so important to take breaks and for me, fresh air always helps. So I step into the garden for five minutes – listening to the birds. (And sirens. I live in London). It helps me to re-focus.
If my daughter’s in a grump, I turn on one of her favourite songs (currently: My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean – weird, I know) and we dance around the kitchen. That particular song requires contemporary/ballet-style dancing. But she also loves Roxanne – so we put that on and jump and run around. Five minutes of kitchen-dancing makes us both feel great.
Can you think of other five-minute activities that always make you feel amazing?