The term “self-care” has been floating around for several years. It may bring to mind a picture of a bubble bath, a favorite dessert, or a glass of wine. These can be forms of self-care if de-stressing is the goal, but self-care also means doing things to take care of our minds and bodies by engaging in activities that promote well-being. When you practice self-care, you wake up the next morning feeling better and positive about what you did (or didn’t) do.
Self-care is any action or behavior that helps a person avoid health problems. Within the context of health, self-care involves a healthy diet, exercise, sleep, and a healthy relationship with work. In addition to these generally healthy lifestyle choices, other forms of self-care like practicing gratitude and doing random acts of kindness for other people lead to increased happiness and well-being.
Acts of self-care may center around individual wellness, but interaction with other people can have a significant positive impact. Humans are communal beings, so social connections are a key aspect of self-care. Our brain may tell us that going out for a drink with a friend after work isn’t what we want to do because we’re tired or mentally drained, but often that social interaction will boost our mood. Connecting with others to participate in meaningful activities is also beneficial. Giving money to a charity is valuable, but gathering a group to donate time by volunteering at a charity event will be more impactful to our own wellness. It incorporates connection with others and the feel-good sensation of doing purposeful work.
Another form of self-care that has risen in popularity in recent years is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaged with what we’re doing in the moment. It isn’t about clearing our mind of all thoughts, but rather being aware of our thoughts and feelings and sitting with them. Every moment can be approached with mindfulness, even the simple act of taking one deep breath and consciously relaxing the shoulders. Mindfulness takes different forms, but the idea is to find stillness – prayer, yoga, meditation, whatever that means to you.
Building on the idea of mindfulness is the concept of savoring. Savoring is the act of stepping outside of an experience to review and appreciate it. This could be a shower, a delicious meal, a walk outdoors, or any experience that you really enjoy. Techniques to enhance savoring include sharing the experience with another person, thinking about how lucky you are to enjoy such an amazing moment, or keeping a souvenir of that activity. The key to savoring is to be present in the moment and truly enjoy the experience. Taking intentional actions to enjoy life is a foundation to self-care and overall happiness.
Many resources are available on self-care, but it’s important to find what works for you and your life. No matter what self-care looks like, intentionality is essential. The essence of self-care is to be kind to yourself so you can be present, energetic, and available to others. You can’t pour from an empty cup.