You’ve probably heard a lot about self-care. It’s become buzzy and trendy and something you can do by having a glass of wine or rose-infused water. Social media trends aren’t always scientifically based, and self-care is neither as simple nor as complicated as its popularity.
Self-care isn’t complicated. Self-care means providing adequate attention to your physical and psychological wellness. It means, in a nutshell, taking a step back from the hustle and bustle of your busy life to actually take care of yourself.
The best self-care is based on concrete good health advice that your grandma would support:
• Eat your veggies.
• Drink water.
• Do some exercise.
• Manage your stress.
• Get enough sleep.
Simple Isn’t the Same as Easy
You probably have a pretty good idea of what you should be doing to take care of yourself, and you probably have pretty good reasons you’re not doing those things. In fact, research suggests that the primary obstacle to improving health is not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of motivation. For instance, consider one study that reported that people trying to lose weight needed help with motivation, not information .
Other research has found that when people give advice, they actually boost their own motivation: 77% of people struggling with anger who coached others on anger management strategies felt more motivated to manage their own anger, and 72% of individuals struggling to lose weight found it more motivating to give weight loss advice than to receive professional advice from a nutritionist ! It’s important to remember that you probably already have a good sense of what you need to do to take care of yourself. What you need is supportive motivation to put that knowledge into action—to turn simple changes into concrete action.
Mindfulness for Self-Care
Mindfulness takes many forms—yoga, meditation, martial arts, etc.—but at its core is a focus on present moment awareness. The point is to be here, now, where you are. Instead of letting your thoughts run around in yesterday (what you did or didn’t do, the people who made you mad) or tomorrow (your to-do list and calendar), you use the practice of mindfulness to center yourself, to anchor your awareness in the present moment. And that has many benefits: Research shows that mindfulness can boost physical health (immune function, neurological functioning of the brain, etc.) and psychological health (reducing depression, anxiety, stress, and even chronic pain) .
As self-care, mindfulness has two primary benefits.
First, it encourages you to slow down and breathe. Mindfulness practice is a great stress management strategy, and research shows that regular mindfulness practice improves sleep quality and helps reduce insomnia .
Second, mindfulness invites you to take better care of yourself across all the other wellness domains. It helps you deal with the emotions that may leave you whirling around in your head, which may affect your motivation to eat well or exercise. For instance, restorative yoga can lead to weight loss, even without dieting or other exercise, just because of the benefits of gentle exercise and improved self-acceptance that mindfulness facilitates .
Your Self-Care Path
Over the next ten days, we’ll focus on concrete, simple strategies that you can use to improve self-care in your daily life. We’ll be working within a mindfulness-based framework, and we’ll review a variety of gentle, easy-to-implement activities that you can use to take better care of yourself. Our overall goal is for you to feel your best and to maintain long-term motivation to keep taking care of yourself.
To get started, do a quick self-reflection. First, jot down what self-care (diet, exercise, rest, stress management, etc.) you have actually done today, this week, and this month. Second, write down the self-care you think you should be doing. Finally, take a moment to reflect on the obstacles (emotional, situational, physical, etc.) that are keeping you from your ideal self-care.
Tomorrow, we’ll tackle those obstacles and help you make self-care a daily reality!
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