How to Practice Self-Love and Self-Care Every Day
This year, why not make a commitment to give yourself a little extra love? Most of us could benefit from paying more attention to what we need ourselves in order to create a thriving, joyful life.
We’re not just talking about roses and bubble baths—although those are good, too! However, there are more sustainable self-care practices that can be incorporated into your daily routines and create significant increases in well-being.
But first, it’s essential to realize that self-care isn’t selfish.
Why Self-Care Isn’t Selfish
Too often, we tell ourselves that we don’t have enough time for self-care. Moreover, we might even feel guilty about taking time out to focus on our own needs.
That’s especially true if you’re a parent or caretaker. And that feeling may be heightened if your loved one is facing mental or physical health challenges.
But self-care is not only the most important thing you can do for yourself, it’s also the best way to stay strong so you can care for others. When we’re stressed, burnt out, and overscheduled, we don’t have the resources we need to be there for other people in our life.
Here are some ways to practice self-care every day of the year.
Listen to Your Body
In the midst of our busy routines, it’s easy to lose touch with what we need on the most basic level. Sleep and nutrition are essential pillars of health and wellness. Therefore, we need to ask ourselves the simple question: Am I getting enough rest and nourishment?
Furthermore, moving our bodies is particularly important. It’s good for our physical health, and it also benefits our mental health. In fact, exercise increases the body’s production of endorphins, the brain’s “feel good” chemicals.
According to the American Psychological Association, exercise forces the body’s physiological systems to communicate much more closely than usual. As a result, the body is more efficient in responding to stress.
Moreover, doing a physical activity you enjoy increases feelings of accomplish and self-confidence. Therefore, it’s a great tool in your self-care kit.
Weave Mindfulness Into Your Day
Learning to slow down and appreciate each moment, rather than rushing through one task after the next, is a game changer. Therefore, take the time to notice your experience instead of getting caught up in thoughts of the past or worries about the future. Consequently, you’re recharging your spiritual and emotional batteries.
Mindfulness practice supports you in looking at the world with fresh eyes—seeing “the miraculous in the common,” as Ralph Waldo Emerson put it.
Here are three ways you can incorporate mindfulness into your life so it becomes part of your daily routine.
- Conscious breathing: Before you brush your teeth in the morning and at night, take three slow, deep breaths. You can also do this at other moments of your day, such as when you’re stopped at a red light or while you’re waiting in line.
- Body scan: When you get in bed at night or before you get out of bed in the morning, do a body scan. Specifically, send your attention to each part of the body, starting with the toes and moving up to the head, and focus on the sensations you feel in each area. Relax the muscles in each area of the body before moving on to the next.
- Activate your senses: While you’re walking the dog, waiting at the bus stop, or walking from your car to your workplace, observe and savor what’s around you. Additionally, pay attention to the way the air feels, what you see nearby and in the distance, and the sounds you hear. Tune in to what is beautiful and interesting in your environment.
Ask for Help
Don’t try to be a superhero. In other words, give yourself permission to ask for and receive help.
Be willing to let go of what you think you “should” do on your own. As a result, your well-being will go up.
To figure out what you can take off your plate, ask yourself this question:
What are three things on your to-do list right now that you could ask for help with, let go of, or delegate?
Seek Authentic Connection
Self-care includes spending time with people you trust who listen to you, care about you, and make you feel good about yourself. Therefore, create your own support network, including family, peers, guidance counselors, and/or mentors.
Multiple studies have shown that relationships improve mental and physical health. Thus, the more connected we feel with others, the more resilient and positive we are.
“Authentic connection begins when we reveal our true self to another person,” says Heather Senior Monroe, MSW, LCSW, Director of Program Development at Newport Academy. “This means that we are honest and direct with our feelings, we practice active listening, and we speak truth in a respectful manner.”
This type of authentic connection can truly nourish your spirit and soul.
Another powerful self-care practice is self-compassion. While we often focus on building self-esteem, self-compassion might be even more helpful in the long run.
“Self-compassion involves being kind to ourselves when life goes awry or we notice something about ourselves we don’t like, rather than being cold or harshly self-critical,” says researcher and psychology professor Kristin Neff.
Neff’s research has found that people who are compassionate to themselves are much less likely to be depressed, anxious, and stressed. Furthermore, they are much more likely to be happy, resilient, and optimistic about their future. That’s a gift worth giving yourself!
Because we spend so much time rushing around and responding to technological stimuli, our nervous systems are in constant “fight or flight” mode. To counteract this, we need to consciously activate the parasympathetic nervous system. As a result, the heart rate drops, blood pressure falls, and the breath becomes slower and deeper.
Here are two relaxation techniques that move us from “fight or flight” to “rest and digest.”
- Lie on a comfortable surface.
- Start by tensing the muscles in your toes.
- Keep them tensed for about five seconds, and then consciously relax those muscles.
- Relax the entire body for 30 seconds.
- Next, tense your foot, hold for about five seconds, and release. Relax for 30 seconds.
- Continue working your way upward, tensing each area of the body for a few seconds, releasing, and then letting your whole body relax.
- Picture a place that you find particularly relaxing, such as a beach, a house you feel especially comfortable in, or a beautiful garden.
- Visualize how this place looks, sounds, and smells. Imagine the temperature and how the air feels on your skin. Is there a soft breeze blowing? Do you hear seagulls calling?
- Breathe slowly and deeply as you focus on the sensations and the positive feelings that the image conjures up.
J Health Soc Behav. 2010; 51(Suppl): S54–S66.
Hum Dev. 2009 Jun; 52(4): 211–214.