Although we aren’t taught how to love ourselves, we all possess a need for self-compassion and self-love. Clever marketing and consumerism, however, have convinced us that self-love and self-care come at a cost, and if we pay enough and get the right things, we will somehow love ourselves more.
We cannot deny that some purchases, such as facemasks, spa days, and salon visits, make us feel good about ourselves, and there is nothing wrong with this. The problem arises, however, when we think that this is all we can do to show ourselves love.
Explore these self-care practices below and learn how you can incorporate them into your lifestyle.
Even though the term is used frequently (and sometimes a little flippantly), asking the question, “What is self-care?” is not as absurd as it seems.
Google searches for “self-care” yield hundreds of tools for every budget that can be delivered in the next 48 hours, leading us to the mistaken belief that self-care and self-love can be bought and gained instantly. Astoundingly, online searches for “self-care” soared by 250% during Covid-19.
The act of real self-care, however, goes beyond simple purchases. It is more meaningful and cannot be bought and sold.
True self-care is about finding ways to support and care for yourself every day.
It’s important to recognise that true self-care varies from person to person and can be whatever reconnects you to yourself amidst all the noise of the outside world.
To us, self-care is a constant coming home to oneself – a need to return to and connect with who we really are – pure awareness and love – and the present moment so that we can live our lives more and more from that space, rather than from the ego.
Real self-care is simple. But it can be challenging because we need to prioritise it amongst everything else in our lives.
And although self-care should be simple, it can’t always be achieved instantly. It takes time, regular introspection, self-awareness, and being mindful of your own needs.
Setting boundaries, although sometimes uncomfortable, is important because they indicate to others what we will and will not allow into our lives.
Oftentimes we feel as if we have no control over our lives. Like things are just happening to us and we have no influence over them.
When we begin to work with boundaries, we realise that we do have agency and control over our lives and that setting boundaries is a small part of the bigger picture of accountability.
It’s true that we cannot control every aspect of our lives, but having clear boundaries helps us (and others) recognise where one could take ownership and responsibility to have a more desired outcome.
“Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom. Taking responsibility for my life opens up many different options. Boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out. Setting boundaries inevitably involves taking responsibility for your choices. You are the one who makes them. You are the one who must live with their consequences. And you are the one who may be keeping yourself from making the choices you could be happy with. We must own our own thoughts and clarify distorted thinking.” – Henry Cloud, Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, to Take Control of Your Life
The practice of meditation brings about a sense of calm and peace. By simply allowing ourselves to be still and listening to the sound of our own breath, we bring ourselves into the present moment.
Many people tend to overthink the act of meditation.
Common thoughts we all grapple with when taking our seat to meditate are…
“How long does this take?”
“This will be easy!”
“I can’t stop thinking, so this is obviously not working!”
Sitting down to meditate with an expectation of the outcome only ends up disappointing us because most of the time the act of meditation is challenging.
Challenging but simple.
Success in meditation comes from consistent sitting, closing your eyes and bringing your attention to your breath. Keeping your awareness on your breath even when the mind inevitably starts to distract you, is where the magic of meditation lies.
It is the rewiring of the impulse to stop and discontinue the practice when the mind gets distracted.
In our daily lives, we deal with millions of distractions, interruptions and challenges. If we can bring ourselves to a place where we take a breath before reacting to a situation or losing our train of thought or momentum when distracted, then our mediation practice is working.
When we focus on our breath and allow ourselves to soften our bodies, oftentimes the noise in our mind starts to move to the periphery or even quietens to silence.
The more we invite meditation into our lives, the more our brains are rewired to create this sense of calm throughout other areas of our lives.
In yoga, more than the physical asana we practice is a much larger focus on the mind and the breath.
Yoga, no matter which style you favour, is a moving meditation that, much like traditional meditation, brings your mind back to the present moment through connection of the breath and movement and awareness of the body.
Many yoga classes also incorporate ancient yoga philosophy or some form of messaging which, when posed during a class, affords us the opportunity to reflect and inspect.
Effects of a regular yoga practice include…
~ Decrease in symptoms of stress and anxiety
~ Increased self-awareness through observation of our thoughts
~ Improved emotional balance by calming the nervous system
~ Better self-esteem and belief in oneself
~ Connect with like-minded individuals in a safe environment
To mention a few.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”. – Mahatma Gandhi
Frequently we are so consumed in our own day-to-day struggles, unable to see anything beyond them.
Acts of kindness, such as lending a helping hand, empathetic ear or shoulder to cry on shift our focus away from ourselves and onto others. Despite our own personal problems, acknowledging that we are not alone and choosing to help others can lift the spirits and lighten our load.
As well as being kind to others, we can also be kind to ourselves. Being kind involves refraining from criticizing and negative talk in favour of a more understanding and kind approach.
Start being kinder to yourself by showing compassion and patience when difficulties arise. Remind yourself that you are only human and that you are making progress every day, little by little.
As with others, be of service to yourself.
You do not need to always be on. Read that again.
As a people, we have sadly decided that to always be busy is best, with most people unable to sit still for even a moment.
Hours spent on computers or mobile phones have made it difficult to spend time alone, or in nature and to reconnect with ourselves without the beeping and pinging from our devices.
You may want to try one of the following if you are feeling frazzled and overwhelmed…
When you truly disconnect from all the noise and things that keep your mind busy, you are able to hear your innermost thoughts and feel your feelings.
It’s also a great reset for the nervous system, and leaves you more energised and positive, ready to go again when you need to.
Science has proven that we can alter our brain’s chemistry by actively choosing gratitude over negative feelings or feelings of lack.
Gratitude has the capacity to increase important neurochemicals. When thinking shifts from negative to positive, there is a surge of feel-good chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin.
These all contribute to the feelings of closeness, connection and happiness that come with gratitude.
As you move through your day, feeling a sense of gratitude and love for the small (often seemingly unimportant) things can be transformative. For example, gratitude for your cup of tea or coffee in the morning, noticing the song of a bird, the gentle caress of the breeze against your skin, the kind smile of a colleague at work, or how a song or piece of music makes you feel, the purr of your cat or excited bark of your dog.
The more you are able to notice and feel gratitude for the small things that make up your day, the more you understand that life is always full and now and not simply a string of separate events that bring you temporary highs and leave you wanting more.
At the end of each day, perhaps take just 5 minutes to journal 3 things you are grateful for that happened that day.
Even if you are not someone who likes to journal, taking a few minutes each day to jot down your thoughts allows time to reflect on the everyday goings-on inside our minds.
The act of writing things down almost lightens the load on the mind – unburdening the brain from incessant thought and rumination.
There is no right way to journal, only the way that works best for you.
Write or draw whatever you like, keep it simplistic and don’t worry about censoring your feelings or perfect penmanship.
It’s for your eyes and thoughts only.
It’s important to remember that real self-care is developed and cultivated over time. It is not always comfortable. It doesn’t always feel good (especially at first). But it is necessary because it is good for us. Only we can truly give ourselves the love we need. And the most important love is the love you give to yourself.
If you are someone who hesitates at the thought of prioritising yourself, remember that when we care for ourselves we are able to better care for others.
Which self-care practices do you think should be added to this list?
If your self-care practice needs a boost, why not join our Yoga for Self-Love class every Tuesday with us? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
And if you’re one for quotes or mantras, why not check out our blog on 24 Self-Love Quotes (for when you need a reminder).