Self-care is not a new phenomenon, but it is certainly becoming more frequently discussed among friends, family and throughout the internet. But, what does self-care event mean?
Before defining it, it’s important for everyone to understand that self-care can look completely different from one individual to the next. It is not a one size fits all practice, but it is something that everyone should take time to do.
By definition, self-care is purposefully doing an activity of sorts that tends to our mental and emotional well-being. It’s not a very hard concept to grasp, but sometimes it is hard for people to take time for it.
Self-care can be something that is a part of your daily routine, like going to the gym. It can also be something that happens every once in a while, like taking yourself to the movies or going on vacation. Really, your self-care routine should be a combination of both regular activities in your schedule and things that are considered “treats” for yourself.
What Does Self-Care Look Like
As previously mentioned, self-care won’t look the same for everyone. And that’s okay, it shouldn’t. People have different hobbies, preferences, and personalities, all of which play a part in figuring out what self-care activities work best for you.
Here are a couple of simple but effective ways to start purposefully practicing self-care:
1. Write In A Journal or Read A New Book
Journaling your daily thoughts is a tool that many therapists actually recommend. It may not seem like a big deal to you at first but having an outlet to express how your day went and write how you felt about what occurred during that day can provide a great sense of relief. LARKR’s free “My Story” feature allows you to keep a journal that tracks your daily moods so that you can reflect on how you felt throughout the day and the week. If writing everyday sounds too overwhelming for you, start with journaling once a week.
Another good outlet for your mind is to pick up the habit of reading. There are so many different genres of books to fit different personalities. Whether you’re into reading thriller or self-help novels, start a new book and consider journaling every time you read it, to reflect on how you feel about what you read.
2. Spend Some Time Outdoors
Who said playing outside is only for kids? Studies have shown that moderate sun exposure can improve your mood, improve your sleep, lower your blood pressure and even strengthen your immune system.
Whether you practice an outdoor sport, go for a walk, or read outside at the park, going outside to enjoy the sun with the intention of putting your mind in a better state is a great form of self-care.\
3. Practice Guided Meditation
Meditation can be defined in many ways, but it is generally referred to as a moment in which you choose to focus on one thing to help ease your mind. Just taking 5-10 minutes out of your day to close your eyes and focus on your breathing is a great way to introduce yourself to meditation. The LARKR app provides free guided meditations that are catered towards the needs of youth and adults. Guided meditations are extremely helpful because you can listen to soothing sounds or a calming voice that provides you with suggestions for things to focus on. Some people will use meditation to focus on an affirmation or to set an intention and theme for the day. Whatever you chose to focus on, make sure it is something positive and relaxing for you.
4. Listen To Your Favorite Music
Music can be used as a powerful tool in mental healing and relaxation. Scientists have actually proven that listening to music helps reduce anxiety, increase empathy with others and even provide pain relief and increase functional mobility. Yes, music can help to physically aid your body as well. Whether you play music while you’re getting ready for work or while you’re cleaning on the weekend, it is definitely recommended to regularly include it in your self-care regimen.
5. Know When To Say “No.”
Sometimes one of the simplest ways of taking care of ourselves comes in the form of knowing when to tell people “No.” We often stretch ourselves thin trying to please everyone around us. However, it’s important to know that as much as we try, we can’t always do it all. Telling people that you are unavailable or uninterested in doing something when you need time to yourself to regroup is perfectly fine.
It’s better to take time out for yourself and tell other people no than to regretfully tell people yes and not be able to fully enjoy the moment or give your 100%.
Separating Self-Care from Poor Vices and Bad Habits
Aside from understanding how and why self-care looks different from everyone, it’s equally important to not to confuse an activity for self-care when it could really be a bad vice or habit.
Life can be hard, really hard. There are a lot of pressures in the world, unfortunate events and other things that can add on pressure daily. Oftentimes when having a stressful day or experiencing a traumatic event, some people gravitate towards excessive use of alcohol, drug abuse, or other vices.
It is extremely critical that activities such as these should be taken seriously. Take a moment to think about what has happened, how you feel, and why what happened is making you want to do this activity. Recognizing that these are bad vices is a great first step. Once you’re able to recognize that these coping mechanisms are actually hindering your growth and not helping the situation that you are in, think about other things you like to do that are far less likely to put yourself or others in harm.
Try finding new habits or hobbies that will keep your mind distracted from slipping back into the bad ones. If you try a new hobby and it doesn’t work for you, that’s okay! Try a new one until you find what works.
Ultimately, if your self-care involves doing something that positively impacts your mental health and doesn’t pose a threat to yourself or others, go for it!