What does self-care mean to you? For some, it’s a long bubble bath with scented candles and a good book, while others prefer to let off steam in a sweaty fitness session. Whether it’s quiet time you crave or activities to get your pulse racing, try not to set yourself too many rules about what you should and shouldn’t be doing. Otherwise, self-care just feels like another thing to add to the to-do list. It saps the happiness out of it, which is kind of the whole point.
Yes, we are supposed to exercise regularly and eat well to help keep ourselves healthy, but if we’re not enjoying the workouts or the diet food or the other wellness practices, we’re unlikely to stick at them. So instead of thinking in terms of coulda, woulda, shoulda, let’s ask ourselves: will this feel good? We could all do with a little more pleasure in our lives right now, couldn’t we? Here, we look at different self-care habits to help sprinkle some more joy into the day-to-day.
One of the best ways to boost your feelgood vibes is to reconnect with nature. Dress for the weather and head outside on a walk for a bit of exercise, fresh air and vitamin D top up. Bring others along if you’re feeling sociable. “Outdoors-based activities with friends and family can be energising, plus being connected to nature can be uplifting,” says yoga teacher Felicity Wood (felicitywoodyoga.com) Take it one step further and try wild swimming. “I have just started cold-water sea swimming once a week and this is exhilarating and it makes me feel so alive, plus it has so many health benefits,” Felicity tells us. “I do it with a group of women which adds to the joy.” Look for a wild swimming group in your area, never try it alone without proper training.
Take pleasure in cooking nutritious meals. Slow cooked stews, veg-packed soups and warming curries made with love are sure to keep winter blues at bay. Turkey and tofu are good sources of tryptophan, needed for serotonin (aka the feel-good hormone) production. As are salmon and eggs, which also have the added benefit of being rich sources of omega three, which has been linked to improving mood disorders in medical studies*.
Have a lot on your mind? Journaling could be a great habit to get into. Getting thoughts and worries out of your head and onto a page can be really cathartic. Using specific prompts can help you feel more optimistic, too. “I often journal each day using the prompts of: things I am grateful for today; things I am proud of today; things that have brought me joy today; one thing I am looking forward to tomorrow; and win of the week,” Felicity tells us.
Exercise is a surefire way to get an endorphin hit and lift your mood. Even better, find an activity you love to do. “Try to choose fitness activities based on what brings you joy and what nourishes you,” Felicity says. “Do the exercise that makes you feel alive. We often put pressure on ourselves to do activities that focus on a particular goal such as weight-loss or strength, as if the ones we really love don’t count,” she adds. “Actually, if the objective is to have fun, we’re more likely to do the activity more often, so the outcome may actually end up being weight-loss or increased strength without even actually trying.”
Try Felicity’s gratitude meditation to help you feel good right now…
- Find a comfortable position, lying down or seated. Now, close your eyes, or focus your gaze on one spot in front of you.
- Take a moment to observe the feeling of your whole body, however it feels today. Appreciate it, without seeking to change the way it is.
- Repeat aloud or in your head a few times ‘I am grateful for my body’. And as you say this, really try to absorb the phrase, as if you are nourishing your body with your words.
- Take a moment to observe your mind, just as it is. Busy, anxious, focused or still, appreciate the gift of having the ability to think, to empathise, to feel. And repeat, ‘I am grateful for my mind’. Allow the words to sink in.
- Now observe your breath as it is. Take a slow inhale through your nose, and exhale though your mouth. And repeat. Now, say aloud or in your head ‘I am grateful for my breath’. See if you can breathe in the essence of these words as you repeat the phrase.
- Now think of something you’re grateful for. It could be anything positive in your life right now, resist trying to analyse why. Just bring one positive thing to mind and repeat: ‘I am grateful for…’ and name that thing. Allow this sentiment of thanks to be absorbed.
- Now start to call to mind other things you are grateful for, one by one. Feel as if this sentiment of gratitude is igniting a warm light within, and with each positive thing you call to mind, that light is brightening, lighting the way towards the next positive thing. And as the feeling of appreciation grows, the light brightens, filing your body and your mind with a positive glow.
- Sit quietly for a few moments. Take this time to call to mind all the positive things in your life. And sit with this sentiment of gratitude and this feeling of abundance, giving thanks for all that you have and all that you are.
- Take a few deeper breaths and slowly open your eyes.