What is SELF-CARE?

Self-care can broadly be defined as personal health maintenance undertaken with the intention of improving or restoring health, or treating or preventing disease. I’d like to add the purpose of ‘flourishing’ to this definition and to promote the notion of thinking broader than just nourishing physical health.

When we think about practices to sustain good health and wellbeing, the most common themes are good nutrition, exercise, relaxation, sleep, hygiene, minimizing health hazards like caffeine, alcohol, and all of these are valuable, helpful elements to consider. Less often considered are those things that directly enhance psychological functioning – the things that alter how we perceive the world, our place in it and the quality of our interactions with other people.

In addition to caring for your body and nourishing your insides, I’d like to take an introductory look at some of the self-care tools that make you happier by nurturing your mental, emotional, social and spiritual bodies!

Your self-care ritual can then be about promoting thoughts, actions and behaviours that allow you to flourish on all levels of your being. It is something that you commit to just as you would commit to a physical exercise routine (I think of it as my “mental fitness routine”), something that you integrate into everyday life, not just in response to life’s challenges.

Just as taking regular physical exercise boosts your strength and stamina, your regular mental fitness routine better prepares you for when unfortunate events occur.  It boosts your emotional resilience which will help you cope and recover quicker from periods of acute stress. These self-care rituals become even more important during times of crisis.

12 Strategies to boost happiness:

In her groundbreaking book, The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky describes twelve positive psychology strategies that have been tried and tested by rigorous scientific research. For the purpose of stimulating broader thinking about how you can nurture yourself I will list these strategies and give an example of each. If these give you inspiration, consider booking in for a coaching session to gain a deeper understanding of each strategy with specific exercises tailored to suit your personality, strengths, what you find intrinsically enjoyable and to match your current circumstances. I have a series of articles exploring each strategy in greater depth currently in the pipeline. Get in touch if this interests you!

  1. Cultivate gratitude – write a letter of gratitude to someone you haven’t thanked properly, deliver it to them in person, ask them to read it in your presence and discuss your responses to it together.
  2. Cultivate optimism – identify automatic pessimistic thoughts and consider ways to reinterpret the situation and then generate more optimistic alternatives.
  3. Avoid overthinking and social comparison – simple question to ask yourself: “Will this matter in year?” and if yes, “What does this experience teach you”?
  4. Practice acts of kindness – offer to do some kind of voluntary work or community service.
  5. Nurture social relationships – understand and put to good use the “Losada ratio”, for relationships to flourish, in your communication you need a ratio of five positive statements for each negative statement.
  6. Develop coping skills – try journal writing or conversing with a friend to construe meaning or define how you have grown in response to specific times of stress or adversity.
  7. Learn to forgive – remind yourself like a daily prayer of forgiveness, or every time a bitter thought arises turn it into something benevolent and compassionate.
  8. Seek experiences of ‘flow’ – this is a sense of being so absorbed in a task that you lose the concepts of time and self. Look for opportunities to experience flow in your week and try to balance your leisure time between decompression and activities you experience flow in.
  9. Savour positive experiences – replay mentally a really happy event, don’t analyse it, just replay it and revel in it.
  10. Commit to your goals – set some goals concerning your wellbeing, something just to nurture you.
  11. Practice spirituality or religion – seek the sacred in everyday life, develop new eyes to see the divine. Even if you’re not religious as such, enjoy being reverent to whatever feeds your soul.
  12. Take care of body and soul – try meditation by sitting for 5 mins to begin with, either focusing on an object, sound, phrase or your breath, contemplating something uplifting and personally meaningful to you such as a quality or something spiritual, or practice choiceless awareness.

Next week, tips on designing your Self-Care Ritual with a special focus on suggestions for surviving periods of acute stress. If you can’t wait that long, give me a call and book in for a session.

Love to all, Suz xxx

Reference: For a great summary of positive psychology strategies to boost happiness and wellbeing, I highly recommend “The How of Happiness. A Practical Guide to Getting the Life You Want” by Sonja Lyubormirsky

Suzy is available for counselling, coaching and private yoga sessions at her consulting room in Cammeray, Sydney, home visits, coaching via phone or skype, and ‘walk & talk’ sessions by appointment.

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