Monday, February 17, 2014

4 Ways to Make Self-Care a Regular Practice

In our go-go-go society, it’s easy to let self-care fall to the wayside. What might change if we think of it as a practice?

Hand holds paintbrush on abstract painting

In our go-go-go society, it’s easy to let self-care fall to the wayside. But self-care is important. I define self-care as any activity that connects you to yourself and vitality. This could be a creative hobby like painting, singing or dancing, exercising, meditation, intentional breathing, time in nature, eating more vegetables — the list goes on and on.

What might change if we think of self-care as a practice? Like learning to ride a bike or play a musical instrument, self-care requires commitment and repetition. Plus, calling it practice takes the emphasis off of being perfect. Can you recall how you first had to ride a tricycle and then a bike with training wheels before you graduated to a two-wheeled bike without assistance? Once you got the hang of riding a bike, suddenly it was easy.

To help you develop a successful practice of self-care, consider the following the following ideas.

  1. Pick an activity that restores and re-energizes you. Think of a time in your life when you were most vital and connected to yourself and others. Recall what activities or practices you had at that time.
  2. Plan ahead. How might you build such an activity in your life on a daily basis? Envision what time of day and setting would allow you to practice. What might be some barriers to your practice and how can you avoid such pitfalls?
  3. Early on, set goals you can achieve. Then gradually move to more challenging goals. For example, if your self-care practice is to spend time outdoors, start with just 15 minutes 5 times a week. Setting achievable goals will make you more likely to accomplish them. That promotes continued success.
  4. Record a journal or keep a calendar of your self-care practice. On days you practice, note what felt different. On days you miss, write down why you skipped. Keeping a journal will promote accountability and help reinforce the benefits of your self-care practice.

With practice, self-care will become a habit. Over time, your practice of self-care will affect other facets of your life. And instead of getting crowded out, self-care will become second nature.

— By Jessica Hancock, naturopathic doctor and resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health

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