Whether you are starting a new job, digging into a new volunteer project, or have become a new parent, the new year is a great time to cultivate an intention of radical self-care.
It might feel impossible to take a few moments to fill up your “well” or to find a little “me time”. Especially if you are a new parent, like I am, “me time” may seem like a distant memory.
It can help to remember that self-care is not selfish. In fact, self-care isn’t just important; it’s critical.
Why is self-care so important?
Self-care is an important part of stress management. As we all know, a little bit of stress is okay, but chronic stress can cause major health problems. Self-care breaks this ongoing cycle of stress.
Self-care can also make us more effective, focused, and energetic, and can ward off a variety of health issues.
Okay, so what is self-care?
The type of self-care I am talking about here goes way beyond “go get a pedicure or massage” or other pampering suggestions made by so many well-meaning folks. These “quick fix” ideas are more focused on a reward, so they’re just not useful as a long-term solution.
As an alternative to the “quick fix” approach, I advocate for a mindfulness-based approach to self-care.
Mindfulness-based self-care is about having a few simple practices and habits that build a foundation for long-term stamina, grit, and resilience. It’s about creating a set of tools to have in your back pocket that you can use whenever you need to.
This type of self-care keeps your well filled up, so you can nourish not only yourself but also others in your life such as your children, friends, family members, employees, or clients.
Here are three powerful ways to use mindfulness for radical self-care:
- Practice self-compassion.
“There is nothing more important on your spiritual path than developing gentleness to oneself.”
~ Pema Chödrön
One powerful form of self-care is to practice self-compassion. To do this we must develop gentleness toward ourselves. We must nurture ourselves as we would a beloved child.
Instead of judging and criticizing ourselves for our various shortcomings, we can be understanding when confronted with personal failings. Sure, we all have goals we would like to meet; yet we can still be kind to ourselves as we move toward those goals. Embrace your life in all its imperfections and messiness. Remember that we are all figuring it out every day.
The best way to do this is to monitor the self-defeating and critical thoughts in your head. When you notice that all-too-familiar critical voice in your head, in that moment, start to list out a few things you like about yourself instead. You can choose to not let the critical thoughts get in the way and move on.
- Get outside and savor your surroundings.
There’s a reason we’re often told to stop and smell the roses. It is so easy to forget the present moment and to get lost in our thoughts, worries, or future plans.
A simple walk outside in nature can release stress and calm our nerves. Research suggests it can also make us feel more alive.
Getting outside and savoring your natural surroundings is a simple but effective form of mindfulness-based self-care. So make it a habit to get outside often for a walk. While you’re outside, make sure to notice the warmth of the sun on your skin, the breeze on your cheeks, the sound of the nearby creek or birds chirping, and so on.
If you can turn something like your morning commute into a mindful ritual, you can start the day feeling replenished.
- Practice gratitude.
Gratitude is a radical form of self-care. Sometimes it’s important to remind ourselves with a simple mantra: “I am enough. I have enough. I am grateful for what I have in my life now.”
Take time to reflect on, or to write down in a journal, all of the small things that happened to you each day that you appreciated and felt grateful for.
What we focus on grows. As you take note of the simple joys and victories in your life, notice how more of these types of moments flourish.
Mindfulness-based self-care doesn’t need to be overwhelming or complicated, but it does need to happen. You can only help others to the extent that you help yourself.
I hope these simple practices help you kick-start your radical self-care habits today and provide a foundation for you all year long.
May you be be healthy. May you be be happy. May you be well.
Cheers to the New Year!