By Lisa Paradiso, RD, LD

What is self-care?

Self-Care does not mean “treat yourself”. In fact, self-care is a discipline defined as the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness and preserving or improving one’s own health.

It is about doing things that make us happy, but in a healthful way. Activities that bring immediate joy do not necessarily qualify as self-care, rather things that bring intrinsic happiness and health are the types of habits we want to build. If you are trying to disguise binge-watching Netflix, having a glass of wine, or eating an entire box of Oreo’s as self-care because they bring momentary joy, these behaviors can get out of hand quickly and lead to more discomfort, guilt, or additional stress.

Below are 10 Ideas for Self-Care for Beginners:

  1. Remember there are more aspects to health than appearance alone. Focus on your mental, spiritual, or physical health by adding in a daily stretching routine, meditating, or saying positive things about yourself. Start with journaling one attribute you love about yourself each day.
  2. Be grateful. Make a list of things you are proud of and grateful for and add to that list as ideas pop into your head.
  3. Call an older relative and get new narrative into your life. Not only will they be happy to hear from you which can provide inner joy, but you will have the opportunity to learn more about your family or friends.
  4. Give. Volunteer your time by extending yourself to others in need or donate to a charity that you believe in. This helps bring perspective and can give you feelings of gratefulness. If you do not feel passionately about an organization, give your time to friends and family by calling someone you haven’t spoken to in awhile or doing something nice for someone you love.
  5. Listen to music, and really feel it. Music is a powerful language that speaks directly to the soul if you select the right melody that relates to you. Spend time focusing on how the tone of your favorite song makes you feel, or choose an upbeat song that lifts your spirits.
  6. Learn something new. Take up a new language, draw, color in an adult coloring book, read a book, learn to play an instrument, complete a difficult puzzle, or write in a journal. The idea is to get your creative juices flowing and help you feel pride in something you’ve accomplished. There is always more to learn about yourself – so jump out of your comfort zone and try something new that might be a bit intimidating.
  7. Spend time filling out the modules in the Livea guide book. This book is full of great information and is designed to help you engage with your Livea program and learn about your goals and motivators.
  8. Be patient with yourself. We are always our worst critics, but being nice to yourself and understanding that mistakes are a great learning opportunity can help improve your psychological well being and improve your overall health. If you are finding that you are saying mean things to yourself, think about what a mentally healthy response would look like, and turn it around. My personal favorite is “it’s okay”.
  9. Positivity isn’t only for cheerleaders and camp counselors! If you intentionally try to turn negative thoughts into positive ones, it will increase your happiness. If this is too difficult, at least try to give positive thoughts the same amount of energy as negative thoughts.
  10. Find an escape. Read a good book, do yoga, walk outside, or bring yourself to your happy place when times get tough. When I am stressed, I imagine I am sitting on a warm beach with a light breeze. I focus on the feelings of the sun touching my skin and the sound of ocean waves. This brings immediate peace. Practice finding your happy place and bring yourself there when you are stressed. It can be the forest, a lake, a tropical island, or any place you decide feels like paradise.

The brain is not designed to create happiness. It is designed to keep you safe and has protective measures in place to ensure your safety. This includes the stress response, starvation mode, hunger, etc. Because physiology makes it VERY difficult to practice self-care, we must take an active role and participate in behaviors that elicit happiness.

I hope this is a valuable tool to promote thoughts around wellness and happiness. Remember to take care of yourself just as you would a loved one.