September is National Recovery Month & National Suicide Prevention Month. Here at Skye, we believe that means some serious self-love and self care are in order.
Recovery is HARD. You don't have to do this alone. Schedule an appointment with us today, and let's work through this together.
So what is Self Care?
Self care is any deliberate action that is taken to protect or improve our overall well-being.
In other words, self care is the simple act of doing things that make you happy & healthy.
Self care can come in many forms: yoga, meditation, reading, painting, mindfulness activities, and much more. The one distinguishing factor of all self care is that it must be an expression of self compassion and understanding. Sometimes in recovery, self care can manifest in the form of forgiveness and less self criticism. For example, if your body needs rest and sleep, it's okay to take a nap. If your extrovert battery has been fully drained by the events of the week, it's okay to take a Netflix day. It's okay to sacrifice five minutes of getting ready for a nice cuddle with your cat. It's okay to take care of yourself. You deserve it, and your body & mind actually require it. There is so much to be gained from the simple reminder: Be kind to yourself.
So you might be thinking... "I don't have time for self care."
That's understandable. We all get extremely busy sometimes - whether it be work, school, the kids, keeping the house clean - it's totally normal to lose sight of our own mental health. However, what if you were already practicing self care, and you didn't even realize it? What if cooking for the kids is an act of self care because the cooking calms you, and it makes you feel proud and strong to provide for them? What if cleaning the house is an act of self care because it gets you out of your head, gets you moving, and produces an organized space more conducive to your own success? What if "self care" is just a matter of perspective?
We challenge you to seek out self care activities in your own life, all month long. To re-evaluate and re-categorize even the most mundane of activities to become something meaningful. To put purpose and intention behind all your steps, and to keep moving forward, step-by-step, towards a more compassionate, self-loving you. We challenge you to be kind to yourself this month, to recognize all your strengths and talents, and to give yourself credit for all the amazing work you've done so far. You're amazing.
How else can you practice self care?
Recent studies have revealed that two self care activities could contribute to happiness more than anything else: gratitude & savoring.
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is the quality of being thankful and a tendency to show appreciation for what one has.
Most of us associate gratitude with one specific day of the year: Thanksgiving. Ah Thanksgiving, the day of full bellies and gathering around with family to express what we're grateful for.
But why should we limit gratitude to just this one day?
Research shows that regularly focusing on and expressing gratitude has a significant effect on our overall happiness. According to one study, people who wrote out five things they were grateful for each day for one week experienced a better outlook on their life as a whole and for the upcoming week, less negative physical symptoms, and increased time spent exercising. This means that practicing gratitude can actually make us feel better, adopt healthier habits, and even exercise for an additional hour each week. (Emmons & McCullough, 2010)
Another study revealed that simply expressing gratitude for one's partner has the power to nullify the effects of bad things (i.e. bad communication) within a marriage, thereby decreasing one's proneness to divorce. This means that gratitude is an effective intervention to fix relational problems, and can reduce withdrawn behavior and improve communication between married couples. (Barton et Al., 2015)
Perhaps most importantly, gratitude has the ability to actually make us work harder. In 2010, psychologists Adam Grant and Francesca Gino tested people who volunteered to participate in phone fundraising for a university. Half of these fundraisers received gratitude from their superior personally before the start of their shift (For example: "I am very grateful for your hard work. We sincerely appreciate your contributions to the university.") Fundraisers who received gratitude stayed longer to take extra calls and increased their number of calls by 50%. (Grant & Gino, 2010)
So, with all these benefits, it's hard to deny: gratitude is healthy for you. Try practicing gratitude yourself by writing a hand-written thank you letter to someone who has helped you or been especially kind to you. Write out a daily gratitude list with five things you're grateful for. For example, the five things I'm grateful for today are: the new Pumpkin Spice Cold Foam coffee at Starbucks, my dog Ziggy, freshly-washed bed sheets, Lord of the Rings on Netflix, and having the time to sit down and write this blog, because writing is my own unique act of self care. These are all simple things to be grateful for, but each had a profound impact on the positivity of my day, and it's important to give those things credit, too.
What is savoring?
Savoring is the act of stepping outside of an experience to review and appreciate it.
In other words, savoring is being mindful of a delicious or awesome moment.
Savoring might mean taking the extra time to eat your dinner - cutting it up into small, bite-size pieces, feeling the warmth of the food on your tongue, noticing the taste, smells, and textures of your food. Noticing how good a bar of chocolate makes you feel as you eat it. Savoring a dance in your bathroom while you're getting ready. Savoring the process of doing your makeup or walking to work outside in nature. Savoring a nice hug or back massage from your partner. Or savoring your cup of coffee while reading the newspaper in the morning. Savoring a shower or bath by indulging in aromatherapy oils and some calming music.
Savoring can literally mean anything and everything, as long as you're mindful and present in the moment. This is how you can better savor the everyday little things in your own life:
- Talk to another person about how good an experience felt
- Look for other people to share the experience with
- Think about what a lucky person you are
- Think about sharing this later on with others
- Show physical expressions of energy
- Laugh or giggle
- Tell yourself how proud you are
- Think only about the present, be fully absorbed in the moment
Savoring is diminished when you think about what is happening in the future, or other things you should be doing in that moment. Challenge yourself to really remain in this special moment, because you deserve this. Keep your thoughts away from how this experience could be made better, and instead focus on satisfaction rather than deprecation. (Jose et Al., 2012)
It turns out that savoring is really good for your health, too. In one study, people were asked to replay happy memories (i.e. "think of the most fun thing you did this summer") in their minds for eight minutes a day for three days. The participants were encouraged to think of these events "as though you were rewinding a videotape and playing it back." Not surprisingly, at the end of the study, all participants reported feeling happier and more energized. (Lyubomirsky et Al., 2006)
So, why not try savoring something in your own life, starting today? The easy act of indulging in something and expressing gratitude for that moment might have a profound impact on your overall health, happiness, and recovery.
Remember... You've Got This.
Don't give up on yourself, or on your self care. It might feel odd or uncomfortable at first to take care of yourself if you're used to taking care of others. That's okay. Give yourself the time and space to grow, and remember to take it easy on yourself. Life is a journey. Recovery is a journey. And we will be here for you every step of the way.
Written by Erin Donohue, 09/03/2019