There are many ways to take great care of ourselves. Because self-care is multidimensional and multilayered and very personal. Some days self-care is taking a day off and savoring some pampering. Some days self-care is sitting down to watch TV while taking long, deep breaths. Sometimes, self-care is reading a book for hours. Sometimes, self-care is going on a solo retreat. Sometimes, self-care is getting up early, and sometimes, it’s sleeping in.
How we care for ourselves will differ depending on our needs. But there are some habits that are foundational to meaningful self-care.
Below are seven such habits, which come from the book How to Be a Better Person: 400+ Simple Ways to Make a Difference in Yourself—and the World by Kate Hanley, an author, yoga teacher and personal development coach.
Identify your triggers. Pay attention to the times you get super upset, the kind of upset that doesn’t fade right away, the kind of upset that doesn’t match the size of the situation. Pay attention to what fear, hurt or resentment is being triggered. According to Hanley, “When you can recognize which button is getting pushed, it will help you respond thoughtfully to the current situation and may point toward an old wound that deserves some attention.”
Let your triggers serve as healthy reminders. Hanley suggests using emotional triggers as reminders to do something nice for ourselves—such as taking several deep breaths, going to a favorite place or making an appointment with a therapist.
Seek and savor solitude. Connecting to others is a powerful way to care for ourselves. But it’s just as important to connect to ourselves. As Hanley writes, spending time alone helps you reconnect to your own thoughts, feelings and wants. Make time to be alone. Schedule your solitude, if that helps. This might look like taking a stroll around the park or your favorite bookstore. This might mean being at home and practicing a guided meditation. This might mean listening to music and writing.
Declutter your mind. A great way to do this is to journal. Hanley suggests challenging yourself to write nonstop for 10 minutes. “Even if all you write is ‘I don’t know what to say,’ it will help declutter your mind.” There’s something incredibly liberating about releasing the murky thoughts floating inside your mind. Once you do write down your thoughts, she also suggests asking these questions: “What do I need in this particular moment?” or “Where do I want to go from here?”
Identify how your feelings feel. Tune into where you’re feeling your feelings and what they actually feel like. For instance, maybe when you’re sad, you experience a tightness in your throat and a burning in your chest. Maybe when you’re anxious, you experience a fluttery feeling in your stomach. Feeling our feelings “is the best way to help them move along,” Hanley writes. It’s the best way to honor them, and to honor yourself.
Reflect on your broken record. What we tell ourselves shapes our worldview, according to Hanley. It shapes who we are and who we become. Pay attention to what you tell yourself over and over. Pay attention to what you tell yourself about yourself, about your capabilities or lack thereof, about your worth or lack thereof. Pay attention to what you say about others, about what you have and don’t have, about how life works.
Adopt a kinder voice. Notice what your inner voice sounds like. Then adopt a more compassionate, curious, understanding, patient voice. “How would Glinda the Good Witch talk to you? Or your dog? Or your best friend?” Hanley writes. “Choose whose guidance you want to internalize and give yourself an alternative to the same old meanie.”
Self-care is many things. But, ultimately, it is identifying and exploring our needs and emotions. Ultimately, it is treating ourselves with kindness and compassion. And it is from this nurturing, positive place that we do everything, navigating both the biggest and smallest decisions of our lives.