Today, self-care is seen as more than manicures, massages, pedicures and long, lavender-scented bubble baths. Which is accurate and true. Because self-care is more. So much more.
Self-care is boundary-setting and feeling our feelings and being honest with ourselves and not engaging in self-destructive behavior, big or small (like turning to wine to escape and numb your heart; refreshing your ex’s Facebook feed over and over and over).
Self-care is seeing a therapist and moving your body in ways that you actually enjoy. Self-care is expressing yourself (through activities such as writing, painting, dancing, creating collages). Self-care is speaking kindly to yourself. Self-care is knowing your needs are important and making it a priority to meet them.
But manicures, massages, pedicures and bubble baths do speak to a pivotal part of self-care that we often forget about: nourishing our senses. I was recently reminded of this while reading Melissa Rosenberg’s piece on the blog for Bella Grace magazine.
This makes sense because we are sensual beings. We navigate the world through our senses.
According to Rosenberg, using self-care to appeal to your senses might look like: hugging a pet; looking at your favorite painting; sipping your favorite tea; breathing in fresh flowers; and listening to the whoosh of ocean waves.
Feeding your senses can even help you care for yourself if you’re struggling with depression (or perhaps many or any serious conditions). Psychologist Deborah Serani, PsyD, who has clinical depression, focuses on nourishing her senses when she feels “depression looming within.” She shared these sense-stirring self-care suggestions: open up the windows to let sunshine soothe you; listen to soft music; and light a candle.
To feed your own senses, take out a piece of paper, and draw five columns. At the top of the page, write a different sense in each column. Then below each sense, list what will nourish and engage it—and actually follow through, and expose your senses to these very things.
For instance, maybe a bowl of extra creamy tomato bisque or an extra sweet, milky cappuccino enlivens your taste buds in the wintertime, so you make it a point to enjoy these more often. Maybe the feel of a wool blanket soothes your sense of touch (and maybe even your soul), so you start wrapping yourself in comfort every night.
Maybe the sound of strings helps you fall asleep, so you listen to 15 minutes of your favorite classical music. Maybe an occasional massage really does relax you, so you make monthly appointments for the next 3 months. Maybe the smell of freezing cold, fresh air restores you, so every morning, you open the window of your bedroom and sit with your coffee. And savor.
Maybe wearing bright colors delights you, so you make a point to wear these on most days. Maybe seeing the sky or the stars or the ocean does, so you spend several minutes (or an hour) looking up and staring. Maybe you start taking walks along the shore. Maybe seeing photos of flowers inspires you, so you decide to purchase beautiful prints on Etsy.
Make this into an active list, and add to it regularly as you realize what other things energize, inspire, calm and captivate your senses. Because we’re constantly changing and evolving. Do this for different seasons, as well.
According to psychologist Rebecca Ray, “Rushing through life waters down our experience. It gives the illusion that we are getting more out of life, but in reality, we are just skimming the surface. Slow down. The richest moments are always the ones that we bathe in completely.”
Let your senses bathe in different wondrous, heartwarming, soothing, delicious things. Supply your senses with what you need—and make sure to take the time to savor these things, to feast on them, to luxuriate in them.
What do your senses need? What sights, scents, sounds, tastes and tactile experiences help you to come alive, to feel uplifted, to feel soothed and relaxed, to feel replenished, to feel sincerely cared for?