"Self-care isn't about taking extraordinary measures to pamper yourself or extraordinary amounts of time set aside for just you. Everyday we do things that bring us a certain amount of joy, and we may not recognize these small acts of kindness to ourselves as self-care."
More Than the Extraordinary
Self-care isn't about taking extraordinary measures to pamper yourself or extraordinary amounts of time set aside for just you. Everyday we do things that bring us a certain amount of joy, and we may not recognize these small acts of kindness to ourselves as self-care. I've recently been plagued by a lack of joy. Maybe it's the time of year. Maybe it's because I feel like I've been putting everyone else first. Maybe it's just a low to make the highs feel higher. Whatever it is, I decided to take a respite from only noticing the ways I'm lacking joy, and instead turned this into a challenge to notice the ordinary things I am already doing that make me feel less stressed, more refreshed, renewed, and changed.
Create a Morning Mindset
Most mornings, for a few moments in a quiet space, I set an intention for my day. Speak kindly. Be patient. Don't worry about time. Through this, I've found a steady, calm mind is a gift we can give ourselves everyday. Listen to yourself breathe, take the deepest breath you can and count how long it takes to feel like you can't get one sip more. Release it slowly, counting the same number of breaths it took to bring it in. Let it go until there is nothing left. The breath is the most important gift we are given, it gives us life. Taking time to notice the life within us brings us closer to understanding our relationship to everything around us. It's something we all have in common, and can never take for granted.
There is a yogic philosophy that reminds us in this life we don't truly own anything, everything in our possession is being borrowed until we pass it on for another's purpose. Having too many things to take care of causes a lot of stress for many people and they don't even notice it's happening. Clearing our mind of the need for so many possessions and then taking the time to move them along to serve another purpose is a wonderful way to practice self-care in an ordinary way. The things we wear, decorate with, and use to communicate don't define us. When we are stripped of all of our worldly possessions we can see we are all equal, the same. We have very few needs, yet the things we've accumulated often cause us to need another thing, create another expense, and rob us of another moment we might otherwise spend closer to nature, to the earth, to our families, and to ourselves. Declutter a closet, a drawer, or just pass along something of meaning to someone who will appreciate the significance. Share the story of the item, and let it go, onto it's next life.
To me, there is little that holds my attention longer than envisioning something and bringing it to life. Our minds are creative energy sources capable of seeing things that don't exist. A beautiful painting, a delicious meal, or a perfectly placed vase of fresh flowers can bring joy to us and be shared with others around us. We all have gifts to see things differently and we should not be afraid to allow our unique gifts to become an expression of our joy. Let go of fear of judgement or failure, those things only exist if we allow them to define us. How many times have we decided not to write a poem or sing a song because we didn't think we'd be "good enough"? Let go of the need to be perfect in someone else's eyes and enjoy moments of creativity just for yourself.
Strike a Pose
I mean, anytime, anywhere. While you're waiting for dinner to come out of the oven, while taking in a moment to catch commentary on television, after eating lunch. Take a full body stretch, lunge on one leg, stand on one foot. Sometimes I find myself doing planks next to my kitchen island. Our bodies are meant to move, and we spend a lot of time allowing them to be stagnant. It shouldn't have to be 30 minutes or nothing, it can be a moment. When we stretch or move in an extraordinary way for even an ordinary amount of time we take that moment for ourselves. We test our strength, our flexibility, or our balance, and we may be pleasantly surprised how these moments add up to a greater sense of self, and better knowledge of what we need and what our body is asking us for. The more times we notice, the more we are able to oblige, and the more intuitive we become.
I often walk with my head down, lost in my own thoughts, or mumbling to myself a narrative I will never have the opportunity to share. The more I find myself doing this, the more I become obsessed with my thoughts, and when my thoughts are turning towards negativity, this brings me down even further into a path of self-loathing. I had the opportunity recently to be around a large group of strangers where everyone was having fun. I used those moments to feed my spirit in the joy I could see on someone else's face. To watch a stranger play with their baby, or hug their grandchild is getting a glimpse at a moment they are committing to memory. Another way we see others in ourselves, and ourselves in others. So much of the world's negativity stems from disagreements with strangers, or lacking empathy for someone with a different lifestyle or different beliefs. Taking the time to observe others, watch their faces, expressions, emotions flowing freely, reminds us we are all of the same experience, the human experience. It frees us of the stress we feel when someone sees things differently than us or fails to understand us. We don't need to always agree or understand each other if we are just willing to see each other.
A little movement here, a cup of tea there, taking the time to smell the proverbial bouquet of roses. We rush through many moments thinking they are irrelevant, when they are the moments we need the most. We get ordinary moments of joy everyday, especially in February.