I'm sure most of you are loving, caring individuals. I like to think that I am one, too! Caring folk like us usually spend a lot of time and energy caring for our family, our friends, our pets, our home, our job, our community, etc. Gold stars all around, everyone! While caring for others is a wonderful quality to have and can be very rewarding, showing yourself some TLC is just as (if not more!) important. When you take the time to care for your body, mind and spirit, you have more energy and joy to share with those you love. And who doesn't want more of that good stuff? Yes, please!
Self-care is a constant journey, because we are so engrained with the notion that showing ourselves love means we are being selfish. But like any practice, the more you incorporate habits that nurture your whole being, the better you will feel and the more you will want to continue! For me, the following five practices have been the most helpful in deepening my relationship with my heart and body through true appreciation. Maybe just try out one or two this week and slowly start to incorporate more as you start to feel the love!
This may sound like, "Duh!" but seriously. Right now. Take a deep breath, filling up your lungs completely. Then let it out. Was that the first time you did that today? Didn't it feel good? Since we can breathe both unconsciously and consciously, the act of doing it consciously is like giving your nervous system a soothing back rub. Joshua Rosenthal, the creator of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (where I am currently attending school), refers to a deep breath as "reorganizing the molecules in your brain." I'd say that's pretty accurate.
WHEN & HOW: I love to use deep, conscious breathing as both preparation and as a reset. Before I eat, leave the house, walk in to work, cook, write, make a phone call, etc, doing one serious breath in and out helps me relax and stay focused and clear in the present moment. It also helps me stay calm during moments of stress, anger or doubt.
BONUS EXERCISE: Check out Dr. Andrew Weil's 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise - I love this one to start and end my day. Super powerful and it only takes 30 seconds!
2. Oil Pulling!
I admit I thought this was strange when I first heard of it, but once I gave it a swish or two, I became a believer. An ancient Ayurvedic practice, oil-pulling is simply swishing oil (extra virgin olive, sesame or coconut, which I use) around in your mouth, and "pulling" it between your teeth. It is recommended to do this for 20 minutes, but minimum five! After, spit the oil out into the trash (don't spit it in the sink or you will clog your drain with oil goo) and rinse or lightly brush your teeth.
Why in the world would you want to do this, let alone every day? Because, my friend, it is a detoxification magic trick! Since our mouths are a gateway to our body, that's where toxins and germs often find their way in (also see the next item on tongue scraping). The anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties of these oils pull toxins out of gums and the soft tissues of the mouth before they can be absorbed into your body, stopping the toxification process before it can begin! Bottom line: more energy, increased immunity, clearer skin, whiter teeth, decrease in headaches, fresh breath and of course, excellent dental hygiene!
GET IT DONE: I love this practice because I can do it while I prepare for my day - making breakfast, washing or putting away dishes, showering, getting dressed, writing, etc. Just don't try and have a conversation while doing this unless you're great at charades.
3. Tongue Scraping
Ok, I know this may sound like I'm listing a self-torture, instead of self-care, practice. But this practice goes hand in hand with oil-pulling, in that it cleanses the body at the entrance to prevent having to cleanse it from the inside. Purchase a tongue scraper, and use it daily, scraping back to front 7-14 times and rinsing in between scrapes.
Our tongues can harbor bacteria that causes not only bad breath, but poor digestion, illness and dulling of the taste buds! Total bummer! When you start tongue scraping every day, you clear these bacteria from the mouth, preventing them from getting into your body and wrecking havoc. Bonus - you'll be able to taste your food better, so you may feel a reduction in cravings for overly sweet or salty foods! Your palate (and your body) will thank you!
4. Get Grateful and Write About It.
Is it redundant to say I'm grateful for gratitude? Studies done in positive psychology have shown that those who practice daily gratitude (by keeping a gratitude journal, doing gratitude meditations, etc) report fewer health problems and more overall satisfaction with their lives. This practice alone has transformed how I interact with others, how I think and talk about myself, and how I see the future. Although every one of us has a ton of things to be grateful for, it is easy to get caught up in thinking about what we are lacking. Writing down the good stuff makes you focus on it and let it truly sink in.
DEAR DIARY: Don't overwhelm yourself by trying to list everything you're grateful for every single day (which I hope would be a never-ending list!). At the end of each day, write down three things you're grateful for, or even just three good things that happened, and why. Getting specific like this will make these images of gratitude blossom and stay imprinted on your mind and heart.
Act like a cheese ball and just grin. About nothing. About everything. The physical act of smiling releases endorphins, which give you energy, reduce stress, increase productivity and improve your mood. Plus, I hope you'd all agree that smiles are contagious. So even if you're by yourself, or in a mundane situation, lift the corners of your mouth and feel your spirits catch on and lift with them. It's that simple.
With all the love and light in my heart, wishing you and yourself a lifetime of love and care for each other!