This blog will speak about how we will look at why and how we can incorporate short self-care practices into our daily lives.
It is important to understand that self-care and wellbeing are skills and that we get better at them by practicing them. This is because we have two different forms of learning – declarative (where we understand what things are and why they matter – for example why it matters to take care of ourselves) and procedural learning (the process of acquiring a skill through practice). To really learn something, we need both (Davidson, 2003).
Dr. CJ Dahl’s speaks about idea of the four pillars of wellbeing that exhibit plasticity. The four pillars are:
- Awareness – the quality or state of being aware, knowledge and understanding that something is happening or that it exists. If we are aware of our own beliefs, thoughts, and actions, it gives us a sense of control and it makes our actions more intentional and purposeful, leading to us feeling more present and grounded (Davidson, 2003). A good way to foster awareness would be mindfulness and meditation. And it’s enough to include 5 minutes of meditation for starters. Just stick to it, sit comfortably for 5 minutes, and enjoy the silence.
- Connection– This refers to the qualities necessary for forming healthy social connections. These would be kindness, gratitude, appreciation, compassion, empathy, and so on. Connecting with others is important for our mental and physical health, and for our longevity (Slatcher, 2017). Just a few minutes a day can significantly change us in terms of the qualities, and they can change our brains after only two weeks. However, the change will only endure if we continue to persist with the practice. Support we get from connecting with others, both in our close relationships and in our everyday interactions with people we run into at the store are hugely important both for our mental and overall health and longevity (Slatcher, 2017).
- Insight–This one is very related to awareness. It refers to the deep experiential and curiosity-driven understanding of how the narrative we carry about ourselves shapes the way we experience the world. The beliefs and expectations we have from the world, as well as our self-beliefs, deeply affect our resilience. In fact, negative self-beliefs have been proven to make people less resilient and more prone to develop symptoms of depression. Now, the focus here is not to immediately change our narratives. The first step is understanding it and changing the relationship we have towards it, meaning loosening our grip on it.
- Purpose or finding a true sense of direction in life– This is about discovering the purpose embedded in our lives and focusing more of our activities towards it. Therefore, having more activities in our daily lives that are in tune with our purpose and core values. This means infusing our everyday activities with said sense of purpose. Having a strong sense of purpose is another important predictor of longevity it’s our “reason to live”. Your purpose can be anything. It can be “making people feel good” for example. Then you find a way of making doing the dishes, recycling, or approaching your client’s problem part of this whole grand purpose you have in life (Dahl et al., 2020).
One of my university professors once said that we need to self-monitor and pay attention to what is happening inside of us (to be aware), as the most important aspect of self-care, in terms of prevention of mental health problems escalating to the clinical level, is not ignoring our problems and not being ashamed of our own weaknesses and of sharing them with others (to connect). It’s important to foster the feeling of autonomy and healthy amount of control in our own lives, to have nurturing relationships, and to be aware of the role we play in making our lives and relationships as good as possible.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Branka Mlinar is a psychologist and Gestalt therapist offering psychotherapy and counselling to adolescent and adult individuals. She’s mostly worked with problems of anxiety, interpersonal and relationship issues, procrastination, work-related stress, trauma, and grief.
Dahl, C. J., Wilson-Mendenhall, C. D., & Davidson, R. J. (2020). The plasticity of well-being: A training-based framework for the cultivation of human flourishing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(51), 32197-32206.
Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S. F., … & Sheridan, J. F. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic medicine, 65(4), 564-570.
Slatcher, R. B., & Selcuk, E. (2017). A social psychological perspective on the links between close relationships and health. Current directions in psychological science, 26(1), 16-21.