People often come to therapy because they want to feel better. They want to feel more light and love and goodness. They want to feel less anxiety and more calm. They want to feel more contentment and less grasping or gasping for change. And we usually want this change to come from the inside out. We want to get a partner or leave a partner. We want our children to grow up, or stay little. We want our bosses to get out of our way, or give us more guidance. We want the world to be better, or slower, or faster or less or more or.. or ..or. And oh, what we want we want with all our hearts. And so we suffer. And so from this place we talk about self care. And it usually equates to finding time to take time out of all of the above. We talk about exercise and vacation and eating healthy. About setting boundaries and drinking less or sleeping more. And yes to all of this, right? Of course. But all of this take resources and sometimes we don’t even have the resources to do the thing and then when we do, our children just throw a tantrum and we are back at square one.
When I think of my self care ingredient list I think of tiny things that give me a tiny dose of oxytocin or dopamine in my brain. A tiny self kiss if you will. Something that comes from a place of self compassion and love and immediately changes the way I feel in my body. Soothing lotion onto my hands. Smelling flower, lighting a candle. Feeling the sun on my cheeks. Listening to a favorite song. Putting a hand on my own chest and feeling and I do mean feeling it there. Washing my face and taking an extra 30 seconds to lovingly sooth the lotion in with care, rather than just going through the motions to check it off the to-do list. These things cradle our hearts and sooth our systems. They are tiny doses of self love. These things do not, by themselves change our lives. But when they become a regular and constant part of our lives and routines, then we are changing the foundations that our hearts rest on. It becomes a foundation of self compassion rather than judgment. A base of soft downy love instead of shame or guilt.
Our kids are still annoying, our partners disappoint and our bosses have unrealistic expectations. But our hearts, they are full and we feel love in our own bodies. The key is that we have an ingredient list that we access many many times a day. We sprinkle it in like grandma use to add ingredients to her soup. A little, a little bit more. Taste, let it simmer, sprinkle in some more. A little of this, a little of that. Taste, smell, touch. Feel your own self love grow.
So what’s in my ingredient list?
Doodling. This is a visual spatial activity that is very soothing to our nervous system. Many people love repetitive doodles that feel satisfying. Using colors can add to the visual experience.
Watching birds, trees, clouds, nature is visually soothing. Even little doses of it in our own backyards.
Sit outside and close your eyes. Identify as many nature sounds as you can. How many birds do you hear, can you hear the rustle of the leaves?
Make a playlist of your favorite music to soothe you soul. Here is link to my self care playlist. Use it as a base to create your own
Lotions - take time to rub lotion on to your hands, arms, chest. Humans were designed for touch. Our brains revel in it. Touch yourself and FEEL it. As many times a day as possible. Find lotions that feel delicious to your skin and smell
Next time you wash your face, make it a meditation. Notice the water, take your time. Be gentle and intentionally loving. Feels different doesnt it?
Find natural materials you love. I love stones and wood. Bring them into your space and hold them. Let them ground you and notice how the sensations travel through your finger tips. Collect favorites and keep them close.
Have a favorite scent? Put some drops of it into water and freeze it into ice cubes. Take a cube outside and sit in the sun, rub the ice cube behind your ears, over your neck, or on your arms. A lovely way to mix touch and scent.
Grab a piece of chocolate and settle into a favorite spot. Maybe sit in the sun under a tree or snuggle under your favorite blanket. Put the chocolate in your mouth BUT DONT CHEW. Hold it in your mouth and let it melt, fully and completely. Notice the texture, the taste, the world of sensation. Use the time to breath and pause and just indulge in the sweet sensation.
Warm teas or flavored water.
Take a handful of rosemary and rub it between your palms. Breathe it in.
Smell a flower
Light a candle and breathe it in.
Keep a favorite essential oil next to your work space and take a moment to dab it on your wrist. Close your eyes and let the smell envelop you.