I Tried To Do A Self-Care Ritual For 100 Nights Straight. Here's How It Went Down
I'm in my bed, buried under stacks of scribbled papers, hands coated in pen marks. Next to me you can probably find a candle aflame, a diffuser churning. In my hand, there is likely a crystal, maybe a tarot card. For the past few months, this scene has played out night after night—a hodgepodge of scents, sounds, and sights meant to help me tune out the world and come back to myself before bed. Welcome to my not-so-graceful foray into the world of ritual.
First inspired to start a more meaningful self-care practice after hearing (and reading, and reading some more) about how mindful techniques like journaling, aromatherapy, and tarot can go from hobbies that entertain us to commitments that sustain us once we commit to them day after day, I challenged myself to spend just a few minutes trying them out every night.
"There are people out there spending hours every day visualizing and weeks on end in silent meditation—how hard could a few minutes a day be?" I'd think. It turns out, really, really hard. In the past, I have turned to movement as my form of stress relief and grounding. Had a bad day? Go for a run. Stressed about the morning ahead? I'd head to the gym or yoga studio. While these were certainly healthy practices, constantly staying moving kept me from ever really just sitting and being with myself. Some nights (read: many nights) my instinct was to grab my phone and scroll through Instagram with abandon, peeking into the world of others so I don't have to be alone with my own thoughts. And on occasion I'd let myself do just that, falling back on one of the many excuses I keep handy: I'm too tired; I'm out with my friends; I have too much work to get done.
But, over time, a funny thing has happened: I came to realize that those nights that ended without some sort of ritual caught up to me the next day. The nights when I pushed the excuses aside (along with my phone) and grabbed my journal to reflect on the day, pulled a few tarot cards to tune into how I'm feeling about a certain something, or tried a new breathwork technique to see where it takes me were the ones that gave me a more solid sense of who I am and what I want to come back to in the midst of busy days that pull my attention everywhere but inward. Not to mention, they helped with my occasional insomnia by forcing me to grapple with emotions I used to sweep under the rug. I still get worked up from time to time, of course, but it's how I choose to bring myself back down that has changed. These simple little moments have become the purest form of "me time" I could imagine, and I have felt them ripple through me in ways I didn't expect.
Real and reverberating self-care is simple: It's all about taking time for ourselves and our thoughts without judgment.
I've always been told that wellness is built upon a foundation of self-care—and now I see how true that is. But it's not the type of self-care that's sold to us in the form of sheet masks or vials of nail polish (though those can certainly be nice, too). Real and reverberating self-care is a lot simpler than that: It's all about taking time for ourselves and our thoughts without judgment.
There are many ways to start this more spiritual self-care routine and mix up your existing one. I've had the pleasure of diving into a handful of them for my new book, The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide to Ancient Self-Care (which comes out next week, just in case you were wondering!), in which mbg's beauty guru, Lindsay Kellner, and I present the history and science behind a collection of self-care rituals and describe some of the easiest, most accessible ways to weave them into your routine as steady practices to return to again and again.
I'll be the first to admit that essential oils and crystals will not set you on the path toward living your best, healthiest, most insert-superlative-here life. But they can be used to help open the door that does: the one that leads inward.
So for the foreseeable future, at night you will probably find me trying to make a habit of pushing my phone a little farther away and making my breath a little deeper, experimenting with new ways to get to know myself a little better. And I hope you'll join me there.
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.