Self-care is often defined by taking a step away from loved ones to focus entirely on yourself. But carving out moments for well-being doesn't always necessarily have to be a solo routine. In fact, practicing self-care rituals with your partner has double the reward: Not only are you reaping the individual benefits, but you are also deepening your relationship and connection as a couple. Past research has shown engaging in personal-growth-related activities as a couple actually makes the relationship more satisfying and improves one's sex life. (A pretty sweet bonus!)
Here are seven ways to incorporate "couple's care" together, as recommended by self-care experts:
1. Set aside time each day to talk about your goals together.
Setting and reviewing goals on a regular basis is generally a great way to make sure you're always working toward your long-term vision for your life, and it can be a great way to feel in control of your present and future. Sharing this habit with your partner, however, can make you all the more efficient and dedicated to those goals because you have someone holding you accountable. Moreover, setting goals together lets your partner know what your vision is and allows your partner the opportunity to be your biggest support system, which in turn creates intimacy.
"You can work on setting your goals together, or set them separately and then share," says certified life coach Melissa Snow. "This invites conversation about what they are excited about, what their fears are, and how you can help."
When your partner is involved in your personal development, you'll feel that much more connected to each other and able to understand each other in much deeper, more nuanced ways.
2. Always have a project you're working on together.
Whether refinishing a dresser, picking out photos for a new family collage, or practicing a foreign language together, always having a project or hobby in motion allows for a sense of accomplishment as a team. Not to mention, it pulls you away from the habit of plopping down on the couch with Netflix.
"Learning something new is fun, and it also keeps the brain active," says mindset coach Melissa Wolak. "When you share a project together as a couple, it cultivates teamwork but also an experience where you can learn together, create something new, and you laugh at mistakes."
3. Read a personal development book together.
Sometimes, to overcome an obstacle or work toward a common goal, outside guidance provides a fresh perspective that a couple can learn together. Reading is a great way to reduce stress and build new skills, and sharing that experience together allows couples to bond over new materials at the same time.
"Reading provides new intellectual stimulation and a conversation topic outside of work and home life," said Wolak. "On the cognitive side, reading, remembering the details, and discussing the book together are great brain exercises."
And just imagine how sweet it is to read in bed with your partner.
4. Research your next vacation.
When the going gets tough, you can always daydream about your next getaway--and talking about it with your loved one can make that daydreaming even sweeter.
Whether a staycation, weekend getaway, or monthlong backpacking stint across Europe, life coach Vicky Shilling recommends physically writing down the plans and brainstorms in a notebook to make them more of a reality. "Many of us learn and are stimulated visually and absorb information much better when it's visually presented," she says. "Keeping a notebook with your plans will ensure you're both creating the holiday you want, seeing a combined plan of where you'll be going and what you'll be doing so no one is disappointed. Writing down your brainstorms also means you're not going back to square one every time you discuss it!"
Shilling also adds that keeping your notes will be a great memento, which you can build into a travel journal or scrapbook after your trip.
5. Sit back-to-back and breathe.
Meditation is a tried-and-true way of soothing the mind, finding inner balance, and releasing negative emotions. "When couples take the time and make the commitment to share their meditation practice, they strengthen their relationship and improve their overall well-being," says executive wellness coach Naz Beheshti. Meditating together also helps an individual become more in touch with their intuition, which can allow them to become more in touch with their partner's needs without anything being said.
Pick a time, either early morning or just before bed, to sit as a couple and breathe or meditate together. Feeling this stillness as one is powerful. Beheshti recommends a back-to-back position, which allows couples to easily synchronize their breathing because of the physical contact.
6. Get outside.
While it may be hard to coordinate a trip to the gym together, couples can usually find the time to move their bodies by strolling around the neighborhood. While the endorphins are great, they're actually the bonus in this situation. Simply being outside has been found to ease stress, as nature has a way of keeping incessant thoughts at bay. Research suggests it can be a particularly connective experience for couples, with the potential to boost trust and even arousal.
"Regardless of whether you have a dog to exercise, getting outside together is an ideal opportunity to combine exercise and fresh air," said Karen Tindall, a certified life coach in Arkansas. "It creates a time when you can have undistracted conversations away from technology and prying ears of family."
7. Express gratitude.
Research suggests even thinking about gratitude can have a positive impact, but writing it down can even help you sleep better and aids in reducing depression. When you're more aware of the things you're thankful for, you tend to be more mindful of them as they happen throughout the day ("This makes me happy; I'm going to write it in my journal tonight"), thus making your daily gratitude more apparent in your life.
While many people keep gratitude journals, it's more commonly an individual practice. But why not share this beautiful habit with your partner? Adding this to your regular routine allows for the chance to communicate with your partner in a sometimes vulnerable way.
Marriage and family therapist Erica Basso recommends writing down three things you love about your partner and three things you're grateful for that you've noticed them do recently; then share them with your partner to turn that gratitude into a shared experience. You can do this weekly or even daily.
Everyone needs a little self-care in their week, and bringing your partner into these practices can be a great way to not only share these benefits with another person but to create the added bonus of creating intimacy—which is itself something that will improve your well-being. So the next time you're carving out a date night, consider incorporating activities that do both: allow for a sense of closeness and personal wellness.