The Perspective Shift That'll Totally Transform Your Self-Care Practice
A little self-care can go a long way toward helping us lead happier, healthier lives. When we’re spreading ourselves too thin and are constantly overscheduled, actually making time for self-care is half the battle.
But even when we do carve out time to exercise, meditate, or eat more healthfully, we so often still end up judging ourselves or are so distracted by other items on our to-do lists that we’re not getting the most out of our self-care routine.
Mindfulness, the practice of being fully present in the moment—noticing thoughts and letting them go, without judgment—can help you make the most of your self-care practices. With this shift in mindset, the benefits of your self-care routine will be amplified, and you’ll see a boost in your mood as well.
If you’re ready to take your wellness practice to the next level, try these 10 easy ways to incorporate mindfulness into your self-care routine.
1. When you’re in good company, enjoy it.
In this digital age, it’s a heartbreaking fact that we too often neglect a loved one sitting across from us at the dinner table because we’re busy Instagramming our food. This is not to say that social media is all bad, but if it’s monopolizing your social life, it’s time to put down your phone and enjoy a really great conversation with your best friend.
2. When you exercise, work out without judgment.
Working out has amazing health benefits but can so often put us in a judgmental and competitive frame of mind. Maybe you’ve caught yourself during a yoga class ruminating on how you can’t do a particular arm balance, or perhaps you’ve felt defeated after a run because you didn’t reach a personal goal.
While you still got a great workout, consider how much better you’d feel if you let go of all that judgment and just appreciated the fact that you made time to move that day.
3. When you eat, taste your food.
You’re already making an effort to eat healthfully, but are you taking the time to actually enjoy your food? That green smoothie will taste a whole lot better if you’re making a point to drink it mindfully rather than slurping it down on the go. In doing so, you can turn your meal into a gratitude practice by noticing and appreciating the vibrant colors and flavors of the foods you’re choosing to fuel your body.
4. When you treat yourself, relish it.
And while we’re on the subject of food, don’t beat yourself up when you want a treat. If you’re craving the latest crossbred confectionery craze (cinnamon roll doughnut, anyone?), just eat one and enjoy it without the side of guilt. Same goes for treating yourself to a day at the spa—it’s not very relaxing if you spend the whole time worried about your upcoming work presentation. Treats are special because they aren’t everyday occurrences, so make sure you’re actually enjoying them in the moment.
5. When you travel, be present where you are.
You’re finally taking that well-deserved vacation, but if your thoughts are stuck at the office or you’re spending your whole trip responding to texts from a toxic person back home, you’re not making the most of your time away. Vacations are a time to vacate the mind, so let go of everything that’s holding you back and set an intention to fully capture every moment.
6. When you’re outside, notice your surroundings.
There’s a reason we’re often told to stop and smell the roses. Because it’s so easy to get lost in our thoughts, we often miss what’s going on around us. Being outside is the perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness. Noticing the warmth of the sun on your skin, and the sound of birds chirping in the trees overhead, can turn your ordinary work commute into a relaxing practice that will help you start the day feeling refreshed.
7. When you’re listening to music, actively tune in to it.
Music provides a great backdrop for countless activities that we engage in daily, like working out, cooking, or commuting. But listening to music mindfully can be a great way to relax and unwind after a stressful day. Your favorite songs will take on a whole new dimension when you actively pay attention to the sounds you hear. Noticing the different instruments and how they blend together can turn listening to music into a meditative practice.
8. When you’re journaling, don’t hold back.
If you like to journal, you may sometimes find yourself censoring certain thoughts because you might judge yourself when you see the written words staring back at you. But avoiding our feelings can create anxiety and cause more trouble in the long run. Allow yourself to write freely, without judgment, and process any feelings you might be avoiding. In doing so, you’ll likely feel a heavy weight lift off your shoulders.
9. When you’re reading a book, immerse yourself in it.
If you’re anything like me, you may sometimes find yourself reading the same paragraph over and over because your monkey mind is swinging from branch to branch. Mind chatter is part of the human experience, and turning it off can be quite difficult. If you enjoy reading for pleasure, minimize distractions by putting your phone away, finding a quiet space, and fully immersing yourself in your book. Thoughts may come and go; just bring your attention and focus back to what you’re reading.
10. When you’re meditating, just breathe.
The same holds true for meditating, which is challenging even for those who practice it regularly. All of the background noise in our heads can make sitting in stillness seem like an uphill battle, so make the most of your practice by letting go of expectations and just focusing on your breath. Even if you manage to clear your head for just a minute, you’re still meditating. Don’t beat yourself up because you’re not “doing it right”—there are many different ways to practice meditation, and finding what works for you can be an enjoyable part of the process.
Nathalie C. Theodore, J.D., MSW, LCSW is a lawyer-turned-therapist located in Chicago. She received her J.D. from Indiana University School of Law, Bloomington, and her master's in social work from Loyola University, Chicago.
The focus of her practice is helping women dissatisfied with their careers or personal relationships. During the years she practiced law, Theodore became well-versed in stress, and now enjoys helping women find a healthy work-life balance. She often uses mindfulness-based techniques to help her clients manage chronic stress and anxiety. Theodore started her own remote therapy practice in 2016, and now provides therapy exclusively via phone and video.