Life is already hard enough with its constant surprises, struggles and tough times. When all we really feel like is a duvet day, there's a reason for that. The mind and the body need recovery time from the constant stimulation and 'go go go' nature of today's busy life commitments. What makes the whole thing seem even more unmanageable however, is the background self criticism and judgment that so many people so often find humming at a low level in their minds, some to even greater degrees and volumes.
Every cell in our body responds to the chemical factory in our heads. When we are feeling positive, at ease and without stress, our body responds accordingly with good health, extra energy and a feeling of being on top of things. But when we put ourselves down, or over-stretch ourselves, the body will respond in kind. Tiredness, overwhelm and a lack of energy are sure signs of a run down nervous system and are likely due to neglecting a vital component in well being - self care.
There is lots of information available about the connection between the mind and body and how the former can influence the health of the latter. In one particular scientific journal, published in https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1456909/ online, the author looks at how widely accepted this premise has become:
"Although the understanding that emotions affect physical health dates as far back as the second-century physician Galen and the medieval physician and philosopher Moses Maimonides, modern medicine has largely continued to treat the mind and body as two separate entities. In the past 30 years, however, research into the link between health and emotions, behaviour, social and economic status and personality has moved both research and treatment from the fringe of biomedical science into the mainstream."
Relationship dynamics with other people are also subtly influenced by the way we perceive ourselves - we have a unique set of filters on how we interact in the world around us, and these filters are intrinsically linked to self esteem and self worth.
There is a lot of talk in the media these days about mindfulness, positive thinking and well being practices. One of the most under-rated is that of self care. We weren't always taught how to recognise when our needs weren't being met and we certainly weren't guided to understand that we ourselves could do something about that. We were often taught that it was selfish to look after ourselves, or that we weren't enough as we were unless we were doing more, giving more or in some way being more. These misunderstandings can have their roots quite far back in life and as such have become an ingrained part of who we are. The good news is that in any given moment, new beliefs can be adopted and the beginning of a new relationship can be formed - the most important relationship we can embark upon; the one with ourselves.
So whether you're a seasoned self carer, or it's new to you, it's never too late to start adding more tools to the wellbeing kit. Here are a few recommended practices, delightfully simple and yet incredibly effective at cultivating a more positive relationship with you, and improving ways of looking after yourself even better:
- Try to catch yourself whenever you start to berate, criticise or judge yourself. When you do find yourself doing that, instead take a couple of deep breaths and say to yourself, this or in whatever words feel most natural "you're doing just fine", "you've got this", or "everything's working itself out no matter how it might seem right now"
- In time, try to shift the wording of this new found self talk to be even more encouraging e.g "you're actually kinda great" or "I've got your back", and eventually "I love and accept you". This may seem uncomfortable at first, but with daily practice it won't be long before you're able to do this even in front of a mirror. Louise L Hay who wrote the book 'You Can Heal Your Life' was a huge advocate of mirror work, and countless people that implemented this simple practice into their daily routine have spoken of astounding results - improved self esteem and confidence, increased joy and feelings of contentment and even attracting more success, abundance and positive relationships into their lives.
- Make sure you speak up and assert yourself, gently but firmly. Say no when you really need to. This way you retrain yourself into believing you've got your own back!
- It's more than okay and in fact should be essential to take regular time outs, sleep and recharge. The less time you think you have for this, the more you probably need it!
- Learn as much as you can about what you need to do to soothe and nurture yourself. Make a list, then commit to doing at least one thing on the list each day.
- It takes a bit of time to make a new habit, whether that habit is good or bad for us. If you can try to practice this for at least a month, it will start to become easier, and eventually will become a habit, the more you practice; and over time you'll find the self talk has shifted from negative and berating to positive and encouraging and you'll start to fall in love with the amazing person that you already are.