I have been consciously working with the concept of self-care since the beginning of this year. I definitely believe that devoting time, every day, solely towards doing things that speak to your soul is of great benefit. I love the saying that you should give from your saucer not from your cup, indicating that you must fill yourself up to overflowing and give from the overflow. I firmly feel this should be the way you approach life. If you always give to others before yourself, you will end up too exhausted and drained to help anybody.
But I also find that I sort of balk at the term 'self-care'. I know in my head that self-care includes more than just caring for one's self...at least to me it does. I included doing things that I enjoy or pampering myself for no special reason, just because I deserve good things! I think we all deserve good things, and even though some days I do have a bit of a struggle in my head with doing things purely because I want to (even indulgent things like eating chocolate or lounging in my chair watching tv), those are the days where I think I need to pamper myself the most. I am really trying to step into a place of honest self-worth, where I don't feel like I need to deny myself things that I desire because I don't feel like I should want them or am good enough to have them.
When I write the word 'self-care' in my calendar, sometimes it feels like a chore. Something about the combination of the word and putting it on a schedule reminds me of taking vitamins. It might be good for me, but they aren't something I enjoy the process of, so it becomes tedious. And I don't feel like self-care should be tedious. It should be something we do because we love and honor ourselves and we want to celebrate that fact!
I was thinking about this last night, as I am working through the moon phases, and this month is the sap moon...all about health. For me, health is a very self-centered thing...in a good way! Health includes body love and mind love and soul love. When we are healthy, we are balanced, we feel good and we are the best us we can be! Today is the full moon, which makes it a good time to celebrate and be immersed in the energy of this moon. So it seemed fitting to delve into this concept of self-care.
And the more I thought about it, the more I felt that the word self-care just didn't speak to what I was wanting to celebrate at all. Instead, the word self-joy popped into my head. I also thought about self-love, but that has it's own set of associations. I like the idea of self-joy: not only of taking joy in one's self, but in bringing joy to one's self. It kind of mirrors the idea that you can't love other people until you love yourself. I am responsible for my own happiness. Other people can and do bring joy into my life, but ultimately, I am the one who is in charge of ensuring that my everyday life is full of joy.
I think that making self-joy a focus in my life is a step towards leading a fulfilled life. I also think that by putting the focus on joy instead of care, the assumption is that I will do things that I need to care for myself so that I can bring joy into my life. If I am not getting enough sleep, it will be hard to be joyful in my day. If I am stressed out and overwhelmed, I am not going to be joyful. But I also feel that self-joy takes the idea of self-care to the next level. Instead of just saying "I am going to do something to take care of myself today" you are saying "I am going to do something special for myself today!"
There are so many ways to bring joy into your life. Every day brings a new opportunity to examine your life and to find a way to make it more joyful. Some days, your self-joy action might be a self-care action...but by thinking of it as self-joy, you will be more likely to approach it from a place of indulgence. Instead of just taking a few minutes to mediate and get yourself centered, you might give yourself a little meditation break, light a candle and really make it something special.
I think that in order to be truly happy, we need to be content in the three major spheres of our self: body, mind and soul. There are tons of self-joy actions you can take for each one. Some actions might speak to multiple areas, while others might focus on just one. Listen to yourself, tune in and see what type of joy action would best serve you today!
I started my self-care with body centered actions. For me, when I think of caring for myself, the body is the first thing that comes to mind. And I think it is the area I struggle most in. I don't always love my body as unconditionally as I might like. But I still have plenty of things I find enjoyable. I love giving myself a foot massage, or taking the time to put lotion on before bed. A hot soak in a tub is very relaxing for me, and I have several options for ways to make the bath more luxurious: bubbles, scented salt, herbal mixes.
I also love chocolate, chips and other food, so a mindful snack can be great. I definitely specify mindful, as food is also one of my weak points. If I am not mindful, I tend to eat more than I should, or eat things that aren't actually appealing for me in the moment. However if I am making a snack special, and really focusing on what and how I am eating, my body will tell me when it has had enough, and I can eat without feeling guilty for having that food that isn't necessarily on the 'health food' list!
Mentally, I have a pretty broad range of things that bring me joy. I am an avid learner, so reading up on a new topic is very invigorating for me. I like non-fiction, I like learning new things, and in fact I feel stagnant if I don't broaden my horizons regularly. But I also love cheesy romance stories, supernatural action stories and fanfiction. I find that a nice balance of things that make my brain work and things that I can easily enjoy is the most fulfilling. TV falls into this category too, I like some shows (especially cooking shows) where I can learn something, but I also watch other shows just because they bring me joy.
I think that soul is the category that is easiest to forget about. I also think that it is the hardest to notice when you are not fulfilled. When I don't take care of my body, I get tired or fall sick. When I don't take care of my mind, I will be overwhelmed with the need to either learn new things or let my mind relax into something easy. But when I am not doing things that speak to my soul, it just makes me not want to do anything at all. I'm not specifically tired, but I will be completely unmotivated. And that lack of motivation will make it hard to move in any direction.
I personally find art to be very soul pampering. And not just traditional art, any kind of intentional creativity. For me this includes: painting/drawing, making origami, singing, dancing, cooking, weaving, making jewelry, writing. The list is really endless. And I also find that it is absolutely not about the end product. I have spent hours before, working on something that I didn't end up liking when it was done, and yet I still feel refreshed and more myself afterward. I think that everyone has creativity in them, you just have to find the thing that works for you!
And that ultimately is what it comes down to...doing what makes YOU feel amazing. Start small, especially if you are busy, and perhaps pick one day a week to take some time to do something just for you. Don't think about what anyone else will think of it. Don't let yourself feel shame for whatever you want. Just open yourself up to what sounds fun or relaxing or exciting in that moment and run with it. As you get used to carving a little time out for yourself, you can start adding more, until you find that you have made self-joy a priority in your life. And when you are full of joy, you will have that much more to share with the people you love!