Most people I work with at first see self care as crisis intervention. Things have got so bad (depression, anxiety, breakdown, panic attacks, etc) that they have to change how they live their life. That getting up in the morning, doing, doing, doing, just doesn’t work anymore. Something needs to change.
They need to start looking after themselves. Why don’t we see self care as a daily practice? Most of us clean our teeth everyday, right? Why do we wait until life is so tough or unbearable to start with self care?
By self care I don’t just mean getting up in the morning, getting dressed and looking acceptable. I used to think I was really good at self care because, as a make-up artist, I always had on a full face (even if it was from the night before!). Self care for me is the stuff that nourishes and tops me up. It’s as important as oxygen and nutrients. That might mean diet, exercise and the physical stuff, or it might mean working on your mental outlook. It’s so personal. To get the motivation to do self care we have to work out what benefits we want. We need to know our personal why.
Meditation has been a big act of self care for me. It’s like taking my mind to the gym. I need to work my mind out daily to make me stronger to get through the darker days and to really embrace and be present on the days when there is sunshine.
My question is: why wait? Why wait till things get bad?
Let’s train our kids different aspects of self care at school and at home. Let’s help them understand why life will be better if they do it. Let’s bring self care and meditation into the workplace, into parenting, into families. Lets open up a bigger conversation of self care and wellbieng in the media, politics and our communities. I want to look at the big picture.
How I started to care for myself
Meditation was my way into self care. It’s been slow progress, but its progress, not perfection. I would have a breaking moment, make meditation a priority, feel better very quickly, forget why I need mediation, stop meditating, and wait for next breakdown moment . Repeat.
After I finally cracked a daily routine I trained and began working as a meditation coach. The first thing I noticed was that most people did the exact same thing. They would have motivation at first and it would normally last a whole course. But then they would drop off. And then they would come back. This fascinated me. Is it just human nature? Do we need a crisis to change? Or can we encourage, motivate and teach ourselves to practice good behaviours that nourish us?
It came down to habits. Motivation comes and goes but habits, once established, can last a lifetime. You need commitment, effort, persistence and support. It’s really hard to do it on your own and, as a wise friend of mine says, what’s so good about doing things on your own? I changed the emphasis of my work. Yes, I teach meditation but I also teach habit formation, motivation and inspiration. I give people tools and create safe places and communities where people can make change together and be inspired by each other.
How do you find the motivation to make a daily habit of healthy self care?
A habit is a subconscious action developed by us to help us deal with certain situations
It takes time to form a habit – an average of 66 days according to researchers at the University of Cambridge (2010) though it can take as little as 18 days
You have to stick at it until it becomes an everyday action (a habit!)
What small act of self care can you put in your diary to do everyday and see how long that takes to crack? You can start with something really small, such as a 3 minute meditation, a daily affirmation, etc, etc
Discover your personal why
You need to know what self care will achieve for you personally. It has to be something that will make your life better. The more detailed the benefit, the more likely you are to stick with it. Something like “I want to feel better” is unlikely to sustain you
For me, I knew that if I meditated everyday it would have a positive impact on my depression and anxiety
Find your personal why. Write it down and put it somewhere you can see everyday. If you want a free course that will help you find your personal why for meditation, you can visit my the Mind Gym at www.niadunbar.com/freebies/
Make a commitment
Then you need to make a commitment to yourself. You can sign a declaration, or do a little ritual. Whatever floats your boat
Put your commitment statement, whether in words or visuals, somewhere you can see everyday, preferably first thing in morning (I got carried away with lipstick and the bathroom mirror for a while!)
Learn how to make motivation rituals/routines
If you sit waiting for motivation you’re in for a long wait. Motivation comes through inspiration and habit building. The better you feel about something or yourself the more you want to do it
Learn how to motivate yourself by listening to inspiring podcasts, or following empowering feeds on your Instagram or Facebook. Develop routines that bring inspiration and commitment into your life
Create space. You can make a meditation spaces, build a prayer table, do moon rituals or join a community. Do whatever it takes to make it work for you
How can you juice up your motivation today? Inspiration and habits are the key here. Pick on thing: listen to a new podcast, comment on the feed of someone who is shining some light on your life.
Work out what self care looks like to you and prioritise
This is one of my favourite. You have to work out what self care is to you and which things you enjoy or benefit from (or both). This can take time and its trial and error. Remember you might not enjoy the actual act (in my case, exercise) but it brings beneficial change to your life afterwards.
I make a list and then have columns of small self care acts I can do easily (having a bath and meditation), medium ones that might need more time or money (a day painting) and then the whoppers that are more of a treat (holidays, retreats, courses, etc)
Brainstorm a list of self care today and try one thing of your list
Start to push yourself out of your comfort zone
Once you have got going with your self care and are creating daily habits, it will be time to ramp it up. It’s okay to start small but don’t stay in your comfort zone forever. What is the next big thing you would love to try or achieve? What is your spirit calling you to explore?
Start small. It’s better when you start out to set a small goal and succeed than reach for the sky and crash to the ground. Do something – anything – for yourself today. And tomorrow. And keep going through those tomorrows.
Last year I turned 40. Instead of having some big party (as an introvert I’d have been bleeding from my eyes!) I committed to a project I called #40acts. This was me declaring to the world that, over next the year, I would carry out 40 acts of self care and document the act and what it brought to my life.
Having turned 41 in the summer the project came to an end. What a journey it was. Sometimes I had to really push myself out of my comfort zone, while at others the acts of self care seemed quite small and achievable. It was a blessed year of self care and self love. I learnt a lot about who I am, my needs as a woman and the voice in me that needs to speak out.
By doing regular self care my life changed, my heart healed and I started to become the woman that was waiting inside me. My mental health is the strongest it’s ever been, my anxiety the lowest. I look forward to my daily meditations and my self care acts.
They’re habits and they’re part of my life.
Nia is a qualified meditation and mindfulness coach. She has had her own wellbeing business since 2008. Nia has worked with many clients in London, UK, where she lives with her son Charlie and meditating rescue dog Louie.
Her flagship online programme, Sunshine Brain, helps individuals to learn meditations and develop habits and motivation to establish a daily routine whilst being the creator of their own Sunshine Brain. Sunshine Brain is open now for a live round which will start on Monday 13 November https://niadunbar.com/sunshinebrain/