If you want to know the secret to inner happiness, it’s actually pretty simple.
If you’re like me, then you probably care deeply for others. In fact, you probably care just a little too much. You would do anything for your friends and family.
In the past, there were many times when I put my personal happiness on the line to help others. Sometimes it was worth it. Most of the time it was not.
It took me some time, but I finally learned the following lesson in the hardest way. The only way to ensure your inner happiness is to take care of yourself first.
It sounds selfish, but it is age-old advice that has never failed anyone. In fact, it is the least selfish thing that you could do. It’s just like putting your oxygen mask on first during a flight emergency. You can only be of most help to your fellow passengers once you are safe.
The principle of self-care cannot be stressed enough.
In fact, I have made it my priority first thing in the morning and last thing at night to engage in my personal self-care rituals.
Taking fifteen to thirty minutes to yourself can be the difference between having a great day or drowning in stress.
Whilst my personal self-care rituals are still under development, I wanted to share with you today what I do throughout my day to take care of my mind and body.
Over time I will add or subtract things to my routines as and when the needs arrive. However, I always try to make time for the following things.
1) Wake Up Early
It’s winter in the UK, so everything is pitch-black outside. The house is quiet, the streets too. I can take the next hour of the morning to do whatever it is that I want to do.
Sometimes lay back down in bed and catch up on the news. Sometimes I’ll read, complete a workbook and other times I’ll just roll out of bed and begin my day.
Eventually, I would like to incorporate some early morning yoga into my morning self-care ritual. To combine that with seeing the sunrise in the morning gives an amazing boost of mental and physical energy.
2) Make Your Bed
It sounds simple, but this is a huge part of my self-care ritual.
Not only does it provide a nice place to return to at the end of the day, it reminds me that there are always going to be small things in the world that I can control.
I may not be able to control whether it will rain or if we’ll get a particularly harsh auditor at work, but I can control this and other smaller things which bring me happiness.
I use it as a time of internal reflection. It’s a time for me to reconnect with my body and also with my mind.
Taking some time to observe your thoughts as they happen can give you tremendous insight into your life. You can also vastly improve your focus.
Every time you bring your mind back to focus on the breath, the body or passing thoughts, you strengthen your concentration’s (mental) muscles.
I like to remind myself that every time it feels like I have failed my meditation, I have actually succeeded. If my mind wanders and I see this and bring it back to focus, then that is mindfulness. That is meditation itself.
Over time, the thoughts will become fewer and the distractions lessened.
Taking some time to calm your mind will provide you with much-needed clarity throughout the day.
4) Daily Hygienic Practice
You can’t be your best unless you feel your best.
Taking the time to engage in proper hygienic practices are just one more step to developing more inner happiness.
Shower, wash your hair, brush your teeth, shave or any other additional hygienic practice. Take some time to look after the body and it will look after you.
5) Physical Exercise
On the subject of looking after your body, physical exercise is one of the most under-utilized anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication.
You might not want six-pack abs or an hourglass figure, but physical exercise has a range of additional benefits:
- Weight loss
- Improved strength
- Greater flexibility
- More stamina
- Abundant energy
- Less stress
The list goes on and on.
You don’t even have to run, lift weights or drop 20 pushups.
Go for a brisk walk in nature or in the city. Live mindfully while you’re doing so and you’ll quickly start to see a difference in your life.
Never underestimate the physical and mental health benefits of just going for a walk. No headphones, no music, just you and the world.
6) Keep A Diary or Journal
Unfortunately, it is not something that I have been consistent with over the last few years. However, since the beginning of this year, I have kept my journal almost daily.
Taking time to dump your thoughts, feeling and frustrations down on the page is therapeutic in a way that I never grasped before. In fact, it’s always surprising to me how small my problems seem once written down.
Journaling or keeping a diary gives you a sense of clarity I didn’t realize before. I have been able to solve many tough problems just by writing them down and asking simple questions. Questions such as:
- Am I overreacting?
- Am I remembering this correctly?
- Did he or she really say it like that?
It’s far more difficult to challenge your thoughts when they’re in your head. Get them out in front of you and it becomes infinitely easier to fight back.
I’ve been using a great online app called Penzu for all of my journaling. It has definitely saved me from the hand-cramp I got before from my vehement scribblings.
If that’s not your thing, then make sure you go out and get yourself a special notebook for just these things.
7) Go To Bed On Time
No TV show tonight is going to be worth feeling like crap in the morning.
Shut off the TV, turn off your phone and close down your laptop. Just get into bed and drift off to sleep.
If you need any help with it, listen to some nature sounds or perhaps even guided meditation.
Often I like to simply read until I fall asleep. Just don’t read anything too action-packed or exciting.
8) Regular Check-Ins
I like to ask questions such as:
- What was great about this week?
- What am I grateful for?
- How can I make next week even better than this week?
- What do I love most about myself right now?
It might seem crazy to have a conversation with yourself, but you’re going to live in your mind and body for the rest of your life. You might as well get to know what’s in there with you.
Make a list of weekly check-in questions and set aside fifteen minutes to do this every week. Pinterest usually has some great ideas for what questions you could ask yourself. (You can check out my board on Questions for Self-Reflection here.)
If you want to do this more frequently, I can only imagine that the benefits would increase.
You can never know yourself too well.
I would highly encourage you to create your own self-care ritual.
If you’ve already got these rituals in place, share in the comments what you do. I’d love to hear from you and how you are taking care of your life.
Finally, I would like to add one thing.
Be compassionate to yourself if you ever miss out a day of your self-care rituals. Remind yourself that these things happen and have some compassion for yourself.
Remember though, self-care is not selfish. Try and take the time to put on your own oxygen mask, then you can help others to your full ability.