By Helen Bradford
Self-love has been a buzzword of the past few years, and yet it remains somewhat vague what exactly it should encompass. Some people interpret self-love and self-care in self-indulgent ways, but as much as you need to take some time off and just relax by yourself while eating your favorite comfort foods, this is not what it’s all about. Many people also think about self-love in purely mental ways – accepting ourselves and being at peace with who we are, reaching mindfulness and so on.
While this is all part of the package, you should understand one thing: your body and mind are one entity, and the only approach to self-love is a holistic approach where both of these aspects are properly taken care of. In addition, contrary to popular belief, self-care is not “pampering” yourself, nor is it a luxury. It is a completely necessary part of life and should you neglect it, your health will suffer. They say “a healthy mind in a healthy body” for a reason, so the first step towards reaching real self-love is taking care of your body above all. Here are some ways in which you can boost your physical health – and thereby your mental health, too, at the same time.
Eating well is important
You can’t expect the motor to run smoothly without the proper fuel, can you? The same is true for your body. Proper nutrition should not be a priority only when one is not satisfied with their weight. Eating the right foods has a much more important function than that. To stay strong and energetic, you should make sure you are taking in all the necessary nutrients. But nutrition affects even more than that. From your immune system through your skin all the way to your mental health, every aspect of your life is affected by what you take into your organism. So make sure your diet reflects that. Banish processed foods from your diet and say no to too much sugar. Try to prepare your own food and learn to love vegetables. In the long run, a great diet is irreplaceable for good health.
Visit your doctor regularly
Most people only see a doctor when they really need to, and this is exactly where they make a mistake. Prevention is always better than treatment, and the only way to catch problems before they truly become a problem is by paying regular visits to your physician and getting a thorough checkup. Besides catching possible issues on time, what this will do is also give you peace of mind. Instead of sitting and wondering whether everything is all right with your body, you will finally get all your answers, which will put an end to your anxiety. If you are someone who tends to be anxious about such things, don’t procrastinate on visiting your doctor any longer and you will see just how much better you will feel afterward.
Supplement your body
If you feel like you simply cannot have enough of all the necessary vitamins and nutrients, you still don’t have to despair. That is exactly what supplements are for. Sometimes, our body just needs that extra push to function properly, and if that means taking a few tablets, so be it! Assessing your physical condition and determining what ails you will help you and your doctor to come up with the right solution, and you will be able to rest assured that your body has everything it needs for you to feel balanced.
Sleep should be a priority
Unfortunately, in today’s world, a culture has developed that glorifies overwork and skipping sleep. Students struggle to both keep their grades up and get their 8 hours of shuteye every day, while adults brush off sleep and work overtime. However, this all has grave consequences on both your physical and mental health. Sleep has important functions in consolidating memories and clearing your brain of toxins so that it can do its best the next day as well, so whenever you skip sleep or stay up late to watch “just one more episode” of your favorite TV show, remember that your mental functions are going to be compromised. Your reaction time, problem-solving skills, memory, ability to focus and a slew of other areas of your cognition are going to suffer, in addition to your immune system and hormone balance. You will be more susceptible to stress, too, and you will be moody and irritable, which can really ruin anyone’s day. So, in order to stay both mentally and physically sound, consider sleep a priority, just as it should be.
Nature is your friend
Another negative aspect of our lifestyles today is that we simply spend most of our time indoor, among concrete, far away from Mother Nature where we really belong. Humans are part of nature as well and strengthening your connection with it will benefit your psyche immensely. Make it a point to spend a certain amount of time outdoors every week, either by taking nature walks or by simply taking some of your activities outside. If you introduce regular nature walks to your schedule, you will also reap the health benefits of this physical activity! You will notice that spending time among greenery calms your nerves and relieves your stress noticeably. If you struggle with depression or anxiety, nature can be of help with these problems, too. You will also be able to focus better at school or work, as well as get more creative thanks to the colors of Mother Nature. All in all, nature makes us happier, so it really is a shame that humans are getting alienated from it more and more by the year.
Make sure you move your muscles
There is no better way to show your body love than by actually using it! Our muscles need constant use in order to stay in their best shape, and staying active wards off a slew of potential health issues that come as a result of our modern, sedentary lifestyle. It is up to you to make your workouts something you enjoy doing rather than a chore – all you need to do is find the activities that you find fun and engaging. If you haven’t been working out before, going outside for a walk or a run would be a great start. Both of these activities are great for heart health and they make you feel refreshed. You can also take this to the next level by getting a full suspension mountain bike and exploring the great outdoors on two wheels. Cycling is a great total body workout that improves cardiovascular health while also giving a great workout to your joints and muscles without being too hard on them. If the terrain is uneven, it’s even better as you engage your muscles more and practice balance. So, if there are some trails near your home that would be good for a bit of mountain biking, don’t be afraid to try it. But virtually any kind of exercise is great for your body and mind. Moving releases those necessary happy hormones in your brain that will make you feel good in your skin.
Humans are social animals
When it comes to self-care, many people like to call it “me-time.” And while it is very important and even necessary to sometimes shut the door and spend some time with ourselves only, you should not forget that humans are social animals and we need company in order to go on. Keep in touch with your friends and go out with them regularly – this will keep depression and loneliness at bay and you will be able to share your worries with those you trust most. In addition, physical contact is important. Hugging releases oxytocin which elevates your mood and makes you feel happier. But it doesn’t only affect your mind – it also strengthens your immune system and lowers your blood pressure! So, give a hug to your friend, significant other or even your pet from time to time!
Staying mindful and present
However, there comes a moment when it’s time to be quiet and mindful. Sometimes, you should just take a step back and – breathe. Deep breathing will get that important oxygen to every part of your body. You can also turn to meditation and yoga in order to practice breathing techniques, reflect and stay present. A short session every day will allow you to just stay still for a few moments in the hustle and bustle of your everyday life and remain mindful of both your body and your mind.
If you really want to show love to yourself, you have to take a holistic approach to self-care. Taking care of your body is a prerequisite to taking care of your soul, and as you can see, usually the two go hand in hand. From eating well through exercising regularly all the way to getting enough sleep, once you show enough care towards your body, your soul will be soothed too.