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How Self Care Can Improve Your General Health

Self Care is King (or Queen)

Self-care is a buzzword that we’ve seen and heard a lot of in the last few years. But what does it mean? In general, “self-care” refers to treating yourself well. There are so many aspects to treating yourself well; for one person, it could be a long, hot bubble bath at the end of a trying day; for another, it could mean setting boundaries so that their work does not edge its way into their free time. For someone else, it could be making sure that they set aside time to get in some movement every day or remembering to take their meds on time. While a lot of what we see in self-care guidelines online leans more toward bubble baths than good mental health, self-care is anything that you do to look after yourself or be kind to yourself.

Self-care is an essential part of looking after your overall health and well-being. It’s an aspect of health and well-being that, until fairly recently, people may have thought of as too selfish or self-involved, but it is imperative. Let’s take a closer look at how different kinds of self-care can improve your general health.

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Types of Self Care

Before we delve into the effects of self-care, let’s break it down into its different types.

Emotional self-care: this refers to positive self-talk, setting boundaries and saying no to things, setting aside time for yourself, whether that be a hike or a bubble bath, or spending time with people who are good for you.

Physical self-care: this refers to making sure that you get enough sleep, moving your body, eating well, and getting all the nutrients that you need.

Spiritual self-care: this refers to any religious services or events that you may want to attend. Meditation, acts of kindness, gratitude, or even spending time in nature.

How Self-Care Improves Your Health

All the facets of self-care have been linked to longevity and a better quality of life. There is an abundance of research out there to read, carried out by medical professionals, that supports self-care as a means to improving your overall health. It is a well-known fact that one’s state of mind can have far-reaching effects as far as your physical wellness goes: the two are inextricably linked. Our minds are powerful. Powerful enough to make us feel on the outside the same way as we feel on the inside. If we are carrying out our emotional and spiritual self-care on a regular basis, our minds and emotions will be balanced (mental health conditions notwithstanding), and we will be able to go about our daily lives in a calm and collected manner. Likewise, our physical health and well-being are linked to our mental health and well-being. If we are carrying out physical self-care on a regular basis, our bodies will be well-nourished and fit, and we will feel much better physically and emotionally.

These forms of self-care have been linked to longer life and better quality of life:

  1. Exercise. I must stress that exercise does not need to be aimed at weight loss. Exercise is good for your body, not necessarily a means to an end. People who exercise two to eight hours weekly are shown to have 29 to 36% longer life expectancy.
  2. Finding purpose. Finding a career, a hobby, or a path in life extends life expectancy.
  3. Diet. Ensure that you get the required fruit and vegetable servings every day, and your body will feel and function at its best. If you’re craving a piece of cake, have it! Just be sure that your body gets what it needs.
  4. Sleep. Getting the recommended amount of sleep on a nightly basis means that you are ready to take on that day, with all your faculties operating at 100%.
  5. Spending time outdoors. Time in nature is a proven mood booster!

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The evidence is clear that self-care feeds directly into improved health and well-being, but the question is how?

  1. Physical health. Brushing your teeth, taking your meds, exercising, or getting enough sleep are all part of a well-functioning body.
  2. Emotional and mental health. When your emotional cup is full from positive self-talk and spending time around people who are positive and built into your life, you are in a place to be able to respond well, emotionally, in your daily life. Spending time doing things you love and that make you feel calm and relaxed reduces anxiety and stress as well as improves mental health. Please note that self-care is in addition to, not as a replacement for, professional mental health care.
  3. Improved relationships. Healthy and positive relationships directly contribute to positive mental health. If you are healthy and happy, you are more able to contribute to a positive, balanced relationship, and so the circle continues.

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How to Start a Self-Care Routine

Now that we have discussed the ways in which self-care can be of benefit to you and your overall health and wellbeing, let’s look at how you can get started on your self-care journey. Firstly, you need to determine which activities restore your energy, keep you balanced and make you happy (mentally and physically)! Don’t overwhelm yourself: choose one of these activities and incorporate it into your schedule for the coming week. Work your way up to doing one of these activities a few days a week. Take note of how this new schedule makes you feel. If your schedule allows, add more of these activities every week. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it!

Self-care is a journey; take it step by step!