The Surprising Value of Self-Care

Theo might be the most reliable cab driver of all time.

In his town, driving a taxi was not a coveted position. The automobiles were old, and the drivers made a great fuss about how often they broke down.

Yet Theo cherished his job. “Every day, I have the opportunity to help hundreds of people! They want to go places, and I help get them there” he’d say.

Theo loved that his work made peoples lives better. And he knew that a well-functioning taxi was necessary for him to help others.

So Theo was diligent, and adhered to the taxi company’s rigorous maintenance recommendations. Every day, he’d inspect the vehicle, and make small adjustments and fixes.

The other cab drivers were not so proactive. Daily maintenance was inconvenient, so they’d avoid it with a muttering of “I need to get more rides done…” or “Now isn’t a good time for that…”

Inevitably, issues would pile up, and their cabs would break down. It was a great inconvenience for the drivers to miss days of driving to get new parts, and fix their vehicle.

Theo’s taxi never once broke down.

The Importance of Maintenance and Self-Care

The lesson here is simple: If you do not care for yourself, you cannot care for others.

Theo wanted to help others, and be a force of positivity in the world. By caring for the health of his vehicle first, he was able to give reliable rides every day for his entire career. (And since he never missed a day, Theo completed more rides than most drivers anyway.)

While you probably don’t drive a Taxi, you have something even more important to take care of every week: your body and mind.

“If we are not happy, if we are not peaceful, we cannot share peace and happiness with others, even those we love, those who live under the same roof. If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace

The Ripple Effect of Self-Care

Modern life can be a non-stop flurry of doing.

More work, more news, more to-do’s, more people to see, more outings, more demands for your attention.

In this environment, it’s easy to let your connection with yourself fall to the wayside. But without prioritizing your personal wellbeing, it’s impossible to put your best self into the world each day.

This might not be an issue if you lived in an isolated world. You’d be the only one affected by your lack of self-care.

But in reality, you have an impact on the world around you.

It is easy to forget this, since most of the day is spent in your own world of thoughts, challenges, and to-do’s.

Yet every interaction with another human is an opportunity to make the world a better place. Choose to exist with peace, positivity, and warmth, and others will experience the benefits.

Far too many people miss out on this opportunity to bring people up by failing to prioritize what supports their wellbeing.

 

6 Habits to Maintain Wellbeing

Step 1 of helping others is caring for yourself.

“Those that are a friend to themselves are sure to be a friend to all.” ~Seneca

When you make a habit of activities that support your wellbeing, you increase the chances of putting your best self into the world each day.

There is no “magic formula” or set of guidelines for what this means. Everyone has different needs, interests, and preferred practices. Find what works for you!

Below are a few habits I use to care for myself. I hope they’re helpful as a reference point for you to apply in your own life.

(Before diving in, I wanted to let you know about my Mindful Morning Jumpstart Checklist. It’s a morning routine I follow to start every day on the right foot. It won’t make you superman, but it helps me put my best self forward more often than not. The checklist includes my specific routine, the rationale behind it, and some ways you can customize it to fit your priorities and needs.)

1. Make Time for “Non-Doing”

Intentionally break from the “go-go-go” of modern life to find stillness, and connect with the present moment. Cultivating presence and awareness helps you act intentionally, and with a clear mind.

How to apply it:

  • Go for a 30 minute walk. No screens, no podcasts, no specific agenda. Just walk for the sake of walking. Exist in the present moment. Pay attention to your senses.
  • Sit in meditation for 10-20 minutes each day. Sitting in the morning helps start the day with peace and presence. Meditating right after lunch helps recenter you to stay focused in the afternoon. Meditating before bed helps ease you into restful sleep.

2. Look Within (Introspection and Reflection)

Journaling and self-reflection give you a zoomed-out view of the present moment. Seeing the “now” in context with the rest of your life helps cultivate self-understanding. This aids in making plans for the future, and fostering appreciation of the good things in your life.

How to apply it:

  • Take 20-30 minutes to free write about the last three months. Reflect on how you spent your time, what you’ve learned, people you’ve met, and whatever else comes to mind. Be sure to acknowledge both the pleasant and unpleasant things that have happened.

3. Move Your Body

Modern life is filled with unnatural levels of stillness. Sitting at a desk, sitting in a car, sitting on the couch…Breaking that pattern with movement and exercise will give you more energy and confidence in the rest of life.

If you find yourself making excuses, know that you are never too anything (old, fat, weak, inexperienced…) to get up and move.

How to apply it:

  • Find a way that you like to move, and do it on a regular basis. If you already exercise regularly, pick a new way to move for a different experience. Try a dance class. Go rock climbing. Give yoga a shot.

4. Fine-Tune Your Fuel

What you eat directly impacts your energy levels. Choose what to eat based on how you feel after eating it, not just how good it tastes. The goal is to maintain higher energy levels throughout the day. This helps you stay present to your work, and interactions with others.

How to apply it:

  • Pay attention to what foods sap your energy, and when you feel fresh after a meal. Eat less of what makes you feel lethargic and cloudy. Eat more of what doesn’t negatively impact you.

5. Play!

“Adults don’t stop playing because they grow old. They grow old because they stop playing.” ~Source unknown

Somewhere along the line, life became serious…all the time. What gives?

Play is one of the most underrated activities in adult life. Taking time for play reacquaints you with an open, spacious, abundant, and playful quality of mind. This state of mind is the same best used for creative work, diffusing tension, navigating challenges without getting bogged down, and so much more.

How to apply it:

  • This one should be self-explanatory! 🙂 Book time on your calendar this weekend to play. It may feel silly, but I guarantee you won’t regret it. Even better, make a play-date with a friend! Go to the park, play a favorite video game, learn to juggle…Give yourself permission to be goofy and vulnerable, and just have fun.

6. Prepare Yourself for Quality Sleep

Do you have a bedtime routine to prepare yourself for sleep? Or do you metaphorically crash into bed each night?

What you do in the day (exercise, food, sunlight, caffeine, alcohol…), and before bed (screens, stressful work…) has a huge impact your sleep.

Take steps to improve your sleep quality if you find yourself lacking energy on a regular basis.

How to apply it:

  • Establish a repeatable nighttime routine to ease you into sleep. Turn the lights down, put your phone away, and do some journaling/reading. (For more sleep tips, I enjoyed listening to this podcast.)

Go Forth With a Smile

“If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace

A smile may seem like a small gesture, but it’s an important one. You have the opportunity to positively impact the lives of everyone around you.

By taking some time each day to care for your wellbeing, you set the stage to put your best self into the world.

Instead of encountering a blank emotional slate or a distracted mind, the world will benefit from your energy, presence, and smile.

🙂

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