In my last article, I wrote about how our myriad options for health repair have led us to believe that doing our own self-maintenance isn’t so important – we can always get fixed. Then I compared a car that’s been repeatedly broken and repaired to one that’s always been cared for and never needed repair. Even though they might be technically equivalent vehicles, I’m sure you’d rather have the latter, right? Finally, we looked at the qualitative differences between caring for yourself grudgingly or out of fear, versus caring for yourself out of sheer love and appreciation for your life and the body that makes it possible.
In case you still aren’t convinced, though, here are five more reasons to do good things for yourself. And that, by the way, is really what self-care comes down to – doing good things for yourself. That doesn’t sound so awful, does it?
1. Do it for your family. Taking care of yourself will help ensure that you’re around longer for your loved ones, and also that the quality of your presence with them will be at its highest. You might believe you’re going to be here for another 75 years regardless of how you treat yourself, but chances are your family would like you not just alive, but also calm, clear, and available to them. Self-care will make a difference.
2. Do it for your work. If you feel like your work is important, then you must understand that the time you have to make a difference will likely be prolonged by treating yourself well. Meanwhile, you’ll do better work if you’re well maintained, and there won’t be any subconscious resentment toward your job if you don’t feel like you’re sacrificing your health for it. Even if you just see your job as a means to a paycheck, that’s all the more reason to maximize what you get out of the time you spend doing it. If you ensure that you’re performing at your peak, you’ll be efficient at getting your work done and will probably receive more raises as a result.
3. Do it for your leisure. Whether or not your job merits showing up at your best (and I’d argue that even if you’re a garbage collector, there’s still value in doing your best – plus the self-care that makes it possible), I’m sure you’d like to experience peak enjoyment in the fun parts of life. When fatigue, stress, and other health problems infringe on our play time, that’s when we can really get despondent – or motivated to change things. But rather than letting it come to that, why not do everything reasonable to stay healthy and have as much fun as possible?
4. Do it for the world. The world needs loving, positive, free thinking people like you. There are numerous ways in which we could make Earth an even better place, and it takes people who are passionate about these changes to bring them about. What do you want to see improve? Better access to education for women in the developing world? Gay rights? Preservation of endangered species? Renewable energy sources? Availability of clean water? Stay alive and healthy, and contribute to the planet that birthed you and supports you.
5. Do it for your soul. Perhaps you believe, as I do, that your soul chose this life in order to fully experience being a human, with the whole range of feelings, activities, relationships, tastes, and everything else that’s available to you. For me, one of the strongest motivators to take good care of myself is the respect I have for the consciousness that knew I had the faculties to handle anything life could throw at me. No, not just to handle it, but to do something beautiful with it. I have no idea how long this life will last, but I have such appreciation for the opportunity that I feel I owe it to my soul to treat this life well. Maybe you have a similar belief in your own way of understanding.
Sometimes my patients want to do more self-care, but can’t think of where to start. So I put together this list of suggestions. A few of them may not apply to you, and of course, the list isn’t exhaustive. Take a look, and see how many of these practices are already in place for you. Then pick one or two to add to your regimen each week.
Surface care & detoxification:
- Washing/cleansing, toning, applying any appropriate skin care products
- Skin brushing
- Sweating (via sauna, steam, exercise, etc.)
- Self massage & oil application
- Hair care
- Nail care
- Tooth brushing, flossing
- Tongue scraping
- Oil pulling
- Neti (nasal rinsing)
- Nasya (nasal lubrication)
- Eye exercises
- Wear sunglasses
- Occasional fasting
- Fiber consumption
- Specific cleansers for liver, kidneys, gut, lungs, skin, etc.
- Feed your body well – good foods, appropriate to your constitution and condition, eating slowly and digested thoroughly
- Consume a variety of food types – including protein (especially for vegetarians and more so for vegans), good fats (chia, hemp, avocado, olives & olive oil, coconut, walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, macadamias, flax, fish and fish oil, etc.), lots of vegetables (especially dark green ones, and some bitter ones)
- Exercise (resistance training and aerobic)
- Maintain good posture
Other Systemic Care:
- Sun exposure
- Commune with nature and the elements (earth, water, fire, clean air, plants, animals, etc.)
- Sleep – both long enough and good quality
- Relax the body and mind completely (meditation, floating, etc.)
- Deep slow breathing, including some time in pristine air
- Integrative body/mind practice – Qigong, yoga, taijiquan (tai chi), dao yin, yi quan, mindful dance, etc.
- Open your voice – singing, chanting, toning, etc.
- Self-exam for cancers or other problems – breast, testicle, and general overall body check – moles, lumps – include your scalp
- Take any needed supplements and/or medicines
- Schedule health maintenance treatments with professionals – acupuncture, massage, naturopathy, skin care, etc.
- Make time for connecting with friends and family
By now, I hope you’re ready to care for yourself like the precious jewel you are.
Dr. Peter Borten