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Filed Under: Educational
Ways to Self-Care

Ways to Self-Care

By Michelle Lunger

May is Mental Health Awareness Month! We decided to celebrate this month by giving you some self-care tips backed by science. These are just some of the ways you can show yourself some compassion and self-love which can benefit your mental health and overall well-being. 

Self-care isn’t a reward, it is a necessity. Many of us, including myself, often feel guilty for taking time for ourselves. However, it is truly so important and necessary to do. You can’t help others and be the best version of yourself if you’re not helping yourself first. Although every day might look different, it is important to do at least one thing for yourself each day. Indulge when you need to, have that cookie because you deserve it, buy that bikini because it makes you feel confident, take that walk. Just remember you don’t need to earn self-care because you deserve it no matter what. It is time to invest in yourself because you are worthy of it and it is necessary for your well-being. 



More Self-Love: 

Find ways to love yourself and have compassion for yourself. There are many ways you can show yourself the love and the care you need. It can start by taking charge and priority of yourself and your mental health. Be kind to your mind, body, and soul. Try to not beat yourself up for your mistakes, difficulties, your past and current traumas. Try to be mindful, practice acceptance and understanding. Notice the way you talk to yourself. Are you being kind? Is there a way you can improve your thought process? Listen to your body and your mind. What do you need at this moment? What can you do at this moment? Asking yourself these questions are important to get to know yourself and your needs better. Tune into yourself and your emotions and remember that you are only human and that is a beautiful thing. Know that everything you need is within you and there is always possibility and room for improvement or maintenance. Your mental health matters and you matter.

Do Something That Makes You Smile:

Did you know that smiling can actually improve your mood? Even if that smile isn’t genuine, the physical act of smiling can activate signals and pathways in your brain that influence your emotional state. Smiling can release and activate neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin which can boost your mood. When I was in an intensive outpatient program, this was one of the first Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills we learned. To me, at first it seemed silly, but it actually works even when it doesn’t come naturally. Next time you are feeling down, try to smile softly. See if your mood improves. Even if smiling softly seems strange to you, try to be mindful of experiences that bring you joy and bring you to smile. Try to spend your energy and time doing those activities and it will be beneficial to your mental and emotional health.


Connect with Nature:

There is evidence that proves the benefits and positive effects of nature especially for anxiety, depression, and mood disorders. It has been found that going outside and experiencing nature can increase feelings of happiness, improve sleep, and reduce stress, negative symptoms and emotions. Nature can also inspire creativity while boosting memory, attention, and overall thought clarity. Note that you do not need a mental illness to benefit from nature, but it can be especially beneficial for those affected. My favorite way to experience nature is to go on a nature walk/hike or just sitting on a park bench. I try to be mindful and focus on my senses. I focus on what I see, hear, smell, feel, and even taste. It really brings me back to the present moment and keeps me grounded.


Get Some Sunshine:

Research has been shown that decreased sun exposure has been associated with a drop in serotonin levels which can contribute to depression and anxiety. Sunlight cues signals to the brain which trigger the release of serotonin. Serotonin is commonly associated with boosting mood and increasing feelings of calmness, happiness, and overall clarity and focus. With this knowledge, a common treatment of depression with a seasonal pattern (Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD) is actually light therapy. So even if the days are shorter you can get a light therapy box to have at home which mimics natural sunlight that stimulates the brain to make serotonin. So whether you have a light therapy box or go outside and experience sunlight it can be especially beneficial for those with anxiety, depression, mood disorders, and even premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). 

I definitely find myself struggling especially during the winter when the days are shorter and it is just too cold to be outside. But whenever I have a chance, even on a cold winter day, I put on my jacket and sit in my backyard. I notice a significant difference in my mood even just after a few minutes. The warmth of the sun feels like a hug and it recharges me for the day.

Call your Loved Ones:

A simple conversation with a friend, family member, or medical professional can provide the relief you need to feel a little more understood, less alone, and can even help you work through difficult emotions. In the past, I have felt like a burden to others or did not even give people the benefit of the doubt in fear of being misunderstood. This has prevented me from even thinking about reaching out, but you never know unless you try. Just know that you don’t have to go through anything alone because there are people that love you and are willing to support you no matter what. Whether you want to talk about your day, a difficult situation, or a TV show you just binged watched it doesn’t hurt to reach out. Make sure you ask for help when you need it and in return, be there for your friends and family as well when you can. A simple phone call or even text can make the biggest difference. To just know that you are loved, that you have support when needed, and to have that reciprocated is a feeling that is unmatched.,you%20up%20through%20life's%20challenges.


We hope this post inspires you to take a little bit of time for yourself because you are worth it. Let us know if you try any of these self-care tips or if you have other self-care tips that you live by! Remember, you are worthy and deserving of all good things and it’s important to make your mental health and overall well-being a priority. Don’t forget to find some time each day to give yourself a little extra TLC.