Six FREE Self-Care Gifts to Give Yourself More Often
What self-care gifts do you need more often?
How did you nourish yourself this year? Which self-care gifts can you give yourself more regularly? These are two essential questions I ask myself at the end of every year. Like many of us, I like to do some inner stock-taking at the end of the year so that I can set fresh intentions and goals for the new year.
But no matter how carefully I craft my intentions and goals for the year, I always reach December feeling bone-tired like I’ve just run a dozen marathons without stopping to draw breath. And this year, the year of the sacred pause, still has us all in a made rush as we get ready for the end of the year.
So this year I am starting my end-of-year reset with a list of all the small daily self-care gifts I need to give myself regularly. Because there are so many little things we can do every day to help us feel balanced, in sync with ourselves and energised throughout the year.
The thing is, self-care isn’t all about bubble baths and spa treatments. It’s about how we look after our physical and mental wellbeing. Stress is unavoidable and a certain amount is even good for us, but it’s all about keeping the balance. For me, self-care is all about slowing down and allowing myself to switch from busy ‘doing mode’ to ‘being mode’.
Like most people, I am much better at the beginning of the year to stick to my intentions. Therefore, this list of self-care gifts also serves me in January. I post it on the wall behind my desk so that I am reminded every day to create healthy habits.
So here is my list of regular self-care gifts. And they are all free!
1. The gift of a regular digital detox
This is the simplest and also the hardest self-care gift for me to receive. A day or two of total digital detox makes me feel like I’ve been at a wellness spa. Seriously. I spend so much time in front of the screen that two full days without screen-time replenish me like I’ve been on a retreat.
I can’t always afford to take two days off from my screen, but in 2021 I will try to give myself at least one internet-free day a week. As a freelancer I can design my own hours. Having a routine works best for me and it works best when I am in sync with the rest of the world. So from 2021 I will try to make Sundays wifi-free, and by implication, work-free.
But I want to achieve a better daily balance and I plan to trial one of these apps to schedule wifi-free times into my day and to become more disciplined about staying away from social media.
2. Forest Bathing
I am fortunate enough to have become stranded in a remote tropical seaside village fringed by World Heritage listed rainforest in the Wet Tropics of Australia thanks to the pandemic. It’s not an ideal scenario — for the first six months didn’t have a car and I was separated from my partner for 10 months — but I have the forest.
Every day I walk for miles. At dawn and at dusk. Initially I loaded my phone with tons of interesting podcasts so that I’d get my daily dose of intellectual stimulation whilst I getting some exercise.
But as the year and the pandemic dragged on and life became more challenging, I began to relish the silence of the forest. Walking with all my senses switched on, taking in the rich fragrance of the rainforest and the sounds of dry leaves crackling underfoot, evolved into a mindfulness practice.
I’ve always been a fan of forest-bathing, even before I knew that the Japanese have a term for it: shinrin-yoku, literally, forest bath. It refers to the practice of taking the forest in through the senses. It’s a practice that has been recognised by medical practitioners around the world as a way to boost the immune system, reduce blood pressure, lower cortisol levels and improve concentration and memory. This year it has been more important than ever, am I right?
3. The Gift of Sleep
I can’t believe it took me so long to accept that the gift of eight hours regular sleep is the best thing you can do for your skin, your focus, your mood and the well-being of those who live and work with you.
For decades I was a bad sleeper. I’d work late, then it would take me ages to fall asleep and often I’d be wide awake at 3 am pondering monumental problems. The next day I’d be cranky, unfocused and reactive. It felt like I was living with a perpetual hangover. Sound familiar?
When I first started freelancing, things got worse. It took me a while to realise the simple fact that looking at a computer screen, including my Kindle, told my brain to stay awake.
So now I do what all sensible people do. I don’t allow myself to look at the screen for an hour before bed time. I’ve changed to a Kindle Paperwhite and I put my phone on flight mode 30 minutes before bed time (I plan to double that in 2021, we’ll see…).
But the biggest and most valuable change is my new bed time. Ever since moving to the rice fields of rural Vietnam, I generally go to bed when my neighbors do, which is pretty much after 8.30 pm. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but it feels so good!
So for 2021, even though I am temporarily unable to return to Vietnam, I plan to continue to go to bed with the farmers and rise at dawn. On Sundays, I am allowed to stay in bed to read. How about you?
4. A regular journaling practice
I discovered the healing power of writing when I was going through a very difficult time. Every day I filled pages and pages of my journal doing endless brain dumps. Releasing the jumble of words and emotions in my head and in my heart onto the page made me feel instantly better.
This year I have concentrated on writing my memoir and I haven’t journaled as much. But I have used the technique of brain dump in many of my live classes, via Zoom or on retreat, and I have noticed that my community really like it when I start a writing session with a brain dump.
This month, the month of my annual stock-taking, I have returned to my journal. I’ve rediscovered the benefits of Morning Pages, which is simply writing three pages by hand first thing in the morning. Try it and share in the comments what it does for you. Or join our free online community and receive regular writing prompts and the support of a warm group of like-minded souls.
5. Regular exercise
Like most people, I don’t always feel like exercising, but I know it comes with instant results. I simply feel better when I have done my morning walk followed by my regular home yoga practice. It also shows me, over and over, the benefits of having a routine. The more I exercise the better I get. The same is true for everything. On the days when I don’t feel like writing, I remind myself that I got better at jogging by pushing through my resistance.
I walk or run every day and I have a simple 30-minute yoga routine that I do at least 3 mornings a week. On the weekends I extend it to 45 minutes. The key for me is routine. I designed a simple Ashtanga-inspired yoga routine for myself after I finished my yoga teacher training in 2017 and I’ve pretty much stuck with it since then.
Having a routine means I don’t have to think about it. I just do it and before I know it it’s done. It takes the procrastination and the agonizing out of things and it makes me more disciplined overall.
To feel good, I have to do the unpleasant part – get out of bed and actually start running when I’d rather turn over and continue snoozing. The rewards are instant. When I’ve started the day with exercise, I feel energised and good about myself and it helps me to better able to sail through the rest of the day with focus and flow.
But I’ve learned to be gentle with myself. I can’t run 5kms every day and that’s ok. I do what I can and I do it regularly. It seems to do the trick.
I’ve meditated on and off for years. During my bereavement I locked myself away in meditation centres all over Asia for many weeks. It was as painful as it sounds, but it was also deeply healing. Today meditation remains part of my morning routine. When I meditate I am less cranky and more focused. It’s that simple. You might say that you are too busy for meditation. But even 10 minutes can make a huge difference!
But getting a routine to stick can be hard. I recently tried out a few meditation apps in the name of research. After years on the cushion, I’ve been surprised by how useful I found an app for keeping me accountable. An app will tell me how often and for how long I’ve meditated and it will remind me when I’ve been slack.
My preferred app is Calm. I am extremely picky when it comes to voices. But Tamara Levitt’s soft and soothing voice always makes me want to come back for more!
The app also has a timer if you simply want to meditate on your own, and there are several calming background noises to choose from. The theme sound of crackling fire might be appropriate for the Christmas season if you live in the northern hemisphere (or if like me, you’re missing a white Christmas).
Or try one of our free meditations. When you sign up to be a part of the Write Your Journey Community, you will receive a free singing bowl meditation for you to enjoy. If you want more variety, you can purchase one of our singing bowl meditation packs here.
I am curious to hear from you. What self-care gifts do you give yourself on a regular basis? Or what’s something you’d like to do more of in the new year to stay balanced and healthy?