What if we told you that there’s a way to dial back the stress you deal with in your daily life, to feel more joyful and less overwhelmed? That’s the premise behind self-care—a buzzy term you’ve probably heard a lot about or even tried to practice. The trick to making self-care pay off is to incorporate it into a regular part of your life. With 2018 upon us, make this the year you do just that.
“Self-care is something we tend to forget about because it can almost seem as if you’re being selfish,” says Apryl Zarate Schlueter, author of Finding Success in Balance: My Journey to the Cheerful Mind. “But we need to give to ourselves. Otherwise, you can run low on energy and put negativity out there instead of positivity.” These are the expert-backed self-care suggestions to take on this year—and find more happiness over the next 12 months.
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You always tell yourself you’re going to do it—pack a bag, book a flight, and head somewhere exotic or so far off the beaten path, you can breathe and just be. In 2018, start planning. “People forget to take advantage of having a vacation from work,” says Schlueter. “It allows you to slow down so you can speed back up when you get back.” No paid time off at your company? Steal away for a long holiday weekend, then and milk every minute of your time away so you come back refreshed and restored.
Try workouts outside of your comfort zone
We don’t have to tell you about all the benefits of regular sweat sessions. And while you might have found a specific routine that works for you, stretching your boundaries with something new can fill you with pulse-pounding adrenaline, challenge your skill set, and give you another reason to make it to the gym every day. For Schlueter, checking out a flying trapezes class was her fitness self-care. “That was my zen place where I could socialize, work out, and have fun,” she says.
Sexual activity and orgasms have lots of legit health benefits, from easing stress to relieving headaches and boosting brain activity. Considering that just 20% of women reported masturbating in the past month, according to research in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, you may find that you have some catching up to do in the self-love department. No disrespect to sex with a partner, but sometimes going solo is the simplest way to snag those body benefits.
Start saying ‘no’
This one little word has a whole lot of power over your mood and happiness. “Saying no to someone or something is a great form of self-care. Not only is it allowing you to avoid something you don’t want to do, but it gives space in your life to say yes to something you do,” says Schlueter. While it may be difficult at first, you’ll notice it gets easier to speak up and voice your needs as time goes on.
Splurge on more events or experiences
Sure you’ve heard that money can’t make you happy. But actually, there is a way that it can, according to research: Spend your dough on experiences rather than stuff. That’s why a great self-care move is to plunk down cash on something that feels indulgent yet you’ve always wanted to do or see. Maybe it’s finally catching Hamilton, booking a luxurious spa day, or signing up for a yoga retreat. It’s completely up to you as long as you know it will bring you joy.
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Wake up with gratitude
Maintaining a happy, lighthearted perspective on the day can be tough, especially when there’s a million things going on. But a positive outlook is a gift you can give yourself by pledging to start or end each day reminding yourself about all that’s good in your life. “Thinking about one thing you’re grateful for reinforces a positive mindset, which prevents you from defaulting to the negative,” says Schlueter. It takes less than a minute to score this mood boost.
Set regular coffee or wine dates with a friend
One misnomer about self-care is that you should be alone while doing it. Not so. Connections with friends and family are the foundation of a happy life. In a 2014 study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, feeling satisfied with your friendships was what mattered most when it came to being content. These days, most of us rely on social media when it comes to keeping up with friends. Make a point in 2018 to carve out more face time.
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Soak up the sun
Mother Nature may be just the therapy you need. Getting outside can ease a bad mood or anxiety, suggests a study in the journal Proceeedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Day trips for long hikes or beach strolls are always restorative, but even a walk through some local woods or time spent on a bench in a garden can make you feel calmer and more at peace—and perhaps more aware of beauty, magic, and wonder.
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