The Science Behind Self Care
The topic of self-care shows no signs of dying down with ever more content, marketing and products being pumped out. We’ve already discussed what true self-care really means, but sometimes it can be difficult to motivate yourself to do something if you’re unsure how it’s going to help. What can those self-care practices plastered online really do for you? As it turns out – lots.
We turn to science for the low down on how things make us feel good. If it’s backed by science, then these self-care rituals must be worth spending our limited time on.
Take New Routes
We mentioned in our previous article of Self-Care: What It Really Means that one small simple change to our daily commute can make all the difference. There’s something about the change up, whether it’s walking a slightly different route or mixing up your public transport choice, that feels good. But you can’t quite place why.
It’s because the simple mix up in your routine creates new neural pathways (or schemas) in your brain, instead of essentially running on auto-pilot through old pathways. Simply by taking a new route to work, your brain is having to think about the journey, process new information and figure out where you fit into the environment. It keeps your brain on its toes, young and healthy.
In a time where so much emphasis is placed on physical well being and exercise, very few consider the importance of also exercising your brain.
Good news, we don’t all need to be doing crazy yoga poses and full workouts every morning before the sun rises. Even on the laziest of days we just need to ensure we get moving and most importantly – stretch. It’s a non-intimidating and quick task to do as soon as you get out of bed. Even for the morning adverse. Perfect if you want to skip the gym and still feel guilt free.
A five minute stretch routine first thing obviously helps to relieve any muscle tension from the knots that are a physical manifestation of your mental stress. Working out the stress that lingers physically in your body helps to clear out your mind too.
But it does more. It gets your blood circulating around your body, and especially to your brain. This results in you feeling more alert and energised (we all know how hard that is in the dead of Winter). You’ll be ready to start your day in a much better mind frame and could find yourself performing better at work.
One small five minute practice could change the course of your whole day.
I don’t know a person out there who doesn’t say “I’d love to read more”. I know a lot less people who do what they say and actively set aside time to settle down with a book. Despite us wanting to relax and learn simultaneously, courtesy of a good book, we’re all pretty terrible at finding the time to do it.
Reading is great because firstly it unplugs you from screens. Escape from all that blue light, especially before bed, as blue light is widely known to suppress melatonin production and alter circadian rhythms. That can lead to a significant effect on the cardiovascular, metabolic and immune systems as well as disturbing your mood and lowering cognitive function.
Secondly, reading is perfect for those who are overwhelmed, anxious or stressed as it calms you down. A 2009 study showed that reading was the best way to overcome stress, even over other activities such as going on a walk or listening to music.
If you’re looking for some book list inspiration, we’ve compiled a list of Autumn Reads. Perfect for curling up with when it’s cold and dreary outside.
This may just be the easiest, quickest and most universal self-care practice we’ve ever come across. Stop and take three deep breaths, breathing deep into your abdomen. This is perfect when you feel the crushing weight of stress come down on you and even in those moments where you don’t.
Breathing deeply calms us down by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, the one that brings us into a relaxed state.
Breath therefore greatly affects our mental state and learning proper breathing techniques can certainly enhance our yoga and meditation practices as well as our lives. Our brains are incredibly energy intensive and require a large amount of oxygen. By increasing your oxygen levels allows your brain to have clarity and to help you feel productive throughout your day. This simple practice costs nothing, requires nothing and can do so much for you. Perfect for stress, anxiety, depression, negative thought patterns, addictive behaviours and eating disorders.
Self-care can sometimes mean becoming more conscious about those things that usually go on subconsciously behind the scenes.
Since stress has just become a side effect of our busy modern lives, it’s more important than ever to keep the positive impact of self-care practices in mind. Those tiny self-care habits you can build into your daily routine really do add up to something greater.