Have you ever noticed that you feel more generous and empathic toward others on days when you exercise, go outside, read a good book, eat healthy or spend quality time with loved ones? I know I do.
If I sleep in and miss my workout in the morning or eat something I know isn’t good for my body for lunch, I tend to feel more agitated and impatient toward others and have a crummy day overall. But if I run outside in the morning, spend 10 minutes meditating, read something inspiring before work and eat good, nourishing food throughout the day, I am a more pleasant and considerate person at work and at home.
Although I exercise, eat healthy and practice self-care for my own body and mind, doing so may benefit others around me as well.
Although I exercise, eat healthy and practice self-care for my own body and mind, doing so may benefit others around me as well. According to several prominent research studies, taking time to read, meditate, exercise and nurture your own well-being can make you a more intelligent, pleasant and empathic person, which not only lifts the moods of those around you, but can inspire you (and others) to have a more generous and caring attitude overall.
Though some may criticize the focus of self-care and cultivation as inherently selfish, it’s actually quite the opposite. In Mahayana Buddhist tradition, practitioners take a vow to seek enlightenment through self-cultivation to better themselves for the greater good of the world. Imagine a world where everyone practiced this bodhisattva vow: we would be more generous, compassionate and caring towards other people, but also to all living things and the natural environment.
If you’re looking to cultivate a bit more bodhisattva in your life, here are some self-care tips you can practice, aside from the usual exercise/meditation/good-book-in-a-bubble-bath approach:
Take a few moments at the end of the day to write down something nice that happened that day, or something that you were grateful for. It’s amazing how reflecting on a positive experience can change your mood, and how cathartic it can be to put a pen to paper.
Do your brain and eyes a favor by shutting down all electronic devices at least an hour before bed. Studies have shown how disruptive our electronic devices can be to our sleep patterns.
Pay attention to the muscles in your shoulders and face right now. Are they tense? Are you wearing your shoulders as earrings? Is your jaw clenched? Take a deep breath and relax those muscles immediately. I find that when I’m focused at work or reading something with a lot of detail, my brows are furrowed and my lips are pursed. Relaxing the muscles in my face immediately decreases my stress level.
Art is never a waste of time. Take a moment to doodle on a piece of paper, jot down a haiku, make a bracelet with buttons and beads, bake cupcakes, build a birdhouse—anything that involves your hands and heart and ends with a finished product. Not only is art relaxing and fun, but it’s also good for your brain.
Practice positive self-talk.
It’s amazing how much looking in the mirror and saying something nice out loud to your reflection can be. Even though you may feel a little uncomfortable or silly at first, studies have shown that positive self-talk can help reduce stress and improve overall health.