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Does Self-Care Make Us Happier?- A Guide to the Self

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

How can I be happier? We have been asking ourselves this question over and over for the past two years. The pandemic had us all in a perpetual state of unease and doubt, and for those of us in our twenties, it only amplified the confusion of this decade.


Self-care is trending, everyone's talking about it, reading about it and everyone's doing it. Like some secret code to leading a happier life and becoming more productive, self-care is everywhere. From social media to magazines, from your loved ones to your peers, they're all talking about self-care.


So how does self-care make us happier?


WHAT IS SELF-CARE?

Self-Care Isn't Selfish Or Self-Indulgent; It's Self-Preservation

Let's start with the most important point. Self-care is neither selfish nor something to feel guilty about. Neither is it about being self-indulgent, but it's rather about self-preservation.


By that I mean it's not about toxic positivity or becoming prettier or richer, it's about becoming more self-aware, getting rid of bad stress, and being more loving with yourself and others in the process. This affects other areas of our lives and leads to positive change in most areas.


What Does Self-Care Involve?

Simply put, self-care is about learning, practicing, and maintaining your own physical, mental, and emotional health, sometimes even your spiritual health (if that's your thing). It's about keeping your body, mind, and spirit happy.


It's a practice that everyone should learn to incorporate into their lives, just like other habits like brushing our teeth. But it's especially important for people suffering from stress and anxiety because they could really benefit from getting more in touch with the greener side of things.


In our modern world, we think self-care is a new concept introduced by recent TikTok trends. In reality, the concept of self-care has been around for centuries, from Socrates, who started the self-care movement in ancient Greece, to poet and social rights activist Audre Lorde, who brought it to the Black Feminist movement.


Before moving on, it's important to point out that self-care isn't an excuse for laziness, but rather to become more active and the main character in our own lives. It's an important personal and social life practice for everyone, not just those who think they need it, because it's essential to a healthy, productive, and happy life.



DISCLAIMER: It's vital to note that this is a general overview. If someone is struggling with depression, deep distress, or other overwhelming negative emotions, they should seek guidance from a medical professional or mental health specialist, or even a close friend or family member, for assistance.


Some Ways To Practice Self-Care

I won't go into too much detail here, but to give you some ideas of what self-care might look like, here's a list of activities I try to incorporate into my life:

  1. Meditation

  2. Going for walks outside

  3. Taking a long, hot shower

  4. Reading a book

  5. Dancing to my favorite songs every morning

  6. Drinking a cup of my favorite hot chocolate, tea or coffee

  7. Writing thank you notes for people I appreciate, etc.


WHAT IS HAPPINESS?

The funny thing about happiness is that we think it's something that happens by chance or depends on fate. But research disagrees. Science says that 50% of our happiness depends on our genetics, only 10% on life circumstances, and the remaining 40% on our own actions, thoughts and habits. This means that to a large extent, we have it in our own hands to bring happiness into our lives in the way that suits us. Every second we can take a small step towards changing our perspective.

"Our intentional, effortful activities have a powerful effect on how happy we are, over and above the effects of our set points and the circumstances in which we find ourselves." Sonja Lyubomirsky (The How of Happiness)
Science says that 50% of our happiness depends on our genetics, only 10% on life circumstances, and the remaining 40% on our own actions, thoughts and habits.

For me, happiness is the feeling of being the most "you" as you can be, feeling confident and whole in yourself, and most importantly, being in the present without worrying about the past or the future.


HOW DOES SELF-CARE MAKE US HAPPIER?

Now that we know what self-care and happiness really mean, we can now go further in understanding how these two words converge for our own benefit. As we've said before, happiness is about being the best "you" you can be, and self-care is about staying in the present and not feeling guilty.


It helps us become happier by teaching us to stay in the present because the brain automatically starts thinking about the past, future, or one of our biggest fears, if we're idle for even a few seconds. Self-care essentially helps us escape the automatic functioning of our brain, also known as its Default Mode Network (Mason et al. 2007). In other words, it helps us enjoy the present moments and be the best version of ourselves we can be. Consequently, it also helps us prevent burnout.


It's important to remember that this is all based on scientific evidence shown in multiple research papers & taught in many courses, such as Yale University's The Science of Well-Being course conducted by Prof. Laurie Santos.


As shown by both scientific research and the prevailing wisdom of master philosophers, self-care is an essential element of happiness. It is a small, positive act that leads to change in your life when done on a routine basis. It's not about becoming a perfectionist or turning your life into a daily photoshoot, but becoming a better version of yourself and enjoying the present.


In essence, self-care helps in preserving your true self and improving it to become a better person who can keep up with the growing, moving, and adapting world, and most importantly, stay in the present moment. All of this leads us to become happier.


THEN, WHY DO MORE PEOPLE NOT PRACTICE IT?

Self-care truly makes us happy and the connection between the two is so simple. Then, why don't more people around the world practice it? Many misconceptions about self-care keep us from actually putting these plans into action, so let's clear up some of them.


Self-Care Isn't Anti-Social

To illustrate this point, I'd like to share the following quote from an article in Forge:

"When I called Laurie Santos, PhD, professor of psychology at Yale University and host of The Happiness Lab, to ask her about self-care, she said, “It’s not so much that treating yourself is bad, it’s more just what’s the ‘opportunity cost’ of treating yourself? Slipping into a nice bubble bath is not bad in and of itself. It’s just that it might mean you’re not calling a really good friend that you haven’t talked to in a while, or connecting with your parents, or doing other kinds of things that can feel challenging but ultimately are good.”


She went on to say, “The very focus of this idea of self-care — the Parks and Rec phrase ‘Treat yo’self’ — causes us to be more self-focused. And what so much of the research in positive psychology suggests is that happiness derives from being other-focused, like doing nice things for others, trying to connect with others, being grateful for others.” "


Self-Care Is More Than A Social Media Trend

As the world has evolved into a highly dynamic digital world where we feel the need to share everything positive and great about our "perfect" lives with the entire world on the internet, many people have become confused, angry, or withdrawn.


There are many misconceptions about what self-care really is and looks like. From treating yourself to a massage to maintaining a strict exercise regime, self-care is becoming more and more popular, but it is often misunderstood.


Self-care is often associated on social media with terms like elaborate routines, bath bombs, being "that girl," etc. But there's no need to develop elaborate routines that can be demonstrated in a video with cute aesthetics and upbeat audio.

Self-care doesn't change your life, it's how you approach self-care that changes your life. Just because I think long, hot showers are self-care for me, doesn't mean it's the same for you.


You Don't Have To Spend Money To Practice Self-Care

Although social media and advertising would have us believe that self-care is about buying yourself a coffee or that expensive outfit you've had your eye on, that's not true. Research shows that material things often don't make us as happy as we think they do. What's more, their impact is smaller. Instead, it's our experiences, big & small, that make us happier; the chat we had with a friend on our way to get coffee than the coffee itself!


Self-care isn't just about buying things(i.e. adding to capitalism), like trendy bath bombs, it's also something you can practice anywhere, even in your own comfy bed, like taking a quick nap to unwind.


SO, WHAT COUNTS AS SELF-CARE AND WHAT DOESN'T?

Anything that makes you feel happy, content, and part of the world rather than apart from it, is self-care for you. It's not about spending money, developing elaborate, perfect routines that don't suit you, sharing everything on social media, or avoiding going out with friends to meditate.


Self-care is about finding your balance and then sticking with it; finding a rhythm that works for you. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa; YOU DO YOU.


Keep in mind that it won't be easy. There will be good days and bad days, highs and lows, but it's important to remind yourself that it's a process; all part of a journey.


SOCIALLY COMMITTING YOUR SELF-CARE

One of the best ways to begin self-care on your happiness journey is to become socially involved & committed to your goals. Below is a list of ways you can do that:


1. Self-Care Days/Evenings With Friends

Self-care days and evenings with friends aren't only fun, but also help us discover our inner strengths, reconnect with each other, and nurture the bonds of friendship.


Having a self-care day with friends is a great idea if you're feeling overwhelmed. You can even try coordinating your self-care goals with a friend, checking in with each other at least once a week to make sure you're on track with your self-care journey.


2. Follow Accounts That Align With Your Philosophy And Amplify Your Energy

A great way to keep yourself motivated for self-care is to follow accounts on social media that align with your vibe, thoughts, and life. This will keep you up to date with what's going on in the world while energizing your life and self-care.


Follow accounts that align with your philosophy and boost your energy, instead of draining it. Some I follow are @katie.eu , @diaryofaromantica , @moyamawhinney , @damondominique , @best.dressed , and @sophiaecarter


3. Plan Calls Or Chat With Friends And Family

Personally, I try to catch up with a close friend or family member at least once a week to not only stay connected but also to remind myself that I matter and there are people who matter to me. In a way, to remind myself that I'm alive as long as I feel.


One of the things I commit to is sending my best friend a selfie every time I meditate and go for a walk - so I can stick to those habits & be accountable. And this also gives us a chance to stay connected even though we live halfway across the world from each other now.


LET'S IMPLEMENT IT!

Self-care is a journey, not an all-or-nothing scheme, not a pill, but not an impossible journey to embark upon either.


SAVOR IT! This is the most important part of self-care. It's important to enjoy every bit of the experience, not only to fully enjoy the goal you've chosen but also to fully feel the happiness that comes from it.


There are many ways you can implement your self-care goals, such as by creating a routine, vision board, using sticky notes, joining self-care clubs like the Morning Club, listening to podcasts that align with your goals, creating hype playlists, using self-care apps like Sparkle, writing your heart out, etc.


But the most important thing is that it should make YOU happy. If it doesn't make you feel good, throw it away and find another way to practice self-care; find your OWN rhythm, take time to find it, and enjoy & savor it when you finally do.


Another way to better understand self-care and your relationship to it (which has helped me a lot) is to take the Yale University course "The Science of Well-Being" by Prof. Laurie Santos. It provides many great insights that are simple yet so important to understand.


How Do I Practice Self-Care?

I use a combination of many of the techniques above and constantly alternate them to find what works for me and truly makes me happier. Most of all, I fail A LOT, I make mistakes often, but I give myself a day or two, take a short break and then pick myself back up and keep going.


I try not to let it get too stressful because otherwise, it loses its core point, which is to declutter your mind, stay in the present, and ultimately make you happier.


Some videos & podcasts that might be useful to start this journey:

  1. Psych2Go Video- https://youtu.be/W7_lafxj8ok

  2. Matthew Killingsworth's TED Talk - Want to be happier? Stay in the moment- https://youtu.be/Qy5A8dVYU3k

  3. Who is "that girl" and why do we all want to be her?- https://open.spotify.com/episode/57Lc5kFZsyfOllobdyL7ay?si=7xoLE-ACQA6dXdH_vKY7qA

  4. Flowers by Miley Cyrus- https://youtu.be/G7KNmW9a75Y


In summary, YES, self-care makes you happier on many levels. As we discussed earlier in this article, there are many ways to find out which self-care practices work best for you & make you happier and how. I hope that this article has made it easier to understand them.


Hopefully, you now have a greater appreciation for the true concept & practice of self-care, and the benefits it can bring to your life, like feeling happier & content.


To end with a beautiful quote,

"Almost everything works again when you turn it off for a few minutes, including you." Anne Lamott

And now to you, what makes you happier? What is your relationship with self-care? I look forward to your thoughts in the comments below.


Thanks for reading! If you liked this article, please drop a like and share it with your family and friends, and for further blog updates follow me on my Instagram handle @helzeeblog , on Wix and also on YouTube. See you next time! Till then, always remember, Be brave. Be strong. Be great.💛


~ helzeee 💛

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Lifestyle | Self-growth

Storyteller at my core & writer at my front, I'm here to share stories with you that help you see the magic in the world.💛

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