If you come to see us for massages, you probably already know how good it can feel to take care of yourself. You’ve likely seen for yourself what an incredible difference it can make for your happiness and well-being. According to Verywell Mind, self-care helps us proactively manage stress, bolster our physical and emotional health, and enable us to take better care of others.
All of these benefits sound great on paper, but many of us still don’t practice self-care as much as we might like to. Maybe we struggle to find time amid the busyness and responsibilities of everyday life. Or perhaps we just haven’t created strong enough habits around taking care of ourselves yet -- we either haven’t discovered what feels nourishing for ourselves, or we haven’t woven these activities into the fabric of our lives.
If you would like to create space for more self-care in your life, it can be immensely helpful to develop a regular self-care routine. Although it takes a little time to establish a new routine, once you do, taking care of yourself will feel second-nature. And even if life feels hectic and full, there are small steps you can take towards building new habits and changing your life for the better.
Why Create a Self-Care Routine?
A lot of us practice self-care sporadically -- a yoga class here, a massage there, a trip to the gym whenever we can find the time. And, just to be clear, we fully support all of these things! These health-boosting activities can brighten our days and lift our spirits, for sure.
That being said, if you want to improve your wellness in the long run, you’ll need to weave healthy activities into your life on a regular basis. Long-term health gains come from consistent effort over time -- and creating the right habits can greatly support you in that endeavor.
It takes time for your body and mind to adapt to changes in your routine. If you go to the gym one day and spend two hours working out, you’ve made an awesome start, but it’ll take numerous workouts to boost your overall fitness level. If you keep on working out regularly, your muscles will grow stronger and your heart and lungs will become more efficient, but those changes don’t happen overnight.
Likewise, if you get a massage once in a blue moon when your body is hurting, you might walk out the door feeling much better than when you came in. But if you make a habit of getting regular massages, you’ll keep your muscles healthier and more supple, which can reduce chronic pain and head off everyday soreness before it begins.
When you practice self-care now and then, it can still positively impact your life -- but when you make a habit of taking good care of yourself, the benefits exponentially increase. You’ll get a lot more mileage from your time and efforts if you create healthy habits and stick with them.
How to Build a Self-Care Routine You’ll Stick To
So, let’s say you’ve decided that you want to make self-care a higher priority in your life. How do you go about forming healthy new habits and creating a self-care routine that will last? Here are a few expert tips.
Know your “why”.
The first and most essential ingredient in a new habit is a strong “why”. Why do you want to make this change in your life? How will your life change or improve when you adopt this new habit? Take some time to think about these questions. Write down your answers, if you like, and keep them somewhere where you can re-read them as many times as you need to.
Understanding why your habit matters to you, is what’s going to keep you going strong even when doing the work feels hard. If you truly want to change your life and you know why you’re doing it, you’ll keep working for it even when your motivation dips down or when outside circumstances (like your weekly schedule) don’t conspire in your favor.
Create a specific habit to support one of your goals.
Now that you have your “why”, it’s time to decide what you want to do. What goals do you have for your health and wellness? Do you want to be able to run a marathon by this time next year? Would you like to take your chronic pain from a 5/10 (moderate) to a 2/10 (mild) so that it doesn’t affect your daily life as much?
Be specific about what you hope to achieve. Being healthy and well can look very different for each person. Many people say that they want to feel better overall, but what does feeling better mean for you? Do you want to have more energy? More mental clarity? Less stress? Clarify what you would like to feel and what changes you want to see in your life.
Once you have a goal in mind, create a specific and actionable habit that will help you make progress towards your goal. Big goals can be broken down into smaller sub-goals and steps that can be done on a weekly (or daily) basis. For example, if your goal is to run that marathon, your habit might be running three times a week and gradually upping the duration of each workout. Or, if you’re looking to lower your stress, you might try daily meditation or breathing exercises.
The possibilities are endless -- almost anything can be made into a habit! What matters most is choosing activities that you want to do, are able to do regularly, and will support your wellness goals.
Make a plan for your new habit.
Set yourself up for success by creating a concrete plan for how you’ll implement your new habit.
Decide ahead of time how often and when you’ll do it. Think about how you can integrate your habit into your existing schedule and pencil specific times into your calendar. If you’re aiming for daily meditation, you might schedule 5-10 minutes each evening before you go to bed. Even if you only have time for 1-2 minutes each day, make sure you choose an amount of time that you can consistently stick with.
Next, think about possible challenges that could arise. Life is full of unexpected happenings -- what might happen that could keep you from sticking with your new habit? Think about what hurdles you may face and how you’ll overcome them.
For example, if your goal is to cut all added sugar out of your diet, think about situations where you’ll be tempted to slip up and plan how you’ll handle these. What will you do if you’re at a family birthday party and they serve a big, scrumptious cake? If you’re a stress eater, how will you stay away from sugary sweets when you’re having a rough day?
The more you can anticipate and prepare for the things that could sidetrack your progress, the better equipped you’ll be to stay on track with your new habit.
Start with small changes.
When making a change to your life, always start with small, manageable steps that you can easily accomplish. Dr. BJ Fogg has a TEDx talk about creating “tiny habits” to move towards larger goals. For example, if you want to start flossing daily, you could start by flossing only one tooth each day after you brush your teeth.
Small changes like these are easy to manage, and the more often you accomplish them, the more confident you start to feel. Once you’ve got some momentum going, you can work your way towards flossing two teeth, then five, then ten -- until eventually, you’re doing all of them every day.
Consistency is key for forming new habits. Actions only turn into habits through repetition and practice. That’s why it’s so important to choose a habit that is manageable and fits easily into your schedule -- you want something that’s easy to keep doing even when your motivation falters and you don’t have a lot of free time.
We all slip up from time to time -- and if it happens to you, don’t beat yourself up! Just get right back on track with your habit. Skipping a day here and there isn’t going to hurt you -- just don’t skip two days in a row so that you keep your momentum going. Be flexible and forgiving with yourself, but don’t forget about what you set out to achieve and why.
Make it easy on yourself.
You’ve already made a plan for how and when you’ll do your habit, and you’ve thought about how you’ll overcome challenges. What else can you do to make the change last?
Once you’ve started doing your habit, make it as easy as possible for yourself to stick with it. Get into a rhythm and a flow by scheduling your habit in advance -- before long, you won’t even have to think about it because it’ll be a regular part of your life.
To give one more example: if you’d like to make a habit of getting regular massages with us (we’d love that!), consider pre-booking your next appointment at the end of each session. That way, your next massage is already in the calendar and you don’t even have to think about scheduling it.
And while we’re on the subject, we also have a membership option that offers discounted massage rates and other perks (like free sessions in our infrared sauna!). We aim to make it as easy as possible for you to come in and pamper yourself regularly -- visit our website to learn more.
Reward yourself for your accomplishments.
It’s worth celebrating the times when you stick with doing what you set out to do. You can give yourself a pat on the back, a few kind words, or any other simple thing that reminds you of what you’ve accomplished. Rewarding yourself doesn’t just feel great; it also helps reinforce your habit. So treat yourself a little -- you deserve it!
Making changes in your life can be a challenge -- but by taking simple actions that move you towards your goals, practicing them consistently, and celebrating your successes, you can accomplish just about anything. We believe in you! And we’re always here to support you and your wellness in any way we can.