Not only does self care matter, it is crucial for achieving mindfulness

By Hillary Tijerina, BSNRN, FNTP


Self care may be a modern buzzword, but the roots of the phrase can be traced all the way to Socrates— the practice of caring for oneself has existed as long as humans have been on the earth. 

The benefits of self care are numerous, and include prevention of illness, higher quality of life, lower health care costs and longer lifespans. The more subtle but no less important benefits include an increase in compassion for oneself and for others, as well as a greater sense of mindfulness. 

Self care can look a number of different ways and is greatly influenced by one's environment and culture. Internal personal factors such as motivation, emotions, and cognitive abilities also influence self-care maintenance behaviors.

Mindfulness, one of the harder to define benefits of self care, involves experiencing life as it passes in each moment without judgment or desire to change it. By being mindful in our own experience, we have the power to notice when we are causing ourselves suffering and move towards response, rather than reaction. Reaction is often the state we live in—we are programmed that way for survival. Evolving beyond this mode of being into a more fully awake state, free to choose how to respond to each situation, involves training the mind to pay attention in a kind, discerning way. Like most things worth achieving, this requires practice.

 Routine or ritual self care, weekly or monthly, is a great way to incorporate a practice into your life, because the more you practice self care, the more your confidence in its value (and your own value) will grow. Self care is influenced by an individual’s attitude and belief in his or her self efficacy or confidence in performing tasks and overcoming barriers. The more you practice self care, the more your confidence in its value (and your own value) will grow. 

Numerous studies show that this regular practice of care for oneself leads to greater compassion for those around you. When viewed through the lens of self-compassion, both the self and others are equally worthy of consideration and care. 

Culturally in the United States, self care is often glamorized to look like a full day at the spa, beach vacation or dinner at a 5-star restaurant. However, self care can look much simpler while being just as effective.  When done with intention, taking measures to prevent illness and maintain proper hygiene, for instance, can be part of a healthy and manageable self care routine.