Kindness to others. It’s something we’re taught from birth, right there on Sesame Street. And sure, we can probably all agree that compassion to others is pretty important. But what about taking care of ourselves? That’s where most of us score a D or even a big fat F. In this case, seems our old Puritan values are a gift that keep on giving. And not always in a good way. They teach us that true goodness lies in grinding it out, in shouldering the burdens of life with total disregard for our own well-being. Getting a massage? Pausing to recognize ourselves in a job well done? Heck, sleeping thirty extra minutes because holy-cow-we’re-exhausted-and-our-bodies-damn-well-needs-this? Somewhere deep inside, we’ve grown to see all of it as indulgence. Opulence. Or worse — a sign of weakness.
But here’s the truth: Self-care is not a treat. Again. Self-care is not a treat. It’s an essential component to living a balanced and contented life. As Mary Katherine Schenkel, cofounder of Sweet and Kind skincare puts it, “Sometimes it seems like we have to hold the entire world on our shoulders. It has to be ok to set it down once in a while.”
So if you’re looking for permission to take a little time for yourself, look no further. Here are six reasons to get your butt in the bathtub, right about now.
1. Self-Care Makes us Better Mothers
Of course, Motherhood is wonderful. It’s powerful. It’s nurturing and supporting and comforting and teaching and soothing and cleaning and paying and, wait — notice a theme here? Parenting tends to be structured around outputting every ounce of our personal resources. And then some. In short, it’s exhausting. (Worth it. But exhausting.) And as a society, we honor these actions. But we tend to forget to sprinkle in a bit of self-care. The truth is, we need to be on the receiving end of those compassionate, nurturing behaviors just as much as our little ones. Here’s a quick thought from the Buddha, himself. “Hold yourself as a mother holds her beloved child.”
It’s simple. We can’t be strong mothers, creating a safe, thriving environment for our children, if we, ourselves, are falling apart. A mom who takes a moment for herself is a mom with a lot more patience. More gentleness. More playfulness. As Anne Lamott says, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
2. It Makes us Better Partners
When things get crazy (work, aging parents, our third parking ticket this week), we often push self-care further down on the priority list. It’s easy to do, because it’s usually the only flexible part of that list. But suddenly, without much fanfare, we realize we’re crashing after midnight, we’re living on food mostly from elementary school vending machines, and we’re barely making it through the day. “I’m not hurting anyone,” we tell ourselves, “beside myself and my own internal organs.”
But that’s where we’re wrong. None of us exist on an island. When we’re suffering, it affects those closest to us, namely our partners. That’s the best (and sometimes most annoying) thing about long-term relationships: we no longer get to suffer alone. In one study, researchers found that self-compassionate people displayed more positive relationship behavior. In short, we’re nicer when we’re nice to ourselves first. And let’s be honest. Most of our partners would love a few more niceties around the house. Suzanne Zelov of Sweet and Kind adds, “I’m now in my fifties, and I have realized that taking care of myself is important on so many levels. I have to take those few extra minutes so I can take care of my family and the people I love.”
3. Kindness Radiates Out
Here’s the cool thing about self-compassion: it has two effects. First, the obvious. You benefit from kindness toward yourself. When we’re refreshed, revived and reinvigorated, we are much more capable of lifting up others around you. As badass Buddhist Monk Mama, Pema Chodron, put it, “Without loving-kindness towards ourselves, it is difficult, if not impossible to genuinely feel it for others.” Second, that kindness to ourselves often spreads to others. Kindness has a tendency to do that. And when we demonstrate softness, a moment of empathy to others, it softens everything in the room. That compassion can become infectious — in a totally gooey, glowing, wonderful way.
4. It Helps us Live Longer
There are all kinds of measurable factors that can impact longevity. Gender, ethnicity, genetics, finances, and education, to name a few. But there are some you can actually do something about. (And hint: They often involve a little self-care). Just take flossing. Regular flossing is good for both your gums and your heart. It can add as much as six years to your lifespan, according to Dr. Michael Roizen, Chief Wellness Officer of the Cleveland Clinic.
In fact, daily exercise, meditation, community, and a few nights a week without the TV are all things that not only improve the quality of your life right now, but could also extend it in the future. So If you think you don’t have enough time to floss (or workout or meditate or have a long chat with a girlfriend), you just might be right, statistically. But if you kickstart those good habits today, you could be gaining plenty of time — six more years, in fact — down the road.
6. Loving Yourself Looks Good on You
“An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly.”
Right. Self-care isn’t just about making you feel better on the inside. Turns out there’s a pretty strong correlation between the health of your insides and the glow of your outsides. Science time. When stress gets out of control, the body starts to produce the stress hormone, Cortisol. It comes in handy whenever we’re chased by a sabre-toothed tiger. But in the case of month-long stress or strain, that hormone can lead to all kinds of inflammation, especially on your skin (not to mention exacerbating existing conditions, like acne and psoriasis). And guess what? We’ve got skin on 99% of our bodies. So, chances are someone’s going to see it. Zelov and Schenkel created Sweet and Kind’s CBD-infused skincare and wellness brand for just that reason. “We wanted Sweet and Kind to be that reminder that you are worth self care and daily wellness. There’s the real secret to getting that glow.”
7. Self-Care is a Time Honored Tradition
Most of us just discovered Eastern-influenced traditions, like yoga and mindfulness. But really, none of this is information new, especially the importance of self-compassion. That’s the cornerstone of self-care. In fact, Buddhists consider there to be little to no difference between kindness directed at others and the kindness directed at ourselves. Suzanne Zelov adds,”We have to believe we are worth the time to be good to ourselves, and convince others of the same.”
When you’re kind to yourself, you can listen. You can hear your own exhausted little spirit begging for a break. You can come to know yourself. And as our favorite Monk Mama, Pema Chodron, put it, “By knowing yourself, you’re coming to know humanness altogether. We are all up against these things. We are all in this together.” And if the practice has been working for Buddhists for 2,500 years, it’s probably worth tucking into our own toolkits right about now.
8. It Can Take Five Minutes (Seriously)
Finally, you don’t have to fly off to some hot springs in the middle of Colorado to experience a little personal time (although that sounds divine). Here are some ideas. Breathe. There’s one. Try an online guided meditation. Pick up a flash mask in the grocery store, lock the bathroom door, and hit it for five minutes before every shower. Decide to never multi-task when you’re drinking your morning coffee. Just decide, and sit with it for five minutes instead. Maybe even — dare we say it — thumb through a magazine? Even just taking the time to wash your face with a hot cloth and dab on a little CBD-infused luxury, like Sweet and Kind’s anti-aging, Illuminating Serum, can slow down our central nervous systems.
Here’s the thing. This part is huge. We wouldn’t think twice about encouraging our kids, our partners, our friends to take solid care of themselves. So why would we ever be less-deserving of the same advice? As world famous Vipassana meditation teacher, Jack Kornfield, says, “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” So take five minutes, today, right now, to be sweet to yourself. (At the end of the day, the fact that you’re spending the time to read this article means you’re probably on the right path.)