You might have seen the pictures on social media of the super Zen snow monkeys chilling in hot springs in the mountains of Japan.
If not, check out the pictures above and below.
Jealous? Me too.
For many years, people thought the monkeys frequented the springs to keep warm, but a recent study found that it was in fact a part of the monkeys’ daily self-care.
Researchers discovered that after just one soak, a monkey’s stress level dropped by about 20 percent. (You can find out exactly how they knew that here.)
Do you practice daily self-care? If a monkey can do it, we should be able to do it too, right?
I know what you might be thinking. You can’t afford some relaxing vacation to a hot spring. You don’t even have time to take a bubble bath at home.
Thankfully, that is not what self-care is all about. It does not have to be elaborate, time-consuming or expensive.
“Self-Care is anything that is for you, by you,” explained Jennifer Wells, M.D., a psychiatrist at Carilion Clinic. “It is about stress management, keeping your physical health in check, knowing your self-worth and balancing your work/life.”
In other words, it is not about self-indulgence, but about daily maintenance so we can be our healthiest selves.
“It is ok to treat yourself and if you can go on a special vacation that is great, but the reason my mental health is strong is because I tend to it every single day,” said Dr. Wells.
And she does it in five ways:
1. Find a relaxation/meditation technique and stick with it.
Deep breathing or mindful walking are great options, plus there are also many free meditation apps that you can download right on your phone. Dr. Wells recommends the Aura app for her patients.
“You can meditate for 3 minutes, 5 minutes or it can be up to 2 hours,” she said. “For the majority of the time, I take about 20 minutes per day.”
2. Laugh every day.
Find something or someone who makes you laugh and bust a gut.
“It really helps and studies have shown that if you smile, even if you are not feeling it, you train your brain to be happier,” explained Dr. Wells. “Your brain registers the change in the muscles in your face and it relays back a feeling of happiness.”
3. Eat more greens and eat less sugar.
A plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and other lean proteins, as well as healthy fat sources is the ideal diet.
4. Sleep 8 hours every day.
When you don’t get enough sleep, it can affect your memory, your problem-solving skills, your creativity and make you irritable and unable to concentrate.
A lack of sleep can also negatively affect your blood sugar levels and raise your blood pressure.
5. Say no.
This is certainly a tough one for many of us, but it is vital to have good boundaries, know what you are capable of and understand where your strengths lie.
“Instead of saying yes to everything, focus on saying yes to the things you are confident about and make you feel good,” said Dr. Wells. “Don’t say yes just because you are uncomfortable saying no.”
The only mistake you can make when it comes to self-care is ignoring it.
“Taking care of everyone else and not yourself is not self-care, and it is not going to hurt anyone else in the long run except yourself,” said Dr. Wells.
It can feel uncomfortable and maybe even a little self-indulgent at first, but making these little decisions daily adds up to a healthier life in the long run.
If you are concerned about your self-care, stress management and happiness, please talk to your health care provider and check out these recommended reads from Dr. Wells:
The Book of Awakening