I'll admit, like many of us, I've gotten into the habit of thinking I'm too busy to make time for myself. I'll put off joining a new gym because it's "not a good time," week after week. I'll regularly make the mistake of working right through lunch. On the rare occasion that I do treat myself to a massage or downtime with a good book, I feel guilty about not doing something more productive. While I know all of these things will actually make me happier, healthier, and, very likely, more productive, it's difficult to lay the foundation for better habits when I'm always thinking about the next task.
To get some guidance for how to begin cultivating a self-care routine, I spoke with Shel Pink, the founder of Sparitual and author of the book Slow Beauty. Through her book and new body care line, Pink is helping to make spa culture accessible and personal, suggesting those few moments each day can lead to lifelong benefits.
"The slow beauty philosophy is all about sustainable self-care, and the book is just me sharing my journey and then helping people to create their own," explains Pink. "Self-care is very personal and everybody's practice looks different—although we may share a lot of things in common." She says you should develop your own self-care standards, discover what works for you and leave out what doesn't. "It's really about slowing down and identifying what those core personal self-care values are, and then putting them into practice. It's really taking care of yourself in deep and meaningful ways, that way, you can better take care of others and contribute to the world in a really purposeful way."
When I asked her to clarify what she meant by "sustainable self-care," she explained it's something that's going to last you over time. Instead of jumping from one trend to the next, focus on practicing discipline with daily meditation or feeding yourself nourishing foods. "Sustainable self-care is a commitment and it is a process, but over time you're definitely going to reap the benefits of feeling good," Pink shares.
While meditation is one of Pink's favorite ways to practice self-care, she admits it's not for everybody. In many ways, self-care isn't just about the what but the why. As you apply lotion in the morning, you can make it a moment to mindfully take care of yourself. To encourage these active moments of self-care, every product in the Sparitual body care line is packaged with descriptive suggestions for how to use it to maximize your experience.
For example, the Body Creme in Geranium Cedarwood (my personal favorite from the line), suggests you "rub a quarter-sized amount in your hands to release the scent," which is already a transformative experience. Then, you're meant to begin at your feet and apply brushing strokes up your legs, to your arms and shoulders, and then massage along your torso toward your heart. "Indulge in this ritual and be compassionate to yourself," it reads.
I apply lotion after showering every day, but by simply being more aware of each movement, the act becomes more meaningful. "In under five minutes, you can give yourself a really amazing self-massage, starting from your feet and up to your neck," notes Pink. "What's great about that is it helps increase circulation, helps detoxify the system, raises your energy levels, and makes your skin really glowy. Plus, while the ingredients nourish your skin, they also help to alleviate any stress and anxiety you may be holding in your body." It's something that Pink has been doing for 15 years now. "It's like brushing or flossing my teeth—that's how ingrained it is in my personal self-care practice."
As I've begun to incorporate these little moments (and finally make it to the gym and take lunch breaks), instead of eating into my time or energy, it's actually made me more productive and focused. "We all want to be productive," observes Pink. "We want to take time for self-care, renew, and then get back out there in the world." If time seems like an obstacle when creating a daily self-care practice, Pink suggests shortening the experience to just a few blissful minutes. "The self-massage in the morning—you can do that in under five minutes," she notes, "but the benefits stay with you throughout the day. Then, as you continue over time, the benefits become more palpable." When you make an effort to regularly incorporate these low-lift actions, they become second nature over time. "You can do just one step at a time," Pink advises. "Begin weaving things in over time, and, before you know it, you have a self-care practice and it's second nature."
When beginning your self-care journey, especially if you're apprehensive about commitment, Pink says it's important to map it out. "There's a section in the back of the book to help people identify and pull in what they're already doing for self-care," she notes. "Then they can map out for the season different self-care things they want to fold in or try—it's really fluid."
As for barriers to self-care, Pink emphasizes that we should turn our thinking away from the idea that self-care is selfish or frivolous. "It can be if you get caught up too much in the trends, but identifying what those core self-care values are to you and sticking to those can be very powerful," she clarifies. "self-care can be a very powerful way to take care of yourself.
Now here's a fascinating look at what "self-care" means around the world.