When you do the things required to truly nurture yourself, you give your body, mind, and spirit the opportunity it needs to flourish.
Without these things, you risk stagnation, and with it dissatisfaction and an overriding sense that there is “more” to life and to you than what you currently see.
But what does nurturing yourself even mean and how do you go about doing it? By the time you’ve finished reading this article, you should have everything you need to take your first steps on the path to self-nourishment and personal growth.
What does it mean to nurture yourself?
When you think about the word “nurture,” what are the associated concepts that come to mind? For example, if you were to write that word down on a piece of paper, what other related words would fit around it?
One of the best ways to approach this is to think about what you feel goes into nurturing a person, animal, or even plant that you care about. On the most fundamental level, all these beings need healthy food, clean water, sunshine, and fresh air, but people and pets also need enrichment, challenge, emotional support, and so on.
If you’re nurturing a child, you’re not just ensuring that it’s getting proper nutrition, but also that it’s being encouraged to develop its potential.
Does your little one show early leanings toward musical talent? You might have dreamed of them becoming a doctor or lawyer, but they’re showing you early on that they have a natural inclination for musical expression.
So maybe you’ll encourage them to follow that path, even though you know it’s not as lucrative, while doing your best to protect and care for them throughout the process.
Guess what? The same goes for nurturing yourself. Feeding your body nourishing foods and drinks to keep you healthy is great, but to truly nurture yourself, you need to encourage your own creativity, foster intellectual growth, challenge your limits, and cultivate your various interests.
10 Tips To Help You Nurture Yourself
Nurturing will look different for every person, because no two people derive comfort and satisfaction in the same way. This is why it’s so important to take some time to know and understand yourself so you can ensure that your own methods of nourishment are right for you, rather than following someone else’s formula.
1. Get to know yourself.
Most people are so caught up in simply dealing with everything that life throws at them that they don’t take the time to know themselves. Furthermore, they might constantly have a TV or radio going in the background so they don’t have to deal with thoughts and emotions that threaten to intrude upon the routines they need to handle daily existence.
It’s incredibly important to know who you are, what you like, and what you need, as well as what you dislike, and what damages you. It’s also important to understand when you need different types of nourishment. For example, what will heal and rejuvenate yourself at one time will hurt you at a different point.
For example, most extraverts thrive in other people’s company and get recharged after spending time with friends or family. That said, there will be times when they get overstimulated and will need alone time to regroup. Similarly, introverts need a lot of alone time and silence to stay happy, but too much of that can lead to loneliness and alienation.
Figure out what kind of person you TRULY are, not whatever mask you project to the outside world. In the same way that you can’t nourish yourself with food you’re allergic to, your lifestyle choices (and the company you keep) will have a similar nourishing or deleterious effect on you.
How to get to know yourself? Consider keeping a journal and writing down details about the days when you feel energized and happy. Do the same thing when you feel sluggish and have health concerns such as digestive problems, fuzzy thinking, and so on.
Write down everything you eat on a daily basis, and then go back and see if there are correlations between the foods you ate on the days that gave you lethargy, as well as the foods that made you feel amazing.
Furthermore, learn to recognize what it is your body needs. If every fiber in your body is screaming to go outside, you might be deficient in vitamin D. Tapping into what your physical self is trying to tell you isn’t some mystical Jedi practice. You’re merely paying attention to your body without formative conditional bias.
Your subconscious is constantly alert and processing everything around you, so pay attention to what it’s trying to tell you!
2. Determine what’s holding you back from doing the things you love.
One of the best ways you can nurture yourself is to take stock of what you’re passionate about, and then determine how much time you allow to immerse yourself in that passion.
Do you make it a priority to engage in pastimes that bring you joy or personal enrichment? Or do you feel that you either have more important things to do or that you somehow don’t “deserve to indulge” in these things? If it’s the latter, you need to stop denying yourself fun, happiness, joy, contentment.
Perhaps you’re so swamped with obligations, such as childcare, cooking, and cleaning, that you feel like you don’t have enough time to do the things that make you come alive.
Take stock of how much time you spend doing various things, and then figure out whether any of that can be shifted to one particular day or delegated to someone else. Furthermore, be conscious of how much time you spend scrolling through social media or otherwise doing “empty” pursuits.
A few minutes on Instagram or Twitter here and there can add up to a couple of hours over the course of a day. Notice what you make time for and what you don’t.
If it’s more important to you to watch strangers do little dances than reading, doing yoga, or being creative, then you may want to reexamine your priorities. You likely have more time than you realize—you’re just not spending it in the right areas.
3. Express your emotions.
One of the best things you can do to nurture yourself is to be honest about how you feel. Repressed emotions can do some truly awful things to us on both an emotional and physical level. For instance, did you know that, in Eastern medicine, health issues with the liver and kidneys are seen as being caused by repressed anger or fear respectively?
Furthermore, unless emotions about various circumstances or experiences are released, then the situations that caused them can’t be addressed.
This doesn’t mean that you should start screaming at people when they upset you, nor does it mean that you should swallow your anger, frustration, or hurt, and pretend everything’s okay. Let others know how you’re feeling when you’re in a calmer headspace, and express yourself in a manner that encourages positive change.
This might be difficult if you don’t like confrontation or you’re afraid of rocking the boat, but only by expressing your truth can you find harmony in every aspect of your life.
4. “You are what you consume.”
This builds upon what we discussed earlier in terms of the foods you eat, but isn’t limited solely to one’s diet. Remember that you also consume information, and that includes the media you expose yourself to.
We protect young children from consuming certain types of media because they might be traumatic or otherwise damaging to them, but we rarely take steps to protect ourselves in the same way. This goes for just about anything we consume.
Think of how you treat small children whom you love. Would you feed them nothing but junk food and plop them in front of a TV show about crime, serial killers, pimple popping, animal attacks, or war? What do you think all of that would do to their little psyches?
Now consider that you’re also still growing and developing, and examine what you’re feeding your mind and heart each day. Are you consuming media that inspires you? Do the videos and memes you look at make you happy? Do they make you want to do good things in the world? Or do they cause depression and anxiety?
If what you’re exposing yourself to is causing you more harm than peace or joy, then why are you allowing it?
Consume and identify with that which you wish to become. Analyze what you’ve been watching and reading lately and ask yourself whether you identify with those characters and if you want to emulate their behaviors.
We tend to mimic what we see others do on a subconscious level, which is why so many people end up speaking like characters on TV.
Think about how people’s verbal cadences changed after watching shows like Friends (“Could you BE any more annoying?”). Not to mention the ever-pervasive vocal fry so many women now have after watching 80 seasons of Keeping Up With The Kardashians.
If you want to be brave, noble, wise, or kind, then watch and read stories full of characters who embody those traits. Humans around the world have been inspired and shaped by stories for millennia. How do you want to be shaped? Who do you want to be?
5. Recognize that there’s a right and wrong time of day for you to do various things.
You know your own physical and mental cycles better than anyone else out there. As such, you’ll know what time of day is best suited to various pursuits. Furthermore, what works for you because of your own circadian rhythm might not work for others, and vice versa.
I’ll give you an example: My mental focus is sharpest late in the evening, when the house is quiet and I can give books or language lessons my full attention. In contrast, my partner’s brain switches off around 7pm, and she can’t absorb a single thing after that. She focuses better from midday to about 5pm instead.
Attempt different pursuits at different points of the day to see when you’re best suited to each of them. You may discover that you’re happiest doing physical exercise in the morning rather than after work, for example. Maybe you can focus best on the course you’re learning during your lunch break, while your creative juices start to flow at night.
6. Rid yourself of the notion of “laziness.”
Do you give yourself a hard time about being lazy or unproductive? Try to rid yourself of that notion once and for all. “Laziness” is a concept invented by the Puritans. They believed that idleness was sinful and that one had to be active every waking moment.
Do what you can to dispense with the concept that you need to be constantly active and productive. Just as the tide ebbs and flows, we need periods of rest to counterbalance productivity. Working within natural rhythms is vital for nurturing the mind, heart, and body, and we’re going to have different energy levels at different times of the year.
Yes, it’s important to be active and expansive when the time is right (namely in the warmer months when we have more energy and light to fuel us), but constant frantic pushing and grasping wears the individual down.
In the winter, it’s important to eat well, rest, read, reflect, and work on the ideas that we want to bring forth in the spring and summer. It’s ridiculous to expect ourselves to have the same amount of energy in wintertime as we do in summer. Trees don’t produce fruit when it’s sub-zero outside. They rest and regain energy so they can produce when the weather warms again.
You’ll innately feel what the best move is for you. If you have absolutely no energy and therefore no motivation, then resting isn’t lazy. It’s absolutely necessary for rejuvenation and overall health.
7. Give yourself permission to play.
When we become adults, we generally set aside what we consider to be “childish” things. We touched on this earlier when we mentioned pursuits that may be considered indulgent or frivolous. But did you know that almost every species on the planet likes to play, regardless of their age?
Bees and squirrels will play with balls if given the opportunity, while hawks, rabbits, and dolphins play chase games. Some of the activities they partake in are ideal for cultivating life skills such as hunting and self-defense, but many species also simply play for the sake of pleasure. Have you seen those videos of crows sliding down snowy windshields for fun? How about foxes jumping on trampolines?
Think about how happy you feel when you playfully chase one of your friends, siblings, or kids around the yard for a few minutes, or how much joy you get from drawing or painting. Life can be challenging and even heartbreaking a lot of the time, so playing and having fun provides an invaluable counterbalance to the difficulties we all must face.
Learn how to value yourself and your time properly. Give yourself permission to be silly, to play, and to “waste time” doing something that brings you joy instead of being productive and responsible 24/7.
8. Ensure that you’re in an environment that allows self-nurturing to happen.
Have you ever tried to study while your housemates are partying? Or tried to work while your partner is clattering around in the kitchen and your children are screaming? It’s pretty much impossible to focus and be in a positive, healthy headspace when Armageddon is unfolding all around you.
Ask yourself whether your current life circumstances are contributing to the self-nurturing process or hindering it.
Do you live in a place where you can have peace and quiet or listen to music that inspires you when you need to? How about the people you interact with daily? Are they positive, encouraging types who are dedicated to helping you achieve rest and joy? Or are they badgering you with constant demands and criticisms?
If your living arrangement is weighing you down and depleting you, then no amount of green smoothies or yoga is going to nourish you properly. You’re being crushed on a cellular level, and thus won’t be able to take proper care of yourself.
In a case like this, you’ll either have to establish some kind of order amidst the chaos for the sake of your own sanity or leave and find a place where you can find the tranquility (or positive stimulation) that you need.
9. Get plenty of sleep and drink a lot of water.
Two of the biggest factors in premature aging (as well as countless other health issues) are lack of sleep and dehydration. Around half of all adults don’t drink enough water, while close to one-third of Americans are chronically sleep-deprived.
Adequate rest and water intake are absolutely crucial to keep our minds and bodies functioning properly. Without them, we can suffer from issues including:
- Memory loss
- Chronic headaches
- Digestive issues, including IBS and heartburn
- Poor oral/dental health
- Loss of collagen in the skin and joints
- Anxiety and depression
- Autoimmune issues
Parents of small children tend to suffer greatly from a lack of sleep, but insomnia can hit just about anyone at any time.
Set timers on your phone or get yourself an app that reminds you to drink water regularly throughout the day. Then make sure to get enough exercise so you start to get sleepy and wind down in the evenings. Close your laptop and set your phone aside around 9pm and either read or journal until you’re ready to get to sleep.
If you struggle to wind down, talk to your healthcare provider about supplements like melatonin, kava-kava, or passionflower. And if you don’t drink enough water because you can’t stand the taste, see what alternatives work best for you. Maybe you’d prefer to get a SodaStream with some healthy, fruity drops to add into it or a variety of herbal teas to enjoy instead.
10. Be kind to yourself.
Life is full of situations you’ll never have control over. Ultimately, your mind is the only thing you have absolute dominion over.
What sort of master are you going to choose to be? If you choose to be a tyrant over yourself, doing and saying cruel things to and about your body or your personal capabilities, do you think that’s going to help you thrive? Or will that wear you down over time until you’re a shadow of your former self?
When you find yourself saying or doing something cruel to yourself, try to figure out where that behavior originated. Are you echoing the awful words said to you by your parents or other family members? Or are you recalling quotes from celebrities and influencers?
Consider what these people were like when you heard those awful things from them. Were they happy and fulfilled at the time? Or were their lives full of misery and fear? Were these people usually compassionate and thoughtful? Or quick to judge and ostracize?
It’s more than likely that it was the latter, at which point you need to ask yourself whether you want to be like the people who harmed you or if you want to heal the wounds they caused you.
It’s difficult to pay attention to what your body and mind are trying to tell you when they’re being insulted on a constant basis.
When you were little, it was your parents’ role to see to your needs. They were responsible for protecting and nurturing you, but that responsibility is now in your own hands.
It’s also possible that your parents weren’t given the right tools to live their own lives in a healthy manner. As a result, they couldn’t impart wisdom to you about how to recognize what your body, mind, and spirit needed. Instead, they tried to insult or abuse you until you obeyed them. Unfortunately, this likely taught you some quick and dirty coping mechanisms.
Fortunately, it’s never too late to unlearn unhealthy and unhelpful behaviors. You can choose to break the cycle of abuse toward yourself and learn how to be kind to yourself so that you can approach self-nurturing in a more effective and productive way.
Determine which of these tips resonate with you the most, adapt them to your own personal needs, and then put them into practice on a regular basis. It takes about 6 weeks to either make or break a habit. Consistency and dedication are key, so try to make self-nurturing a priority every day.
Additionally, be honest with yourself about self-sabotage or counteractive behaviors. For instance, if you feel guilty about playing for an hour, you might punish yourself by withholding nourishing food or scrubbing the bathroom with a toothbrush as penance. By doing that, all the goodness that comes from nourishing yourself will be undone.
Create a schedule that works best for you. Place emphasis on skills and abilities that you wish to cultivate, and treat yourself as someone you want to see reach their potential in full health and happiness. Most importantly, don’t wait until you have the right equipment or for the “perfect time.”
The perfect time is now, and the right equipment is exactly what you have to hand.