Navigating tough times can be draining, often leaving energy only for essential tasks. However, discovering ways to recharge, foster resilience, and experience personal growth are all within your reach by practicing self-care.
Self-care activities act as a beacon in the darkness—just as a single flame can light up an entire space, a couple of positive experiences can transform our overall state.
In his book Happier, Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar introduces the term “happiness boosters,” also known as MVIs—minimum viable interventions. These are short activities that last from a few minutes to a few hours, providing us with purpose and enjoyment and recharging us with energy. Their contribution to our mental health is both immediate and long term.
My personal favorite daily activities are yoga, taking a walk in nature or on the beach if possible, soaking in a warm bath with music, and cuddling with my son.
What are yours? Playing with your child? Lying in a hammock and listening to your favorite playlist? Meeting a friend for a drink? Organizing a community activity?
Another way I like to recharge myself is by having FUN—not “How was dinner?” “Oh, it was fun,” but rather genuine, joyful, memorable moments of fun. I came across the term “true fun” in Catherine Price’s book The Power of Fun. She describes it as a feeling that’s created when three factors are present:
Playfulness—that lighthearted spirit that allows you to do something just for the sake of doing it without caring about the outcome
Flow—a full engagement in the present experience to the point of losing track of time
Connection—the feeling of having a shared experience with someone (mostly with people but it could also be with an animal, nature, or even oneself)
Having fun doesn’t just feel good, it is good for our well-being. It’s energizing, helps us stay present, improves productivity, enhances creativity, builds our resilience, helps us create social connections by uniting us, and connects us to our authentic selves. Bottom line: The pursuit of fun provides a blueprint for happiness because having fun makes us happier, and when we’re happier, we are more likely to have fun.
So how can you have more fun? First, you must plan to have fun just like any other activity and carve out time for it. Second, avoid fun killers such as distractions (yes, that small screen in your pocket), self-consciousness (How do I look when I dance?), and judgment (I probably look silly). Then, opt to increase connections by interacting more with others in real life.
Finally, make it playful by breaking responsible adulthood’s rules and allowing yourself to do something joyful instead.
Putting these actions in place is important. You need to carve out time, plan it, and put it on your agenda like any other activity. Be attentive to your inner voice and your emotions that are letting you know what you need.
But is it appropriate to talk about fun in times of adversity? When you’re expected to care for others, is it acceptable to prioritize self-care? Is it selfish or selfless?
According to Tal Ben-Shahar, it’s neither and both. It’s self-ful.
Self-fullness synthesizes the best of both selfishness and selflessness. These seemingly opposing forces work together, reinforcing one another, creating an upward spiral of generosity and goodness. So, self-fulness is the combination of looking after ourselves and, by extension, looking after others.
“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” —Maya Angelou
Prioritizing self-care is not selfish and is certainly not a luxury. It’s prioritizing your own health with proven mental, emotional, and physical positive effects. It is not only for your own benefit but also for the benefit of others. Remember the pre-flight safety briefing explaining that we must wear oxygen masks before assisting our children? It’s the same thing.
If you’re completely burned out and drained, you won’t be able to give anything to others. Caring for yourself will help you show up to the world as a better version of yourself.
Join Elinor for a WBI/JCC webinar, “Self-Care in the Midst of Adversity: An Act of Selfishness or a Necessity?” January 23 at 12:00 pm ET, and explore ways to recharge, foster resilience, and experience personal growth through self-care. Register now.
Elinor Harari is a certified WBI Positive Psychology Coach, and holds a BA in Psychology from Tel Aviv University. She works one-on-one with clients worldwide and leads positive psychology workshops. Her mission is to empower people to flourish and thrive, regain control over their lives, build confidence to pursue their dreams, and live an intentional, meaningful, and satisfying life. Learn more about her work and follow her blog at elinorharari.com.