Self-care as an Act of Gratitude
We’ve probably all identified some healthy activities that we know would be good for us to do on a daily basis.
- Going to bed on time
- Just taking 15 minutes to chill out between other things
- Breathing or meditation
It can be a real struggle, to find the time in a day or in a week for the things that support our health.
Why is that?
Partly it’s that life is so full of so many other things. Sometimes those are things that are stressful and cause us to feel overwhelmed. Sometimes they’re just all the really cool, fun things we can spend our time doing until we don’t know where all the hours went.
Mostly it’s because that healthy activity just hasn’t made it very high up on our priority list.
This isn’t meant as a guilt inducing statement. It is right that under some circumstances other things should be prioritized higher than one’s own health. Feeding a baby for instance, or caring for some other helpless individual. It’s not a problem that we prioritize our activities.
But when we get repeated signals that our physical and mental well-being needs some loving attention, and yet we’re repeatedly disrupted in giving them the attention they require…we need to find a way to show up for ourselves.
If we don’t, the accumulated neglect over time will take its toll.
The problem is that, a lot of the time, when we’re thinking about doing the things that support us, getting more sleep, getting regular massage or another sort of therapeutic session, taking a quiet moment, or taking the time we need to exercise. We’re thinking that we’re taking time for ourselves…and that’s not that compelling when our children, the community, our spouse and the whole world needs us.
What if caring for yourself isn’t about you?
This truth can be presented in both a secular and a spiritual way.
The truth is that when you make yourself, stronger, calmer, more responsive, more resilient and with a greater range for experiences and expression–you have a significant, positive impact on everything around you. You’re children feel it, your spouse feels it, the greater community feels it.
You’ve probably noticed yourself how it affects you differently to interact with a stressed out person versus a calm and centered person.
The stressed out person can take some energy to be around. Whereas the calm and centered person can actually make you feel better, just by being around them.
When you become that calm and centered person, you don’t just help yourself, you gain more energy to care for others, including the environment and the world.
The other way to express this truth is that you don’t belong to you.
You belong to the Divine.
When you belong to you, it can be okay to neglect yourself because it only injures you. To some it even feels like self-sacrifice and therefore morally virtuous.
But if you belong to the Divine (by whatever name you care to express that concept…in fact, you could even simply say that you belong to the community) then the act of caring for yourself is not something you do for yourself at all. It’s something you do for the Divine (or for your community).
You are part of the Commons as much as clean air and clean water are. Your life was a gift to us all and the gifts that you contain are a gift to us all.
So doing the things that give you the strength and vitality and inner resources that create the foundation from which you can more completely express your gifts, is a gift to us all.
Building that foundation is a demonstration of gratitude to the Giver of the gift.
Acts of devotion are never finished, just as health is not an end point that we finally reach. We just keep showing up.
As our own power and resilience increases, so does our ability to function as a source of support and strength for others.
Sometimes it seems that we equate strength with mental and spiritual fortitude, all the while forgetting that strength comes from the body as well.
In fact, cultivating strength through the body can be a lot more straightforward and approachable than the world of the mind and spirit.
So, the next time you find yourself struggling to show up for the care of your body or your mind, remember that the care we offer ourselves isn’t simply a gift to ourselves. It’s a gift to the community around us, and the embodiment of our gratitude to the Divine for the gifts that we’ve received.