Imagine the last time you laughed really hard. Who were you with? What were you laughing at? How did your body feel? Did your stomach hurt? Did tears well up in your eyes?
Sit with that for a second. Feel that moment. Does it bring a smile to your face to think of it?
How often in your current life do you really laugh? How often do you play? How often are you engaged in an activity that you really love and enjoy doing without feeling guilty, without thinking about what else you should/could be doing?
Why do we not do more of what makes us happy? Makes us laugh? Delights us? For young children, the majority of their day is spent doing things they enjoy, playing, laughing, running around with friends. At some point, we are suddenly expected to sit still, be silent, do the chores, do the homework, take the tests, get a job, meet those deadlines, pay those bills and on and on....
Enter, "SELF-CARE," a (sometimes overused) word meaning simply to take care of yourself doing things you enjoy so that you are not so stressed. In my opinion, the "doing things you enjoy" part is crucial. If I am feeling stressed from all of the obligations on my plate and someone suggests that I go to the gym to work out, but I despise the gym (which I do), then having yet another thing on my "to-do" list that I won't enjoy is not going to help me. However, if exercising is something I generally enjoy and I know will help relieve stress and keep me healthy, perhaps I can join an intramural kickball team or take walks around my neighborhood.
Finding out what you like to do -- what will make you smile, laugh, help you feel more calm, happy, playful and less stressed -- That's half the battle. The next step is all about focus. Being present. Whether creating art, exercising, playing.a board game with friends, cooking, playing with your kids, even watching tv, the more mindful you are about the present moment, the more you will enjoy yourself.
According to Steven Bradt of The Harvard Gazette, "people spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing , and this mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy." When we allow our minds to wander, they often either go to the past or the future. When wandering to the past, we can experience depression. When wandering to the future, we can experience anxiety. It isn't easy though. Our brains are meant to wander, its what they do.
Having a regular routine of taking care of yourself then becomes important not only because as an adult you will likely encounter stress with some regularity, but also because being present is hard work and practice is key to success with anything challenging.
Gone are the days when we were magical little young beings whose main responsibilities were to be creative, play, laugh, and run around. That doesn't mean we can't infuse our current adult realities with some of the tried and true methods of fun that kids use. Who says "self-care" can't be terrible knock-knock jokes, impromptu stops for an ice cream cone, singing your favorite song as loud as you can, or running full speed down the street just to see if you can fly. If it makes you laugh until you cry, or feel freedom from the weight of your worries, its worth a little side eye from your neighbor.
"No one looks stupid when they're having fun." -Amy Poehler