Nurturing Yourself and Your Loved Ones for a Longer, More Fulfilling Life
Many people interested in longevity can focus too much on optimizing the health, nutrition, and fitness side of wellness, often neglecting the vital area of nurturing the relationship both with yourself and with your loved ones. While nutrition and physical health are undoubtedly involved in the practice of caring for oneself, they are not the only aspects.
Self-care is a term that has recently been overused as a symbol of getting massages and taking naps. While these practices can certainly be nurturing acts of self-care, adding in a more holistic approach to self-care—including support for your mental, emotional, social, and physical health—is essential for overall well-being. In this article, learn more about how to nurture yourself with supportive self-care practices and the best ways to cultivate stronger relationships that can lengthen both healthspan and lifespan.
How to Nurture Yourself and Your Loved Ones with Self-Care
There are many areas of self-care that go above and beyond manicures and pedicures, from setting boundaries to maintaining friendships to meditating.
Mental Health Self-Care
One of the top benefits of nurturing yourself with self-care is improved mental health. Prioritizing self-care—which is individual for everyone, and for you, could definitely be massages and mani-pedis—helps to reduce stress, anxious feelings, and depressive symptoms. Self-care practices also help you to develop better coping mechanisms for handling stressful or difficult situations and can prevent burnout and emotional exhaustion.
Some of the best ways to support mental health through self-care are activities like meditation, mindfulness, yoga, deep breathing, and other relaxation techniques that lower levels of our stress hormone cortisol. Many of these practices have benefits that go far beyond mental health—for example, meditation is linked to longer telomeres, a cellular biomarker of lifespan.
Other mental health-related ways to nurture yourself include journaling, going to therapy or counseling, speaking positive affirmations, using aromatherapy, spending time in nature, limiting screen time, and creating personalized rituals that promote relaxation, like spending time making your favorite tea, taking a long bath, or going through a skincare routine. A commonly touted phrase is “self-care is not selfish”—and this is true. Taking time to fill your cup—even if you have children or other people to care for—helps you become more emotionally available and present in those relationships.
Emotional Health Self-Care
Although they seem similar, mental health and emotional health are two different things. While mental health deals more with overall psychological well-being and your thoughts, emotional health is a little more specific, encompassing your emotions and how you regulate and express them.
Prioritizing self-care can improve your emotional health by letting more joy, indulgence, and relaxation into your life, which allows you to handle emotional situations better. It can also boost your self-esteem—a vital part of our emotions and how we perceive ourselves. As higher self-esteem has a long-lasting impact on health, including better stress management, immune functioning, and healthier lifestyles, improving this aspect of emotional well-being is essential.
Some ways to practice emotional self-care include journaling, setting boundaries (both in your personal and professional life), encouraging self-compassion and treating yourself with kindness, and seeking support when needed—whether from loved ones or licensed professionals. These activities can protect your emotional well-being and help you manage emotions more effectively, leading to more stable moods, improved resiliency, and a reduced risk of burnout.
Physical Health Self-Care
Taking care of your physical health is an excellent way to tell yourself that you care about your body and your future. Conversely, constantly eating junk food, smoking or drinking excess alcohol, and avoiding exercise can tell your body the opposite.
Physical health has many aspects that relate to self-care, including nutrition, exercise, stress management, sleep, hydration, and energy. Many of these factors have overlapping and wide-reaching benefits—for example, aerobic exercise is linked to better sleep, reduced stress, increased energy and productivity, and improved cardiovascular health.
Practice nurturing your physical health by:
- Eating a healthy diet rich in antioxidants, leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables, protein, healthy fats like olive oil and avocadoes, nuts and seeds, and herbs and spices.
- Exercising: Practice both aerobic exercise and resistance or strength training, which benefit cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health, respectively.
- Increasing flexibility with yoga and stretching supports joint health and reduces muscle strains with age.
- Staying hydrated improves digestion, focus, cognitive function, mood, sleep, and cellular function.
- Getting quality sleep supports immune function, cardiovascular and cognitive health, healthy mood, cellular health, and longevity.
Social Health Self-Care
While having solid relationships may not seem like it would impact much other than how many birthday parties you go to, research across nations and cultures has shown that stronger social ties are a vital component of health and longevity.
Research from 2016 combined data from four longitudinal studies totaling over 10,000 U.S. adults, finding that social isolation was linked to increased inflammation, higher blood pressure, and cardiovascular or metabolic dysfunction upon reaching older age. Another study with adults in England showed that loneliness and social isolation increased the risk of mortality by 26%.
If you’re concerned about your social well-being, there are many ways to strengthen old relationships or create new ones to reduce the health risks of loneliness. Some of the best ways to nurture your relationships with loved ones—or potential new loved ones—include:
- Quality time: Prioritize spending quality time with friends and family without technological distractions. If you don’t live in the same area as someone, video chats are the next best option.
- Show your love or appreciation: Expressing appreciation, gratitude, or love can let people know you care about them. This can also include celebrating their wins and supporting them when they are going through hard times.
- Practice healthy communication: Active listening (not scrolling your phone while they’re talking), encouraging someone to express their thoughts, and being empathetic are great ways to communicate in a healthy manner.
- Open up: Practicing being vulnerable, sharing your own feelings, and being honest can help to build trust and strengthen bonds in a relationship.
- Be reliable: No one wants a flaky friend. If you say you’ll be somewhere or do something, be there or do it. Keeping your commitments builds trust in social, professional, and romantic relationships.
- Find common interests: If you are trying to make a new friend or deepen an existing relationship, try finding common interests or activities you can do together or talk about. Similarly, be open to new experiences or trying new things.
Nurturing yourself isn’t always an easy thing to do—but the benefits are wide-reaching and long-lasting. It’s time to take self-care above and beyond the typical practices of bubble baths and lighting candles. By also including things like strengthening social ties, meditating, eating healthy, exercising, prioritizing sleep, setting boundaries, and practicing self-compassion, this comprehensive self-care practice can lead to better overall well-being and health outcomes.
Self-care practices that nurture yourself and your loved ones can help you both in the present and future by leading to better moods and happiness today, preventing future health problems, and leading to a longer and more fulfilling life.
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