Our psychological well-being is so critical to our all-round health, and yet all too often we don't give it the time and attention it needs. Physical health is, of course, important - for example, if we have the flu or a muscle strain, we must take steps to put this right - but psychological well-being is no less vital. This is why self soothing is a key skill - or set of skills - to learn.
But not everyone has embraced the concept of self soothing. Some of us remain resistant or skeptical towards the idea and towards its possible benefits. After all, if we are physically sick, we take medicine, and we get better, whereas the outcomes of self soothing are a little more subtle and require more effort if they are to be successful.
In this blog, we will examine precisely what self soothing is, take a closer look at its advantages, and help you to decide whether or not it will work for you.
What Is Self Soothing?
Self soothing is a skill which most of us pick up during our very early childhood but then forget as we grow older. To explain the concept in simple terms, consider the experience of a baby, exploring their environment for the first time.
This environment is confusing and unfamiliar to the baby, and therefore frightening, but even in this unfamiliar world, the baby must find the time to sleep and to 'recharge' the energy supplies they need as they grow. So, when the infant is placed in its crib, he or she must remain calm, bringing stress levels down naturally and comforting themselves until sleep is possible.
The same applies when the baby wakes itself up in the night. Now, the process starts again. But the learned skills are still there and the little one is able to bring his or herself back down to a restful condition, ready for sleep to take over once again.
Different infants learn these skills at different rates, but one thing is for certain; each and every one of us has the foundation of this knowledge within ourselves. Unfortunately, in most cases, we have forgotten them, preferring to ease our stress and our psychological strain in other ways; ways which may or may not be beneficial to our overall health.
Reconnecting with the skill of self soothing could bring with it a wide range of different benefits.
The Advantages of Self Soothing
To understand the advantages of self soothing, it is important to first understand the mechanics of the mind. While our psychology is intrinsic to what makes us us, it can often feel like we have no control over our own mindset.
We may feel sad for no reason, we may suddenly become disheartened our doubtful of ourselves after the slightest of negative stimulus, we may feel that the world is against us, even though we have no evidence for this; all of these are examples of the 'dark clouds' which sometimes come to rest on our consciousness. They demonstrate how, sometimes, our mental outlook can get the better of us.
But, the flipside of this psychological and emotional weakness is psychological and emotional strength. If we consider that these negative triggers come from inside of us, we must also recognize that the means we can use to combat these triggers come from within. In fact, the tools we need are already within us. Working on our self soothing abilities can help us to unlock these inherent tools.
In turn, this will bring about the following advantages;
A healthy connection to sleep, and all that comes with it
Sleep is vital to our health and well-being. Without high-quality sleep, we simply cannot function during the day, which places a great deal of strain on our professional and personal lives.
Mastering a skill like self soothing can help us to reconnect with sleep in a positive way, securing the levels of great quality sleep we really need.
At one point or another, many people experience sleeplessness or even chronic insomnia to some degree. This is often a miserable experience and one which can be severely detrimental to our psychological health. Through self soothing, we can learn to relax and calm our minds, laying the groundwork for a good night's sleep.
Respite from the stresses and rigors of daily life
Modern life can be tough. Pressure from work, social anxiety, and a range of other psychological triggers can make life feel relentless - like we have no place to hide from the litany of commitments and responsibilities which constitute our daily routine. The ultra-connected nature of modern society - driven by social media and round the clock news coverage - only add to this claustrophobic atmosphere.
Respite can be found in self soothing. By learning these techniques, it is possible to manage stress and to create a psychological barrier between the strains of everyday life and the sanctity of the self. In effect, we create our own safe space within ourselves, into which we can retreat and recharge at the end of each day or at any time we feel overwhelmed.
Cultivation of positive habits
There are many things that people turn to when they feel stressed or unhappy. Alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and other things detrimental to health are all frequently used to manage unhappiness or dissatisfaction. Self soothing is a more positive way of dealing with such psychological hardship and leads to the cultivation of positive habits within ourselves.
But this cultivation of positive habits does not always need to be so extreme. While an alternative to negative stimuli is certainly welcome, self soothing can bring about a wide range of other positive behavioral changes, including moves towards mindfulness and being present in the moment and forms of gentle meditation.
These are habits which strengthen our sense of well-being and positivity, and lay the groundwork for better approaches to living. Unlocking the benefits of self soothing may just be the beginning. It represents the first step on the track of continual psychological improvement.
Support for mind and body
Self soothing is considered to be a primarily psychological and emotional strategy, designed to bring about the changes in our state of mind that are necessary to feel good and positive about our situation. But this does not mean that there are not physical benefits to self soothing too.
By removing stressors and negative influences from our lives, or by managing our responses to such influences in the right way, we are providing support to the physical and psychological aspects of our health.
Stress has been linked to the following physical conditions;
•Headaches and jaw pain
•Dizziness and fainting feelings
•Reduced immunity to common illnesses, such as colds or infections
•High blood pressure
These represent only a handful of the conditions which can be caused by negative responses to stress and do not include conditions linked to alcohol dependency, over/under eating, or other harmful behaviors. By bringing self soothing techniques into our lives, we can lessen the severity of such conditions.
So what are the techniques which can be used to self sooth and to bring about these positive changes? We will discuss these in the next section.
Self Soothing Techniques
Is self soothing right for you? Well, to answer this question, you first need to know the techniques which will be used to foster these positive habits and to recognize how straightforward introducing them into your daily life can be.
Focusing on self soothing - and experiencing the benefits which come with this - is really not so difficult, or so time-consuming. There is a range of techniques which you can use to make this change in your own life. We have covered some of the most effective below.
Embracing the five senses
Humans are sensory beings. The knowledge that we gather about the world around us comes from our five senses. These sensory interactions have a marked impact on our psychology and our emotions.
However, increasingly, we are becoming visually oriented. Computer screens, smartphones, televisions; all of these things provide an endless stream of visual stimuli which we use to gather information or to distract ourselves from daily life. While these stimuli can certainly be beneficial to us, they are also a source of constant connection to the world outside of ourselves. This can be stressful in itself.
We should not ignore the visual sense but we should embrace all five senses when we seek to self soothe. Listening to gentle music or tranquil, ambient sounds, soaking ourselves in a warm bath, savoring the taste and smell of your favorite food, running your fingers across pleasant, tactile surfaces, feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin; these are ways in which the calming influence of the senses can be harnessed.
Concentrating on breathing
Controlled breathing is a tried and tested means of dealing with anxiety and panic attacks. Even if the symptoms of your stress are not so extreme as this, deep and measured breathing is necessary for laying the groundwork for self soothing.
Find an isolated place in which you won't be disturbed, such as a bedroom or a comfortable part of your home, and begin breathing deeply, counting the breaths as they come and as they go. Breathe down to your diaphragm, place your hand just above your stomach and feel the movement in and our. The physically calming and soothing effects of this will soon become apparent.
Decelerating the pace of life
Modern life moves quickly. It can feel stressful and pressurizing. In many instances - such as at work - this pace of life may feel necessary but this does not mean that you must submit to it all the time.
Whenever you have the chance, take the opportunity to decelerate. Clear your schedule and make time for yourself. By creating these moments of respite and shelter, you are giving yourself a window in which to soothe yourself and to repair your psychological and emotional state.
It may feel difficult to find this time at first but over time the positive habit will form.
Becoming present in the moment
Our life is filled with moments, many of which pass us by. When we try to make time to decelerate the pace of life, we should also consider these moments as they breeze past us and to try to become present in them.
Going for a walk and simply standing still for a moment, listening to the wind in the trees and the birdsong, is one way to accomplish this. Another way is to recognize the true joy which comes from special moments, perhaps with family, friends, or loved ones, and appreciating this for what it is - not what it has been or will be - but for what is right there and then.
Removing oneself from stressors and negativity
It is not always easy to detach yourself from the stress and negativity which weighs upon you, but as you practice the techniques listed above, forming this invisible barrier will become increasingly easy.
Get into the routine of allowing yourself the time and space required to self soothe. Continue to put the techniques you have learned into practice. Be prepared to put in the time, effort, and mindfulness required to make it work. Over time, the action of removing yourself from the sources of stress and negativity will become less of a chore and more of a natural progression that you take each day.
There simply isn't time to run and re-run all those negative thoughts through your head. No one has the energy to stay switched on, 24-7. Instead, practice taking a step away from the stress and strain.
Need help and assistance with fostering these positive habits in your own life? Want to learn more about self soothing and to decide whether or not it is a good fit for your situation? Get in touch with the Pemarro team today.
Learning to live a life that no longer involves drinking or getting high can leave you at a loss for coming up with things you can actually do. During the summer when the days are warmer and longer, you could become restless and unsure of how to keep yourself active with only sober activities to occupy yourself with.
But, you'd be amazed at how many things there really are that are fun and easy and don't involve alcohol or drugs. Keeping yourself occupied can even take your mind off using and enjoying another day of clean living. We've come up with a few ideas to help get you started.
Visit a coffee shop. Even the smallest towns have a coffee shop these days. Grab your laptop or tablet and take advantage of the free wifi that most have to offer. You can easily spend a couple of hours surfing the web while you're there. If web surfing is not your thing, take along a book or a magazine to read.
Ride a bike. Roads are becoming more bike-friendly with bicycle-only designated lanes. Look up nearby bike trails and take advantage of a pretty day. You'll get some fresh air and exercise at the same time.
Take a walk. Do a bit of research and find out if there are any nice walking trails nearby. If not, a daily walk around the block will get you more familiar with your neighborhood. You could even get to know your neighbors better and make new friends.
Go to the movies. Watching reruns on TV at home gets boring. Find out what's playing at the local theater and get out and enjoy a movie. The seats are very comfortable these days. Some are even better than your recliner at home!
Take up gardening. Planting seeds and watching them grow is fulfilling and rewarding. You could even lose a little weight as you work in your garden. At any rate, you'll eat a lot healthier with all of the fruits and vegetables you produce.
Listen to music. Depending on the kind of music you listen to, it can either help you relax or it can boost your mood. Spending some time listening to your favorite songs, whether they are oldies or the latest pop music, can be a fun way to spend an afternoon. You can use music to motivate you as you work out or do your housecleaning. Not only is it an enjoyable way to spend a few hours - the therapeutic rewards make it well worth it.
Dance. As you listen to your favorite music, it's only natural to want to get up and dance. If you're too shy to dance in public, you can even do this at home. You don't have to dance to impress anyone. It's a great way to burn energy. You work many different muscle groups with this activity, and it's an effective cardio exercise. Dancing is a key way to relieve stress and clear your mind.
Visit friends. You may have a few friends you haven't seen in a while that would be really happy if you paid them a visit. This could be someone in your neighborhood, or maybe you could plan a day trip to visit someone who lives a few hours away.
Volunteer. When you volunteer your time for a cause you believe in, you not only help others - you help yourself, as well. It gives you a sense of purpose and pride to know that you've contributed to something worthwhile. What's more, if you decide this work is your life's passion, your past volunteer work will look good on your resume.
Go swimming. Swimming is a great stress reliever and can help you regain muscle strength. In the water, you don't put weight on your bones, which allows you to move more freely. In turn, you build and strengthen your muscles.
Remodel or redecorate a room. Give yourself a change of scenery, right in your very own home. Rearrange your furniture or replace a few old pieces with newer ones. Add splashes of color with new decorations, or go for a completely new color scheme, using throw rugs or furniture covers. Repaint the walls or paint just one wall to pep up the room.
Draw or color.If you've enjoyed doodling on a scratch pad, why not try your skills on canvas? Draw your first original work of art. Add color to it with paint or your other favorite medium. If you don't trust your drawing skills, there are plenty of adult coloring books with great pictures that you can color as you wish.
Go shopping. Even if it's just a trip to the grocery store, it gets you out of the house. If there is a store close by, walk - don't drive, especially if it's just to pick up a few things. Alternately, take a trip to the mall and buy yourself something nice. You deserve it.
Get a manicure or a pedicure. It can be enjoyable and even relaxing to get your nails done. Plus, they will be much nicer to look at afterward.
Call a friend or relative. These days, people spend a lot of time chatting back and forth on their cell phones via text. This form of communication has become somewhat impersonal, and there's only so much you can convey in a text. By calling someone and speaking to them, you can hear and express emotions so much better. It takes the confusion out of the message. Plus, it's nice to hear someone's voice if you haven't talked to them in a while.
Get a dog. Dogs require love and attention. Plus, they need to be walked regularly. There are many designated dog parks in almost all cities and towns today, and you could meet people who are also enjoying a sunny summer walk with their pets. If you're not ready to take on the responsibility of pet ownership, you could walk with a friend who has one. More than likely, they will appreciate the company.
Try a new recipe. With all of the fresh fruits and vegetables available in the summer months, why not try out some new recipes? It could be something simple like a salad dressing to pour over fresh from the garden lettuce and tomatoes. If you're feeling more daring, plan a sober dinner party and prepare a few dishes for your friends.
Take up yoga. Yoga is not only good for toning your body - it also helps you learn to relax your mind. In turn, you may find it easier to meditate. Meditation could have positive effects on your conscious awareness and help you relax. Even if you don't meditate, yoga will help you get in tune with your own body. You'll become more aware of your breathing and sensory perceptions, and you'll discover things about your own body that you never imagined.
Crochet or knit. If you already know how to crochet or knit, that's great. If not, it might be a nice hobby to start. It's relaxing, yet motivating, once you've created a few pieces on your own. Summer is the perfect time to get started on scarves, caps, and mittens that you'll be sporting all winter. You could even come up with your own ornaments for holiday decorating.
Take summer classes. If you've been thinking about continuing your education, look for summer courses or classes you can take. These can be for college credits or to help you gain new skills for a potentially better job. The more education you have, the better it looks on your resume.
Read a book.Stay on top of the latest releases and go for the season's bestsellers. Or choose something educational. If you find a writer or series that you really like, pick up Book One and go through the entire collection. Once you get started, it can be hard to put a good book down.
Play a game. Games come in a variety of forms. There are console games, board games, card games and online games. You can choose to play a game of solitaire either with a deck of cards (the old-fashioned way), on your computer, or on your cell phone. There are also apps for puzzle or memory games that can be played alone. These days, you can even play interactive games with teams or against an online opponent. Games can be so much fun that you can easily spend a good part of the day playing them. Keep a clock nearby so you don't lose track of time while you're playing.
Get a new hairstyle. Summer is the perfect time for a new 'do. Look up a few do-it-yourself videos and spend some time practicing until you feel confident. If you don't think that's for you, you can spend some time at a hair salon. Go for the latest style or just get a couple of inches taken off so that you can keep cooler in hot weather.
Start a blog. If you're not one for journaling, then blogging could be another outlet. You can share your thoughts and experiences with the world, or keep them private for yourself. Doing so can help you to go back and see just how far you've come in your recovery. You may also have tips or vital information to share with others who are seeking help and insight.
Go sightseeing.You don't even have to go far. Often, there are places of interest right in our own neighborhood that we take for granted. Visit a local museum or art gallery. New items come in all the time, so even if you have been there in the past, there could be lots of interesting and one-of-a-kind items that you haven't seen.
Travel.Plan a trip to a place that you've never been. Learning about different cultures firsthand can be a memorable experience. You're sure to taste new foods and discover that people go about their daily lives in other ways than we do. It can add perspective to your own life and change the way you feel about the world.
Play an instrument.If you already know how to play an instrument, now could be a good time to perfect your skills. You may already know the effect that music has on your sensory skills. It can lift your mood and take your mind off your worries. Studies have shown that musicians are more likely to have increased brain function than non-musicians. If you don't already know how to play an instrument, it's never too late to learn. There are many free tutorials to be found online. Playing an instrument can be the ultimate stress reliever.
Plan a picnic. Map out a nice spot ahead of time, then pack a lunch and enjoy the day. Schedule a picnic with friends and have everyone bring a dish or a side. City parks make great spots to meet up. It's also a great place to spend a few hours if you or your friends have children.
Create a daily plan. When you map out your activities for the day ahead of time, it can help you stay on track and focused. By filling your day up with things that keep you busy, you're hardly likely to steer yourself off track. Just don't be too hard on yourself. There are really only so many things you can do in a day, so plan accordingly. Don't rush through things. Take your time and enjoy the moment.
Remember, detoxification is only the first step in your recovery. Maintaining a healthy, sober life afterward takes a conscious effort, but it can be done. By keeping yourself occupied, you can live a fulfilling life without drugs or alcohol. Summertime offers the best opportunity for outdoor sober activities, but there are plenty of things you can do indoors, as well.
Hopefully, these suggestions can help you to discover fun activities or rediscover old pastimes you had long forgotten about. Have a great time and don't forget the sunscreen! Should you have any questions or just need to speak to someone, we're here 24/7 to answer your call.