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.