The phrase “self-care” is one we hear a great deal these days. While it is an exceptionally vivid phrase, many envision self-care as being somewhat limited purely to treating yourself to something that makes you feel good.

 

Of course, doing things that make you happy are absolutely critical to self-care, but consistent self-care involves so much more. If we consider self-care rooted in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (ranging from basic physical needs all the way up to self-actualization), the concept immediately unfolds itself into caring for oneself from the ground up for maximum and optimal health. Here are five essential paths to self-care.

 

Nutrition

 

A healthy body is a happy body, and adapting a healthier diet can improve your day to day life enormously. Proper nutritional intake ensures a well-functioning metabolism, better concentration in important tasks, greater mood stability, and more energy.

 

Even if your diet isn’t necessarily the best, just making a few adjustments at a time can significantly improve your overall sense of well-being – like swapping sugar for honey in your morning coffee, making sure to eat a protein-rich and nutritious breakfast, brown-bagging a healthy lunch instead of going out each lunch hour, or introducing more fruits and vegetables into your diet by eating a fruit, vegetable, or both with every meal.

 

Exercise

 

Exercise isn’t just important for your waistline. It improves cognition and memory, reduces stress and anxiety, alleviates depression, improves sleep quality, and can help alleviate inflammatory conditions like arthritis. Fitting daily exercise into your day to day routine doesn’t have to be a huge commitment. Try adapting a ten or fifteen-minute yoga or Pilates routine in the morning before you leave for work or school, and a short walk after dinner daily before you settle in for the evening.

 

Medical Care

 

It’s rarely anyone’s favorite task to call the doctor or attend physicals, but seeing to your medical care is a vital activity for appropriate self-care. Be diligent about attending your annual physicals and follow-up appointments for medical conditions you are having treated, and don’t resist going to the doctor if something is really wrong. Not only will you live a longer and healthier life, you will feel less anxious if you know what’s going on with your body – and how you can improve and maintain the state of that body.

 

Psychological Care

 

No matter your age, gender, or profession, attending to your psychological self-care is no less important than tending to your medical needs. Especially important for those who suffer from mental or neurological illnesses or disorders, seeing a mental health professional on a regular basis can make an enormous improvement in your quality of life. A qualified professional can help you learn appropriate and positive coping skills for everything from work-related stress management to handling major depressive episodes. They can also assist your family members and loved ones in developing skills to help support you and your mental health – and teach you how to do the same for them.

 

Pampering

 

Even if you’re attending to your self-care in other ways, a little pampering can go a long way in making you feel more relaxed, happier, and can help contribute to your overall productivity at work and home. A weekly massage or facial – not to mention other skin and spa treatments that can leave you feeling relaxed, happy, and beautiful – can aid you in your endeavor to care for yourself both physically and mentally. Treating yourself to something you’ll truly enjoy activates the brain’s reward center and can help you feel more satisfied with the life you’re leading – especially at the end of a long work week.

 

Whether you already love kale smoothies and weekly massages or are just starting out towards a healthier lifestyle, following each of these paths to self-care will guide you towards a better physical and mental state – and greater happiness.