In the modern world, many of us work harder for our jobs than we do for ourselves, either by choice or by necessity.
And it’s not until we grow older, and maybe retire that we start taking better care of ourselves and enjoying life more.
A few years ago I came across a journaling prompt about making a list of things you do to nurture yourself.
My list included simple tasks that I should have been doing long ago:
- Taking daily walks in the evening.
- Drinking water on a regular basis.
- Drinking less Pepsi and other sugar loaded beverages.
- Going to the dentist three times a year.
- Building my jazz album collection and studying the music.
- Finally getting a general medical checkup
- Saving money for an extended vacation.
I hadn’t realized until I started writing the list how much I wasn’t paying attention to my needs, especially at the age of 55! I basically lived my life from one work related project to the next, from one personal or family challenge to the next. My personal life sort of remained unattended while I focused on so many other things.
But while creating the list, it reminded me of Julia Cameron’s (author of the classic,_ Artist’s Way_) instructions for scheduling what she calls, “Artist Dates,” which involve setting aside one day a week and do something relaxing and creative in your life.
Artist Dates can be activities as simple as visiting a bookstore, taking a sculpting class, shooting scenic photos, visiting a museum, walking on the beach, or taking a big balloon ride. The Artist Date is about turning off the distractions in our life and getting out of our comfort zone. It’s about spending some time with yourself and connecting with the inner creative side we all possess. You don’t have to be an artist to take Artist Dates. You simply need the urge to take better care of yourself.
Sadly our society encourages us to take care of ourselves just enough to meet the expectations of a job and family responsibilities. But to receive the gifts of life, we have to step out of the everyday challenges, take deep breadths, and get ourselves into a different comfort zone where we actually work on taking care of ourselves.
Write Your Nurture List
If you’re a journal keeper, use that space to jot down ideas for Artist Dates. If you write them down, you’re more likely to eventually do some of them. Don't censor your list of ideas. Think outside the box.
Writing a bucket list of adventures and personal projects for enriching your life is another way of setting goals for nurturing yourself. Your bucket list doesn’t need to be expensive goals or projects. Write one bucket list of things you could do that will cost next to nothing (e.g., writing short stories, complimenting ten people in one week, shooting underwater photos, rereading a favorite book, calling up and visiting a long lost friend, attending a free outdoor music concert), and another list for long range goals that will require significant planning and perhaps money.
Use your journal to reflect on how you’re taking care of yourself. What are you not doing that you should be? What are the roadblocks in your life, and how do you plan to get around them? When’s the last time you felt really good about yourself? What makes you smile or laugh? Your journal is the space and place to connect with yourself. Start there, but make sure you act on some of the things you write. Ultimately, you want to start working more for yourself than you do for your job.
Bakari Chavanu, a journal keeper, a freelance writer, and staff writer for MakeUseOf.com . He’s also the author of the forthcoming book, Starting From Day One: Using Digital Journaling to Enhance Your Life.