Not so long ago, the idea of self-care was simple: It was about the things you did for yourself to stay mentally and physically healthy. But because of Goop and other commerce-driven pseudo self-care brands that operate under the guise of well-being, the concept of self-care has been bastardized. They share one thing in common: targeting (mainly) women and telling us that we can improve our physical self by purchasing and re-purchasing often-expensive products and services.

You don’t treat yourself to self-care. It shouldn’t be seen as an act of indulgence—and it’s not about buying the latest CBD oil, shelling out cash for the newest laser facial—or eating a decadent meal. Self-care is a necessity and should be part of everyone’s daily discipline.

Self-care is spiritual and emotional work that you do in order to connect with who you truly are. The effort starts from within and it can require rigorous work to get to the point of deep and personal understanding of your values and priorities. (I believe that the best self-care happens in a silo, rather than doing a group meditation or a group workout class). The goal is to develop greater respect for both yourself and the people you choose to spend your life with. 

In society, we emphasize what we see. But self-care means doing work on your foundation (what’s inside you) first rather than just an exterior paint job (your façade). Some good places to begin are choosing to read book rather than binge-watching TV; sticking to a balanced diet and maintaining financial independence by saving and investing.

I equate self-care with self-knowledge. Ask yourself, are you living a life that mirrors your values? If not, what can you change?

Everyone’s path to self-knowledge is unique, and it often involves a lot of experimentation to figure out what feels good and fulfilling. What I do to care for my spiritual health, emotional health, and physical health may not work for you, but since I know they work for me, I offer them here as inspiration.

Spiritual Health

I think the key to this is doing things on your own that energize and allow you to connect with your truest self. As Pascal once said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from (wo)man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

My go-to’s:

Reading inspirational literature nightly (Bhagavad Gita, Four Agreements, The Answer is You, anything by Pema Chodron)

Practicing Affirmations daily

Meditating or doing deep breathing exercises daily

Some people find spiritual fulfillment through creative expression—that might mean creating art, writing poetry or making music.

Emotional Health

The goal is to be able to stay in the present moment—to be able to live in a neutral state. If you haven’t dealt with the traumas of your past and the anxieties regarding your future, than they’ll take your mind away from the here and now. And when you don’t acknowledge (and address) your emotional baggage, the pain and anger can manifest in your physical body, which is why it’s best to deal with your spiritual and emotional realms before working on the physical stuff.

My go-to’s:

Journaling daily

Surrounding myself with non-toxic friends and developing supportive relationships

Reducing my consumption of material things and content

I have friends who practice daily gratitude or tapping (also known as the Emotional Freedom Technique) to release baggage.

Physical Health

The way I see it, if I’m feeling great, have plenty of energy, and I’m not getting sick, it’s as a result of the mental and spiritual work that I am doing. I sleep better when I’m not stressed out, and my body moves best when I’m not tense or bottling up my emotions. When my physical health isn’t at its peak, I always ask myself if it’s due to an internal imbalance and not just an external cause.  

My go-to’s:

Sleeping for 7 hours a night

Eating nourishing food that’s more plant-based and less processed

Practicing yoga daily

Other ideas: fasting (a friend says it makes her feel clear-headed) or spending time in nature.

It’s a common analogy to think about your mind and body as a house. If you don’t fix the foundation when it’s falling apart, it will affect everything, and will require big, costly repairs. Proper maintenance of your foundation—in the form of self-care—can go a long way to living a joy-filled life.