I first encountered the phrase "radical self care" when reading one of Anne Lamott's books.
Think about that phrase: radical self care. Radical self care isn't just getting a mani-pedi every two weeks. That's superficial care, affecting the surface of our lives. Sure, pretty toes and fingers might make us happy, but as anyone who's ruined a manicure within three minutes of leaving the salon can tell you, that brand of happiness is fleeting.
Radical self care goes deeper, promoting fundamental changes in our soul that grow us in some way and make us better people. We need radical self care, especially when stress and chaos and conflict rear their ugly heads. Often, we are harder on ourselves than we would ever be on others, letting our inner critic run amok in the tender places of our souls. Radical self care seeks to squash that inner critic...or at least turn it to constructive, rather than destructive, commentary.
Radical self care makes perfect sense. Safety briefings on airplanes include the warning to put your oxygen mask on in case of emergency before helping someone else. You're at your best when your mind is oxygenated, sharp, alert. Deprived of oxygen, you become confused, disoriented, stupid, and possibly dead. Put your own oxygen mask on, and you can help yourself and others. Neglect it, and you and those you might have helped will suffer.
When we feel battered and bruised and buffeted by the slings and arrows of fortune, we have to take care of ourselves.
Many of us, however, simply don't. Our own needs go unmet because we are too busy caring for others...and our souls suffocate. Sadly, too often, we don't even realize we're gasping for air. We're miserable and have no idea why.
Do you need to engage in some radical self care? Feeling lost and unsure where to start? Well, let's spend some time exploring various ways you can take care of yourself...radically. Today we will start with one of my favorite forms of radical self care: a hobby.
Researchers have found that people who enthusiastically participate at least one hobby are happier, smarter, and mentally and physically healthier, than people who don't. The best hobbies are those that incorporate making something...building Legos or model airplanes, cooking, sewing, knitting, painting, and such, or hobbies that take you outdoors, like photography, birding, and hiking.
(Sadly, reading doesn't qualify as a hobby as researchers define the word, but reading is its own category of radical self care that we will discuss later in this series.)
Years ago, I took up paper crafting, starting with calligraphy, then moving on to making handmade books, and then to making greeting cards and scrapbooks. You might say (and George would agree with you) that I got a little carried away with paper crafting, but along with reading, it's absolutely the best form of self care for me with the deepest and most fundamental positive effects.
|My Crafty Headquarters|
The positive effects are, in fact, so varied and numerous that they would fill a book, but here are four big ones to get you thinking about your own preferred hobbies in a different way or to encourage you to consider finding a hobby for your own radical self care.
First, paper crafting gives my soul a creative outlet. From that, I've learned to let go of perfectionism (well, mostly) and to embrace process and failure as good and necessary. For someone who had her panties in a perfectionist bunch for years and who bulldozed her way to each and every goal, this was a revelation. I've slowed down and enjoy the process in all its messiness and mistakes...and am working to generalize this lesson to other areas of my life.
Second, paper crafting allows me to focus intensely on something other than the news, bills, my son's special education plan, my aches and pains, the mess in my basement, and our POTUS elect. Essentially, I make my crafting time a form of meditation. Being able to intentionally focus on a positive and enriching activity boosts my mood every time. A concentrated break from the chaos to create, get inky fingers, make a mess of my own that's well within my control to clean up...these things are sometimes all the therapy I need to put all those other things in proper perspective.
Third, I learn new things all the time while paper crafting, which helps keep my brain and creative self excited. The thrill of trying a new technique, watching a new product video, and reading new ways to use old supplies all get my creative juices flowing and energize me to grow and improve my skills.
Fourth, it's a hobby that connects me to other people. The products of my paper crafting almost always go to other people, and by blogging my crafty explorations, I have connected to wonderful people all over the planet. I send cards to friends and family and strangers in New Zealand, and also donate them to my church's card shop. Some people save all the cards I send them, others toss them as soon as the occasion has passed. Either way, they received a bit of love from me. And that makes me feel good.
Creativity, meditation, learning, and connection...four healthy side-effects of engaging in a hobby.
Now it's your turn. Share your hobbies with us and tell us a bit about how they enrich your life and contribute to your radical self care.