How to Nurture Yourself & Why It Matters
Nourishment refers to that which sustains us—all the things we take in which allow us to grow and thrive. Whether from food, lifestyle practices, relationships, connection to nature, or simply taking full, deep breaths, the things that provide nourishment also enable us to fully experience the richness of life on Earth.
Our mothers are the first ones who nourished us, beginning in the womb, where we received our nourishment through umbilical cords. Then, as small children, we began to transition from complete dependence to learning to care for ourselves. Alongside our innate knowing of how to laugh, love, and play, we were taught how to feed ourselves, drink from a cup, brush our teeth, and care for our bodies.
As adults, we sometimes need to relearn (or remember) how to nourish ourselves in our daily lives, recover a healthy balance of self-care, and receive nourishment from others. Our relationships, our diets, and how we choose to live are all a reflection of the harmony we create in our lives.
By honoring our bodies and tending to our own well-being, we can show up more fully and show our appreciation for the precious gift of life that we are given.
Tap into the Power of Breath
Although breathing is the most basic act of life which occurs automatically, we can choose to use it consciously as a source of nourishment. Taking in deep, full breaths energizes and oxygenates all parts of our bodies and is essential to the healthy function of both body and mind.
We can direct the breath into areas of our bodies that are holding tension or feeling fatigued, breathing in prana, or new life-giving energy, and exhaling any stress. Slow, deep breathing can dispel anxiousness, promote relaxation, and help the body soften and let go.
Practicing mindful breathing with pranayama provides both physiological and mental-emotional benefits, renewing vitality to the cells and tissues of the body while also promoting a sense of serenity and contentment.
Nourish your Relationship with Food
Our eating habits and food choices reflect our attitudes about providing ourselves with nourishment. For many of us, our relationship with food can carry emotional baggage and is something to approach with patience and compassion.
The Ayurvedic approach to diet is unique in that it focuses not only on the physical nutrition we take in, but also on cultivating a healthy and gratitude-filled relationship with our food.
We can create a more nurturing relationship with food by becoming more intimately connected to our food source. When we become conscious of everything it takes to get our food from the earth to our plates—the sun, soil, rain, farmers, pickers, grocers, and our own efforts and ingenuity in preparing the food—it’s nearly impossible not to feel gratitude!
Here are a few ideas of how to begin to foster a healthy and nourishing relationship with food:
- Grow your own veggies in the backyard, or in containers on your porch or windowsill.
- Join a community garden where you can participate in the lifecycle of your foods.
- Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and have fresh, local, organic produce delivered to you throughout the growing season.
- Shop at your local farmers market and develop relationships with your local farmers.
- When eating out, find restaurants that support local farmers and serve seasonal, organic foods.
- Take time to offer gratitude before your meals, recognizing all that went into bringing it to your plate.
- When you can, share food with people you love to ensure nourishment of your heart as well as your body.
Develop Nurturing Lifestyle Practices
From an Ayurvedic perspective, the idea of nourishment goes far beyond the foods we eat to include the things that nurture and replenish all levels of our being. Incorporating self-care practices into our daily routines can look a million different ways, depending on what we find most revitalizing and supportive.
Notice the activities and practices in your life that nourish you and bring you joy, then work to weave these things into your life in a way that feels sustainable and life-enhancing. The point here is not to exhaust yourself with a list of activities to accomplish every day, but to return to the intention of deep nourishment and self-love.
Here are some examples of simple ways to nurture your well-being:
- Practice abhyanga, or daily oil massage.
- Make time for yoga, meditation, or spiritual practice.
- Make art! Play music, sing songs, draw, paint, or write a poem.
- Spend time playing with children.
- Get your hands dirty and explore sacred gardening.
- Spend time in nature and feel the sunshine on your face.
- Spend time with your elders and learn from their stories.
- Wear clothes that make you feel beautiful.
- Prioritize rest.
Create Sanctuary Space
Have you ever noticed how much your mood is affected by the state of your environment? Making our homes into a sanctuary gives us a space in which we feel comfortable enough to truly relax, unwind, and practice nurturing ourselves.
Taking the time to clear out old clutter, clean your nooks and crannies, and reinvent your space in a way that feels good to you can do wonders for supporting a sense of nourishment, contentment, and ease. Surround yourself with beautiful things that delight your senses.
Here are a few simple ways to make your home feel like a sanctuary and create the kind of environment that truly nourishes you:
- Open your windows! Invite in fresh air and sunlight.
- Clear away clutter and discard items that are no longer needed.
- Display fresh flowers to bring a sense of life and cheer into your home.
- Hang a piece of art that represents something you want to call into your life, be it health, joy, or beauty.
- Create an altar in honor of the things that nourish and support you.
Practice Mindful Movement
Whether we exercise, dance, play, practice martial arts, or do yoga, movement is nourishing and energizing to the body. The best types of exercise are the ones that allow us to be mindful of our bodies as we move. This allows us to tune into what our bodies need from day to day, rather than just pushing through and overriding the body’s innate intelligence.
When we slow down and listen, we can begin to understand our body's language and what it is saying to us—by how it is moving, where there is holding or constricted, and where it feels open, free, and fluid.
When we listen to these messages and move our bodies with awareness, we learn to work with the body rather than against it, developing compassion and respect for ourselves—both our capabilities and our limitations. In this way, movement becomes a nourishing meditative practice that helps bring our minds and bodies into a more harmonious and loving relationship.
Commit to Yourself
When asked why we forget to do what is best for ourselves, the Buddhist meditation teacher, Pema Chodron, explained,
We forget and remember, forget and remember. That's why it's called practice.
So we must be patient with ourselves and practice the art of nourishment every day, retraining our minds and hearts to nurture and love ourselves to the best of our ability.
Let us extend our imaginary umbilical cords out into our lives, drinking in all that nourishes us and allowing it to saturate each and every cell of our being. Soon, the most alive choice we make will become the most natural choice, from one moment to the next.
By making a commitment to prioritize our own well-being and choosing to nurture ourselves, we are supporting our health, moving towards wholeness, and saying yes to life.