There are many articles online explaining how to practice the art of self-care. Isn’t it interesting that we google things like, “How do I take care of myself”? It seems so odd, so counterintuitive. But when you think about it, our lives are incredibly complex within today’s fast-paced society. We take care of so many issues every single day, and our minds are constantly fragmented and strained. Our attention may be completely drained by an issue during the day, or even for weeks at a time. At bedtime we might lay down and think, “Wow, I’m so sad” yet we haven’t allowed ourselves to FEEL that sadness. We’ve just been reacting to it. We may even be missing out on feelings of happiness and thankfulness because we are too busy tending to the day-to-day tasks to actually stop and enjoy what we have been given.

Here is a list of 7 ways to take care of yourself. There are plenty more, but these are the ones I’ve been trying lately and I’ve been able to experience tangible results (i.e. more productive days, more moments with a smile on my face). Feel free to modify these ideas to better fit your lifestyle or specific needs, but the bottom line is always this: you are YOU for a reason, and your creator loves it when you’re HAPPY.

1. Take time to identify what truly makes you happy, satisfied, and content.

This can be as small as a favorite candy or drink, or as large as a trip you’d like to take. In fact, a “big things” list as well as a “little things” list may be valuable! Be honest with yourself and be thorough. Write them down if you need to. Have this list available whenever you know you need some self-time, so that when you pull it out, you can choose from your options. For some of you, it may be beneficial to share these lists with a spouse or partner, but for others, this can just stay yours.

2. Do those things!

They say, “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” so stop trying. Give yourself the permission to just do something for you. Eat the candy, plan the trip, take the day off. Buy the book, paint the wall, run the half marathon. It is not selfish to take care of yourself, in fact, it is what our creator intended for us. We are actually harming ourselves and ignoring our purpose on this earth by forcing our bodies, our emotions, and our egos to perform at a high level with no rest or care. Eventually we will hit a wall, and usually that pain is far worse because of the momentum we’ve gained trying to go faster.

3. Don’t be afraid to share your struggles with those you trust.

Accept help when you need to. This seemingly simple task can make such a huge difference. Sometimes, all we need is to hear that other people struggle too. Sometimes we just need to be reminded that we are NOT in it alone. We were never meant to do life by ourselves, so when we keep trying to juggle every little detail day in and day out, we may ultimately just need a little reminder that we are not supposed to live that way.

4. Admit failures or mistakes.

This may not seem to make sense in a “self-care” list, but I have found that so much of my growth and happiness actually comes when I allow myself to sink into my “wrongness.” When I realize that I messed up (big or little issues), I tend to self-actualize and push into a beautiful clarity. Think back to a time when you wallowed in some sort of pain, struggle, or confusion before you finally realized that you were actually to blame for it all. Those moments are absolutely tough, but they ultimately bring so much beauty.

Dax Sheppard mentions this in an interview with Sam Jones on Netflix. He discusses how his struggle with alcoholism is actually one of his greatest blessings because without it, he would not have discovered his amazing wife (Kristen Bell) or some of his most valuable gifts and strengths (this program is rated PG-13 for some language, by the way, but check it out at “Off Camera with Sam Jones”).

5.  Extend your love to another living thing.

Buy a new plant and dedicate time to its care. Create a “mommy/daddy and me” day full of fun for your little buddies. Go on a date and enjoy a good conversation with your partner. Take a friend for coffee and just spend time talking. Taking care of yourself is the name of the game, but sometimes extending that love to someone else is the exact medicine we needed.

In that same interview with Sam Jones, Dax Sheppard discusses how his perspective shifted when he became a father. He had spent years low-key feeling sorry for himself because he didn’t have the father-figure he dreamed of having. But when he had his first child, he realized: his FATHER was the one who actually missed out. He remarks with such passion in his voice, “It’s so much better from this side,” meaning that he absolutely gains much more from loving his kids than he ever knew existed from the perspective of the child. Giving love is one of the most gratifying, self-loving acts we have on this earth.

6. Don’t be afraid to say no.

Stop the harmful train of thinking that you owe it to people to be present at every function, to volunteer for all the events, or to assist in the tasks that others keep putting off. Remember that your time is, in many ways, the most valuable thing you have. We may not always have control over our time, but when we do, let’s aim to be more mindful of our commitments. The delegation of tasks may need to happen, and those roles need to be maintained. Everyone needs to know their expectations and that it is perfectly fine to say “no” sometimes.

7. Start a healthy habit.

Plan to do something every day for a week that you have wanted to do for a long time. Start mapping and charting your growth. If your goal is health and/or fitness, there are so many amazing apps to download (looking at you, myfitnesspal), and the technology makes it easier than ever to see what you’re capable of. If your goal is to spend more time at home, make yourself a little checklist that you can actually SEE so that you have something tangible to refer to. Even something as simple as writing down the date of when you start your healthy habit journey can be effective.

Follow yourself with excitement, but be gentle with yourself if you mess up or miss a day. Healthy mindsets and habits will boost your self-esteem and allow you to remember how strong you really are. You’re not perfect, but you are strong, and you have so many qualities to be proud of…and to love yourself for.