Learning how to heal ourselves can bring us back to a state of well-being.
We likely all struggle with the remnants of past emotional or physical challenges. So we probably would all benefit from some self-healing. However, self-healing may offer greater benefits for those who are feeling highly self-motivated to engage in the self-healing process—that is, to take the time to implement self-healing techniques and activities in their lives. Just as it takes time to build a new skill, self-healing can take time and effort. So effort here is key to seeing results.
The following self-healing techniques can benefit both your emotional and physical health. They may help you feel a bit better immediately but their real power emerges when you practice them regularly. Regular practice can result in long-term changes in your brain that can contribute to happiness, resilience, and well-being.
Oftentimes, we’re harder on ourselves than we are on anyone else. We might even get mad at ourselves for being sick or unable to get over past hurt or rejection. But by being extra hard on ourselves, we do ourselves no good. Instead, we just make it harder for our body and mind to heal.
That’s why self-compassion can be a great tool for self-healing. We might start by writing ourselves a self-compassionate letter—a letter where we say kind things to ourselves and write about how we will support ourselves moving forward. Related to this, we might also set better boundaries to keep others from crossing the line with us. Or, we might develop assertive communication skills so that we can advocate for our needs and take better care of ourselves.
Get More Sleep
Did you know that we do much of our healing while we’re asleep? That’s right—lack of sleep can weaken the immune system making it harder for the body to heal itself (Ibarra-Coronado et al., 2015.) Lack of sleep can also contribute to higher levels of stress hormones like norepinephrine and epinephrine (Zhang et al., 2011). These hormones can lead us to feel more anxious and burned out. That makes sleep absolutely essential for self-healing.
Too often, we stay up late, get up early, and force ourselves to stay awake when we’re exhausted. We might prioritize getting extra work done or going to the gym instead of sleep. But if we desire to heal ourselves, this is likely not the best move. Extra work and exercise just give our bodies a longer to-do list and if we’re not properly rested, we may just be hurting our bodies even further.
If we’ve been struggling with stress, trauma, or physical health issues, our sympathetic, “fight-or-flight” system has likely been activated for a while. To calm our sympathetic response, we need to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is largely responsible for calming down our fight or flight response and helping us return to a less stressed state.
One of the easiest ways to activate the parasympathetic nervous system is with controlled and deep breathing. For example, SKY breathing—a technique involving cycling slow breathing (2-4 breaths per minute) then fast (30 breaths per minute), then three long “Om”s, or a long vibrating exhale—has been shown to lower anxiety (Zope & Zope, 2013).
Another popular breathing technique is “box breathing”. This involves breathing for a count of four, holding for a count of four, exhaling for a count of four, and holding for a count of four. Practice breathing this way for a little bit each day to help boost parasympathetic activity and help your body recover from past challenges.
Try Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness is a technique that involves “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment” (Kabat‐Zinn, 2003). Research shows that mindfulness interventions can help reduce both anxiety and depression (Khoury et al., 2013).
Here are a few other activities that you might find to be helpful for self-healing.
Try Positive Visualization
Visualizing yourself in a relaxing, positive space can help soothe your body and ease your mind.
Listen to Soothing Music
Calming music can help reduce stress and set the scene for greater self-healing.
Cut Out Unhealthy Foods
Unhealthy foods like hydrogenated oils, sugar, and caffeine put extra stress on your body and may prevent healing of all sorts.
Start a Gratitude Journal
Practicing gratitude is a great way to bring more positive emotions into your life. These positive emotions can help counteract the negative emotions that prevent healing.
Research suggests that gardening has multiple benefits for our well-being and can even help us reduce depression.
We all have challenges that we need to heal from. Some of us have emotional challenges, others of us have physical challenges, and some of us have both. Luckily, we actually have a lot of power to make positive changes to our well-being. We can shift the way we think and how we treat our bodies. As a result of these efforts, we can begin to heal and recover from the hardships we’ve experienced.
Pamela (Pami) Parker currently serves as a holistic practitioner, coach and teacher. Her intention is to be a compassionate guide to those who choose to experience a healthier, happier and more peaceful way of life.