Shel Pink is the founder of SpaRitual and Slow Beauty: Rituals and Recipes to Nourish the Body and Feed the Soul. Ahead, Pink tells us how self-care has been co-opted by commercial interests—and how we can take it back., as well as the author of
The wellness industry is booming, and that’s a good thing. The sheer force of wellness offerings available to us is helping to shape a more expansive and inclusive conversation. However, it’s becoming difficult for people to discern between guiding truth and trend. Many of the new wellness trends encourage the same pursuit of perfectionism that the old beauty standards did; they just dress that perfectionism up in a new disguise.
Self-care practices are highly personal and should have nothing to do with trends or perfectionism. Instead, they can help us build resilience from the stress caused by our fast-paced lifestyles and to develop a sense of agency around who we are and who we want to become. When we take the time to develop these practices, we build a foundation to make deeper connections in our relationships with others and to align our work with our values.
Many of us learned to care for ourselves from our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, or another significant women in our lives.
It’s critical to make distinctions between the business of wellness and the non-commercial access points of wellness. Many of us learned to care for ourselves from our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, or another significant woman in our lives. Self-care traditions are feminine transactions, involving secrets and knowledge passed down from generation to generation, woman to girl. One of my mother’s simple self-care rituals was drinking hot water and lemon in the morning, as her mother did. She taught me how to read ingredients on the labels on beauty care products and pointed out what to avoid. She taught me about the importance of what I put on and in my body.
Women contain a vast library of healing wisdom and knowledge inside ourselves; it’s an internal internet that connects us on a very deep level. We already know how to care deeply for ourselves; we only need to remember and share what we are remembering.
But it’s easy to forget to carve out time for self-care, as our world is so fast and our days are so crammed. This zeitgeist of fastness is wreaking havoc on our central nervous systems. Our mission now is to find ways to set boundaries that protect ourselves from this new normal.
Our mission now is to find ways to set boundaries that protect ourselves from this new normal.
While trying new wellness fads when we can afford to is fun, self-care can easily be practiced without spending very much at all. In fact, there are many free ways to practice self-care. Here are a few ideas from Shel Pink:
Spend time in nature
When we spend time in nature, we remember that we are more than a cog in a wheel of conspicuous consumption. You can make the decision to connect with nature at any time—and it doesn’t have to cost you a dime. Put the soles of your feet on the ground of a park, dig your fingers into the soil, lay on the grass, hike a mountain, walk along a babbling brook, or go deep into a forest. Include nature intentionally and regularly as part of your self-care practice.
Take a bath
Immerse yourself in water. Make it a ritual. Draw a bath for yourself, and use items you have at home to scent the bath. Add a squeeze of a lemon or an orange, include some rosemary or lemongrass, muddle everything together, and put it in the hot bath. Bathing is an opportunity to feel buoyant and to relieve our self of the weight of the fast world.
You can easily find poetry online or borrow a book of poetry from your local library. Poets notice things about the world and they report back to us on what they’ve seen and heard, tasted, and touched. Poets don’t speak to our everyday selves; they speak to our souls.
Give yourself a massage
Daily self-massage is deeply renewing, tones the skin, improves circulation, detoxifies the lymphatic system, and makes your skin glow. We pay so much attention to what we put on our face that our body often becomes neglected. Show love to your body through daily self-massage, which helps to relieve anxiety and decrease stress.
Self-massage is simple. After a shower and patting your skin dry with a towel, apply a quarter-sized amount of body oil to the palm of your hand and rub your hands together to evenly disperse the oil for application. Begin at your feet and work your way up your body towards your heart using long strokes, listen to your body’s needs, applying more pressure or paying more attention to parts of your body that require more love. The self-massage should gradually become a personalized, intuitive technique addressing your specific needs. When you slow down, you are better able to tune into what those needs are.
Dancing is freedom. Move your beautiful body every day. Turn on some music, express yourself in the language of dance to keep your spirits uplifted, and renew your rhythmic connection to life.
Ask yourself what you need, forgive yourself for not asking sooner, and then give yourself exactly what you need.
Have a loving conversation with yourself
Don’t be tyrannical in your mind. Be loving. Ask yourself what you need, forgive yourself for not asking sooner, and then give yourself exactly what you need. Be forgiving. Be iterative. Be in process.
When we are compassionate and unconditionally loving to ourselves, we will know peace and joy. And as more and more of us know joy, we will help to build a more joyful world.