There is nothing wrong with consumerist spirituality, for it makes people think about wellness. But, in this age of Instagramable everything, we run the risk of turning well-being into something that must be pretty all the time. Something outwardly. Indulgent. Out-of-the-ordinary. But, self-care is ordinary. It doesn’t always come in the form of bubble baths and spa days, or raw diets or sheet masks.
Let me give the disclaimer that for some people, laying back with a sheet mask at the end of the day is indeed relaxing. I know these people. My 6-year-old niece is one of these people. The moment a sheet mask is placed on her tiny face, she is transported to a faraway island, and demands a virgin pina colada. So, I get the appeal. But, I don’t get the mandate and presumptions that come with sheet masks and other Instagramable self-care trends (like baths; I mean how many of us actually have access to a tub on Monday nights?).
Back when I was working at a leading lifestyle magazine for women, I was given a sheet mask from a hamper we received to sample. Our beauty editor, an aficionado of indulgent beauty rituals, was keen that I try it on. I was reluctant. I am the woman who puts off threading till I look like Medusa’s deformed cousin, only because I don’t like anyone else’s hands touching my face. So, facials are out, and I put sheet masks resting on my face in the same category. But, I took the plunge because I was intrigued by her enthusiasm for the product. Suffice to say, I did not enjoy the gooey sheet sticking to my face. My team couldn’t fathom how that was possible.
I have wondered if my dislike for spa days, massages, bach therapy, and other such feel-good self-care rituals hints at some subconscious self-loathing, or denial of my femininity or my need to be cared for. And after a lot of thinking, I have come to realise that it’s not that I don’t believe I deserve love and care. It is that there are other, not so Insta-friendly, things that work for me.
Saying what I mean
Okay, I’ll be honest – I’m still learning to do this, and everyday I get better. But, each time I say what I really mean, it immediately makes me feel more confident and relaxed, regardless of the consequences. I once read somewhere that the key to a happy life is living authentically, and I see how. If you say it like it is, you can leave the issue at hand there and spend your energy on things that matter.
“Meaningless” pursuits the only purpose of which is to bring me joy
You can call these hobbies. I’m talking about things that don’t further your career, or are designed only to please your loved ones, or expand your intellect or even make you fitter. You do these things only and only because they make you happy – like a child eating candy. It’s that unbridled joy that’s the pay-off. For me, it’s video games. Currently, I’m playing Two Dots.
But first, Pranayama
This is a tried-and-tested quick remedy for anxiety and stress. In the long-term, pranayama helps you focus better and gives clarity of thought. And of course, in this awfully polluted environment that we live in, it is a blessing for your lungs!
Knowing when to stop drinking…
And chasing each drink with a glass of water! I’m not one to think that to live a healthy life, we must entirely give up our vices. Vices make life fun! Drinking is fun. It’s when our vices begin to control us that it becomes problematic. I enjoy the light buzz, and the zen feeling I get from a couple of drinks. I hate getting drunk to the point of throwing up or passing out. I don’t enjoy hangovers. So, with a lot of trial-and-error, I have figured out the exact amount of alcoholic beverages I need to consume in order to get happily drunk but not sickly drunk. Along the way, I learnt that it’s better to hydrate pre-emptively rather than the next day when you have already been struck by nausea and headache.
Developing a sense of humour
According to Freudian theory, humor is a defence-mechanism. But, a good one. If we start taking everything in life seriously, we will kill ourselves! The ability to keep it light and laugh a little during stressful times is life-saving. No, really. A sense of humour can truly be like a ventilator when you’re struggling to stay afloat. Try it.
Working out. Duh! I know!
We all know that staying physically active works wonders for our well-being. It can be difficult to take time and energy out to exercise, but we must remember that it’s only the first step that is hard. A regular fitness routine actually gives us more time and energy.
Waking up slowly
How you start your day really does set the tone, even if subconsciously. I abhor waking up abruptly. I am a sloth in the morning – I hit the snooze button, and even after I finally stop doing that, I linger in bed for a few more minutes. I sip on my coffee slowly and deliberately, even if that means I may get late to work. I stretch. I breathe. I listen to music. I start my day slow, so that when it does get fast, I don’t entirely lose my shit.
Saying no to frivolous socialising
This may have something to do with entering another decade of life. Or maybe not. But, in the last couple of years, I have become super selective of who I spend time with, and how much. This doesn’t mean that every social commitment is serious. It just means that I choose to be with people whose company I enjoy, and do things I enjoy doing. So, yes, I continue to go dancing, but to music I love, and with a person I love!
Allowing myself to feel like shit
There is a dark side to this movement of spiritual positivity. It denies negative human experiences, or at least makes us feel like we must. We must not harbour anger or sadness or bitterness or regret. But, these are all human emotions, and we need to give room to them. We need to allow ourselves to not be perfectly happy or enlightened or unattached or whatever our spiritual goals may be. We need to allow ourselves to feel like shit.
I write. I read. I do yoga. I hula hoop. I love cats and dogs in equal measure. I'd say the same for wine. My zen motto: "Eat kale for the body, cake for the soul." Find me on IG: @prachigangwani87