Self-soothing is an activity that nearly anyone can learn and get better at. It encompasses techniques and behaviors that we can use to soothe our emotions when ruffled, disturbed, distressed, overwhelmed — when we encounter difficult situations in life.
Self-soothing means not going to others expecting them to make you feel better. Of course, if we’re lucky, we have healthy loving people in our lives who help us feel better, but what if they’re not around? And…how can you become one of those healthy, loving people?
Self-soothing is a skill that you can cultivate to take better care of yourself.
You start with recognizing when you need soothing. It starts with self-compassion. Maybe you experienced a bad day at the office, an argument with a loved one, an unpleasant bit of news, mistreatment by a clerk, a fender bender, or all of these things.
Can you treat yourself as well as you would treat a friend in these circumstances if you had the resources to treat your friend really well? If you’re not your own best friend, who else is going to be?
You probably already use some self-soothing techniques without thinking about it. What do you do that brings you pleasure? I’m not talking about special techniques like EFT or NLP. This post is about ordinary things that people can do to soothe themselves, by themselves.
Here are some of my favorites –and I believe it’s good to have many self-soothing techniques in your repertoire that you can draw on when you need to. It’s a way of adding richness to your life, and you can share these with others, enhancing their lives as well.
For visual refreshment, I love walking in botanical gardens, especially Japanese gardens. I love looking at landscapes, cityscapes, sunrises, sunsets, and the star-spangled night sky — the big picture.
I buy myself flowers on occasion, and depending on the flowers, the color and shape not only please my sense of sight, the fragrance pleases my sense of smell.
Walking on a scenic trail or kayaking or paddleboarding on water is very pleasant, and the sensations of movement, temperature, and more just add to my pleasure.
Traveling to a beautiful place is awesome! I love Maui and West Texas for the gorgeous — and very different — scenery. Those landscapes feel very friendly to me.
Reading a good story takes my mind off my problems and sweeps me up into some other story.
Music is one of the greatest soothing inventions ever. Hearing a beloved golden oldie, music that you associate with good times and good feelings, or listening to new music that engages and calms — those can shift your comfort level profoundly. A couple of my favorites are Wachuma’s Wave and Chakra Chants.
Listening to a waterfall, rain falling, the ocean — the sounds of water definitely soothe me.
I just love listening to Mango purr. Listening to someone read some good writing aloud is also quite pleasurable.
I adore smelling fragrant flowers, any essential oil, herbs and spices and fresh produce, and teas. I once grew a rose called Souvenir de la Malmaisson that smelled so much like a fine wine, just the fragrance was intoxicating. It was like catnip is to a cat. I wanted to roll in it!
Petrichor is the word for the smell of rain. I wish I could bottle it because it’s always so refreshing!
Soothing touch includes feeling soft, sensual textures in bedding and clothing. Curling up is relaxing. So is tuning into the sensations of just breathing. Of course, you can touch yourself pleasingly, and I need not say more!
To some people, exercise soothes. They love sweating. I love yoga and dance. The movements please me and wake my body up pleasingly.
Be careful about soothing yourself with taste. It is the self-soothing method that many people use to the exclusion of all others, and it can easily result in weight gain and/or an unbalanced diet and dis-ease. Be mindful — take tiny bites, eat slowly, let your taste buds savor — and have lots of other self-soothing techniques.
Another fine thing you can do is to take a happy memory and relive it as fully as you can, re-experiencing the sensations and emotions.
Finally, laughter soothes jangled nerves, aching hearts, hurt feelings, failures, and disappointments. At some point, you’re ready to laugh again.
In that case, watch a good, funny video, listen to a funny audiotape, or read a funny book. To each his or her own. Steve Martin, David Sedaris, George Carlin, Saturday Night Live, Christopher Guest, Ellen deGeneres, Monty Python — there are lots of funny, funny performers, films, and books available that you can bust a gut enjoying.
If you have any favorites not listed here, I welcome you sharing!