Add Sensory Self-Care to Your Valentine's Checklist
Putting the “feeling” in “feeling yourself”.
From storefronts to social media, there’s no escaping that February 14th signals that time of year, and a whole lot of attention is given to relationships and love toward others. That’s all fine and good, but it’s also high time to practice self-care and take the time to love yourself. This means the opportunity to seek out new methods of self-care from unexpected places, and taking stock of your surroundings to indulge in the joys right in front of you.
There’s a scene in the French film Amélie when the titular character dips her hand into a burlap bag of dried lentils, and we can almost feel the oddly satisfying sensation of her fingers delving into the small, smooth grains as they move to her touch. It’s one example of what the narrator describes as the “small pleasures” she’s cultivated to find happiness in her daily life – it’s an act of self-care through a sensory experience.
But you don’t have to go around buying up bags of rice and lentils to practice self-care through sensory experiences – all it takes is being mindful of where to look, and acknowledging the moments that give you joy.
Here’s some ways that you can seek out a sensory self-care experience:
Self-care comes in many forms – when it comes to making yourself feel better or coping with stress, exhaustion, or negative feelings, you have options. While some people seek out activities like meditation to try and limit the amount of external stimuli, you can also practice self-care by seeking out physical sensation.
The classics to try include getting a massage or even acupuncture to physically remove the tension built up in the body and relieve stress. Self-massage and activities like a warm bath are also great options.
It doesn’t have to be an activity that takes time or money – you can practice self-care by engaging in your own personal small pleasures. Sometimes the feeling of soapy, warm running water over your hands while you clean dishes is enough to ease the pressures of work and everyday life. Slip into your favorite pajamas for cozy lounging, or grab a warm sweater that feels like a comforting hug – whatever helps put you in the mood to relax.
When seeking sensory self-care, it’s also important to remember that it’s not just touch that can lessen anxieties and leave you feeling mindful. There’s a range of ways to indulge and stimulate – and smell is one of the most primal senses.
You can give aromatherapy a try with scented candles or essential oils, taking time to breathe in the fragrance and let it soothe you. Finding a new perfume that makes you feel confident and sexy can also be a way to treat yourself and indulge your senses.
Cooking yourself a luxurious meal can be a great way to carve out some me-time and connect your senses in the name of self-care. If you’ve been using your oven as a storage space or the thought of compiling a grocery list is immediately overwhelming, give yourself permission to order your favorite takeout or pick up a pint of ice cream on your way home guilt-free.
Putting on soothing music – coupled with your comfiest loungewear – is another great way to destress. This doesn’t mean a playlist playing faintly in the background while you’re doing something else; treat it like meditation and remove other sensations that could distract you. Even getting lost in a podcast can be a good way to relax (although maybe not a true crime one).
There’s nothing wrong with tuning out and watching a favorite show or movie as a means of self-care, but sometimes screens can be stressful and overly stimulating. If you want to try an alternative way of calming down through sight-based self-care, you can look for beautiful images that inspire you in photography books or art magazines. Going to a gallery or museum is also a great way to stir up emotions, which can be unexpectedly cathartic. If all else fails, sometimes just gazing out the window and watching the world go by is enough to wash out a stressful day and a great way to be mindful of just being without giving into the impulse of being on your phone.
Whatever the sense you choose to explore, a great thing about seeking out sensory self-care is that your range of options changes with the seasons. While you might want to cozy up by a fire or feel the flecks of snow on your face around Valentine’s Day, it won’t be long until you’re sensing the freshly cut blades of grass beneath your feet on a summer day and touching the hot sands of a beach (not quite burlap sack lentils, but it’ll do).
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