Day 3: D.I.Y. Spa
A Self-Love Exercise
Today is spa day! And yes, all you guys out there can still treat yo’self with a face mask. Women’s faces aren’t the only ones need moisturizing!
The whole goal of this challenge is to relax and have some well-deserved me-time.
More Than Just a Spa Day
“Do not follow the ideas of others, but learn to listen to the voice within yourself.” – Zen Master Dogen.
This is something I hardcore struggled with — and it wasn’t until I hit about one year into my professional career, feeling crazy exhausted all the time, that I finally realized I couldn’t sacrifice my personal wants and needs just to please others.
Heck, there was a time I was so obsessed with making other people happy, I didn’t even know what I wanted or needed.
I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this. And this exercise is a gentle step towards practicing self-love and listening to what you want, as a unique individual, for a change.
The Introvert-Extrovert Cycle
I’ve always flowed in and out of being an introvert and extrovert, but these traits would play out in destructive ways because of my inability to listen to myself.
My extroverted side would come out when I put it upon myself to please everyone around me. And my introvert side would come out when I got completely burnt out and as a result, used isolation to recuperate. And then I would miss interaction, and the cycle would go on.
I know some of you reading this also feel the same way. Which is why this challenge is a small (and fun!) stepping stone towards learning how to listen to yourself by being in your own company.
Ok, but that seems like a heckuvalotta work. How the heck do we even start?! Well, don’t worry — I’ve got quite a bit of experience in this.
Let’s get into it!
Loneliness vs. Solitude
When I attended intensive outpatient therapy, I learned an important distinction: the difference between loneliness and being alone. What I — and many people — needed to work on was being alone, or solitude, so I could work on myself and avoid these cycles of loneliness and isolation.
Loneliness is a state of mind that can be detrimental to our health and can cause health problems like depression, anxiety, heart disease, memory loss, suicide.* It could also be a result of having a mental health disorder like anxiety and depression.
Health experts acknowledge that feeling lonely isn’t solely a result of isolation — we could be surrounded by people and still feel alone. So it’s important to remember not to be hard on yourself if you feel lonely despite having the opportunity to be social. The mind is complicated and we all process situations differently.
*If you’re having suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for support and assistance from a trained counselor.
Solitude, or being alone, is defined as a moment where you voluntarily take time for yourself in between all your social interactions.
How Does it Change for Introverts and Extroverts?
The biggest comparison we can make is between introverts and extroverts. Does it really make a difference on how much alone time you need?
Introverts prefer to be alone, but that doesn’t mean they want to be alone all the time. Even the most introverted people need support and social interaction. And support groups don’t have be big — it can be made up of just a few close friends or family members.
I used to use the excuse all the time that I was an introvert and that’s why I didn’t want to go to any social events. But that was my social anxiety talking, convincing myself to isolate when truthfully, I missed my friends and family.
Extroverts like to be around people, but taking the time to enjoy moments by yourself can really help with remembering who you are as an individual.
I used to find myself adapting to other people’s personalities so that I could make them feel comfortable and fit the situation to what I thought they wanted. But then what’s the fun in a conversation when there’s basically two of the same people talking? The beauty of relationships and conversations is the dynamic nature of it. Spending time alone has reminded me of who I am and I’ve been able to carry that idea with me to the outside world.
How to Start Practicing Being Alone
So, we’ve talked a lot about definitions and looked a lot of studies, but how can we actually take action to heal ourselves from loneliness and transition to voluntary solitude?
Well, for one, you take part in this 30-Day Self-Love Mental Health Challenge. I have to admit, some of the inspiration for this challenge came from seeing all those cute 30-day challenges on Pinterest.
But I found — just like Barney Stinson’s Cheerleader Effect Theory — they all look good from far away but when you take a close look, they’re really not that impressive challenges.
Lauren and I carefully chose challenges that would encourage meaningful self-reflection. So definitely follow along with us in this journey. One of the beauties of the design is that it has no dates or months, so you could start it any day of the year or even do it as many times as you want.
There are also other great tips online that can help you start thinking about activities you can do on your own that are fun and could lead to some revelations about yourself. Check out this article, this video, and this article for some ideas.