The quest to live a more fulfilling life is, no doubt, part of what it means to be human, and the history of self-care guides stretches all the way back to the instructional writings of Ancient Egypt and the Greek philosophers. Self-care publications proliferated in the twentieth century with the development of positive psychology. And in recent times, many of us have turned to self-care guides to help maintain positive equilibrium through the pandemic and turbulent geo-political events.
But today there is almost a plethora of self-care publications every year. Different types will cater to every need, mood and situation, and it can be useful to think about what you need before you hit the bookstore. Three potential options are guides offering exercises to boost your self-care practice, an in-depth focus on one issue, or a more wide-ranging, holistic approach.
A practical guide published in 2021, ‘The Gift of Gratitude’ collects key teachings of the late Louise Hay in what is described as ‘a guided journal for counting your blessings’. Hay is a hugely influential teacher and writer whose 1984 book ‘How to Heal Your Life’ has sold over 50 million copies and had a lasting influence on the field of self-care. She put gratitude at the centre of self-care practice, in keeping with one of her core beliefs, that: “Loving ourselves works miracles in our lives. Gratitude is key to all of this.”
Keeping a gratitude journal and doing motivational exercises have become standard recommendations in self-care literature, but this beautifully illustrated journal offers a helpful reminder of how to craft your own affirmations, effectively visualize, and express appreciation every day. Hay’s teachings on gratitude and uplifting guidance seem as relevant as ever and the journal can provide motivation to keep up the daily practice of self-care through what Hay called ‘an attitude of gratitude’.
‘Stressilient’ (2022) is a compact read focused on how to feel calmer, less stressed and more resilient to life’s challenges. Dr Sam Akbar draws on over ten years’ experience as a clinical psychologist treating refugees who have experienced trauma, to provide clear guidance on becoming ‘stressilient’. It is not, she says, a question of avoiding inevitable emotional pain: “it’s about making room for every emotion in the face of stress. It’s about turning towards, not away, from your emotions, whether you like them or not.”
The message is that managing your mind and handling your emotions is the route to developing the strength that will enable you to navigate difficult times. What’s more, it will liberate you to focus on what really matters, and to put your energy into the things that will make your life more meaningful and rewarding. Guiding the reader through the workings of the human brain, and how to manage emotions, challenge negative thought patterns, foster self-compassion and live in the present moment, this helpful book outlines Dr Akbar’s method in an engaging read backed by robust science.
For those seeking an accessible deep dive into the practice and purpose of self-care, ‘Be Your Own Harmonist’ (2020) was designed by author Lola Tillyaeva to provide a ‘roadmap for those looking to live a more balanced life; a life in harmony with themselves and the world around them’.
Lola Till, as she is known, is a businesswoman, philanthropist and co-founder of an educational charity, and the book is the distillation of all that she has learned in a lifelong quest for self-knowledge. With a light touch, she illuminates the unifying principles across the wisdom of ancient cultures, today’s spiritual practitioners and cutting-edge science, and how they can help us achieve an inner harmony that is the key to both a more peaceful, joyful life and a renewed connection with humanity and the energy of the universe.
In an holistic overview of mind, body and soul, the reader is encouraged to shed entrenched negative habits and embrace positive methods that will restore the natural harmony of these three key elements of human existence. Practical recommendations ranging from diet and exercise to practicing meditation and self-compassion are reinforced by a fascinating combination of spiritual wisdom and scientific research, reflective of Lola Till’s enduring belief that the future of human progress lies in the merging of science and spirituality.
Self-care to nourish our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing became a crucial support to most of us during the pandemic and by keeping up the practice we can reap the long-term benefits to live a longer, happier life. And as self-care becomes an habitual practice, it becomes easier to tune in to your particular self-care needs at any given time in your life and to seek out the self-care guide you need.