Monday, May 28, 2007

Self-Nurturing v. Self-Soothing

I'm thinking about ways to reward yourself discussed Pulpit Weight, and it occurred to me that there's a valuable difference between self-nurturing and self-soothing.

Self-nurturing practices are good for us, but they don't necessarily feel good. Exercise, for example, is self-nurture. Eating whole foods is self-nurture. I take a 45 minute hike every morning with my dog. Most mornings I'm not particularly interested in it, and it often hurts in some fashion. But ultimately, I know that this is part of taking care of me, and making sure my body works well as I age. It is self-nurture, but it is not fun in the short run.

Self-soothing does feel good in the short run. Masturbation, for example, is the ultimate in self-soothing (and the Good Lord blessed us with this ability). Comfort foods are self-soothing. After a week trapped in the Hilton in Sacramento, the first thing I did afterward was visit a friend and eat a large bowl of macaroni and cheese with a salad on the side. Now the mac n' cheese part of this experience was self-soothing, but because I am lactose intolerant, it was in no way self-nurturing.

I think that one reason that we overeat is because we have self-soothing practices that are contrary to self-nurturing. Donuts taste good. Chocolate tastes good. But consuming large amounts is not self-nurture. Sitting on the sofa watching TV often feels self-soothing, particularly after a difficult day at work, but it's contrary to self-nurture.

Here's a list of self-nurturing practices and one of self-soothing practices to find practices that work for you. A few ideas with self-nurturing that you can do during the workday: wear something that makes you feel good about yourself, feed yourself good food at lunch, and speak kindly to yourself in your internal monologue. And here's a few ideas to start with your self-soothing at work: keep a vial of an essential oil that you like nearby, rub on a hand lotion that you like, decorate with live plants, or display cut flowers or anything you find relaxing to look at (though not porn), and listen to music that you find relaxing.