The most important relationship you’ll ever have is with yourself. Through all of life’s ups and downs, from the highest highs to the lowest lows, you have always been able to support and care for yourself. But we’re all familiar with those times when we are disconnected from ourselves. Maybe we’re burnt out, toss and turn throughout the night, or feel super stressed out. Thankfully, there are simple ways to reconnect to yourself time and time again, helping you make self-connection a priority and put yourself first.
My self-connection journey began as a new teacher enrolled in grad school, where I learned about self-reflection as it relates to teaching. This idea has become the core of my work and humanness. I always think to myself, if you don’t know yourself, it’s really hard to be honest and feel authentic. Today, I keep many habits that help me stay connected to myself and especially help me in difficult times.
Over time, self-connection becomes an automatic response to the hyperconnected, fast-paced world we’re living in. When implementing new habits, it can take at least 30 days for them to sink in. But once they do, I’ve found I stay more grounded even when the world is spinning around me.
Through a lot of energy, time, and care, I’ve found three habits to increase self-connection that really work for me: morning rituals, meditation, and walks in nature. I share in hopes these will resonate with you, too, helping you feel more connected to yourself.
A morning ritual can help ground you right after you wake up to greet the day. And the best part? This grounded feeling sets the tone for the rest of your day, ushering in a sense of calm and collectedness.
Also referred to as a personal practice, your morning ritual doesn’t have to be something flashy or time-consuming. Even 10 minutes of morning ritual time can set you up for success every day. The key is to do what you love during this time. Instead of picking up your phone and instantly scrolling through feed after feed, maybe pull tarot cards instead. Or, journal on a specific prompt, dance it out to your favorite song, sip a cup of tea as you look out the window, or read a passage from a poetry book.
Whatever you choose, make sure it’s consistent. Keep up the same routine for at least 30 days until it feels automatic. If you’re having trouble keeping it going, try habit pairing, which means pairing a new habit with something familiar. For example, if you brush your teeth first thing every morning, journal right afterwards. This connection will help link these two habits together in your brain.
Meditation has been something I’ve been trying to do for forever now. And let me tell you, it’s not easy! My meditation journey began during my time in graduate school, when I was introduced to mindfulness in the teaching field. Then, it continued when I was a parent and I began learning about mindfulness via the book Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting. This revolutionary idea really impacted the way I parent. But my meditation journey really ramped up when my dad was diagnosed with cancer and I was experiencing strong emotional currents.
During my first meditation attempts, I found myself easily distracted and unable to clear my mind with my eyes closed. For some reason, I wasn’t able to get myself into the proper headspace. Then a friend introduced me to the wise Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron. I became in awe of her incredible book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice For Difficult Times.
In her groundbreaking texts on mindfulness, Pema discusses the benefits of open-eye meditation. Suddenly, I felt like I unlocked the mystery of why this wasn’t working for me. As someone who is affected by everything sensory, having my eyes closed didn’t allow me to discover the full experience of meditation. With my eyes open, I could focus on certain points in my immediate environment and carry mindfulness with me into my day, wherever I found myself.
Open-eye meditation was a game-changer for me. I also made sure my space really fostered an atmosphere that was perfect for meditating: I bought a meditation cushion, and realized my posture made a huge difference in the quality of my meditations. I’m also really affected by scents, so I bought incense and took in the wonderful aroma as I watched the smoke rise into the air.
I’ve been meditating for 15 years now. It’s benefited my life in such amazing ways and really helped me through times of stress and sorrow. If you haven’t found a way to make meditation work for you, I encourage you to keep trying. There are so many different ways to meditate, and it doesn’t have to be you in a quiet room with your eyes closed. You can meditate wherever you are. Even walking the dog and listening to music can be meditative. So listen to yourself and make choices that are right for you; soon enough, meditation will start to feel good.
Walks in Nature
Connecting to yourself can be as simple as a walk in the park. I find that walks in nature really help me with self-connection. Taking in the fresh forest air, spying birds flying through the sky, walking past babbling brooks, and gazing at incredible views are all so restorative to me. The healing properties of nature are abundant, and it’s noted by University of Exeter researchers that with two hours a week total of nature time, we can dramatically reduce stress and increase our sense of well-being.
Time spent in nature can lower blood pressure and stress hormones, relax the nervous system, decrease anxiety, and even lower feelings of isolation. There truly are endless benefits to spending time with Mother Earth. Organizations are clearly taking note, too; in Scandinavia, “forest schools” are common, with learning environments taking place outside. Several schools in Oregon and Washington have quickly followed suit.
With endless methods at our disposal, how do you maintain self-connection? I hope wherever this message finds you, you’re able to carve out some time for yourself today and every day. You so deserve it.
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