Why Learning to Self-Soothe will Benefit Your Life
Self-soothe: verb; to make yourself calm or happy
The concept of self-soothing is a common discussion with parents and younger children, but really the tool can be used for anyone of any age to help with their daily functioning. When infants are crying or toddlers are beginning to claim some independence, the topic of self-soothing behaviors comes up frequently. These behaviors are necessary for the growth and development of children.
So why do we stop doing them?
As stated above, the dictionary definition of the term just means to make yourself happy and calm. The ability to elicit those reactions within yourself open the doors to a level of self-satisfaction that many people search for throughout their lives.
The process of self-soothing can be as intricate or as simple as you’d like for it to be, depending on your personal preferences and what brings you peace. While some people utilize meditation or movement, others may choose silence or music. It’s all about just bringing yourself to a place where you feel joy, contentment, and peaceful, giving you the proper headspace to conquer tasks throughout your day.
So what are the benefits to practicing self-soothing behaviors?
Freedom from codependency or limited frustration tolerance: Hear me out, practicing these behaviors are not going to completely work through and dismantle codependency or low frustration tolerance, but if either of those are your targeted problems this cannot hurt. Being able to create your own peace allows others around you to take a backseat. Rather than depending on others to “bring you down” or “piss you off,” you’re allowing yourself to carry support within yourself.
Ability to address environmental and social triggers immediately: When daily practicing of self-soothing is implemented, you carry your go-to coping skills with you. Being able to create your own calm wherever you are allows for your triggers to become far less worrisome.
Increased self-confidence: Being able to make yourself happy is one of the most freeing experiences I can speak of. Happiness is, essentially, what most of us are looking for. The more practice and time you spend engaging in self-soothing behaviors, you will begin to feel more competent and confident in your capacity to handle whatever life brings your way.
There are innumerable benefits to these behaviors, but I’ve named only the ones that I focus on with my clients.
When beginning this process, it’s important to choose something that brings you contentment and is individual to who you are. My recommendation is to focus on your senses; by tapping into our five senses, we can usually bring out body into a calmer state.
Let’s talk about some self-soothing behaviors for each of the senses.
(This is not a finite list, but more a guide.)
Touch: Bundle up in a cardigan or blanket, give yourself a hug, cuddle with a pet, take a bath with bath bombs or bath salts, hold your hand over your heart and pay attention to its rhythm
Taste: Make yourself a cup of coffee or tea, spend time making something special for yourself to eat and show gratitude for it, mindfully eat (pay attention to each bite and all the flavors in each bite as you eat, notice the process of feeding your body)
Smell: Set up an essential oil diffuser, burn a candle, go outside and spend a few minutes just noticing how the air smells
Sight: Fill your space with art that evokes positive emotions, draw or doodle for five minutes without focusing on the product, watch a tv show or movie that brings you comfort, spend time outdoors focusing on the world that is in front of you
Sound: Create playlists for various emotions to assist you in evoking them (Joy Playlist, Calm Playlist, Excitement Playlist, etc), listen to a speaker that you enjoy, utilize a white noise program that helps with calming, listen and meditate to a speaker
Most of these techniques can be implemented in just a few minutes, but can have lasting effects of your mood. Find what works for you, then begin intentionally making it part of your day.
(Chris Brown, LCSW)