by Joanne Kabak
What have you done lately to treat yourself luxuriously? Did you fulfill a desire that just came into your head? Have you humored yourself by doing something you like, just because you like it?
You may think such personal pleasure-seeking seems unnecessary, even decadent. But it can actually be good for you. Remember, indulging yourself does not have to cost a lot (or it might), need a lot of time (how long does it take to catch the scent of a fresh flower?), or be on a grand scale (a week at the spa is at the far end of the spectrum.) To jumpstart that dormant pampering urge, here are several doable suggestions. Just sit back and let yourself imagine whether easing into one of these ideas, or one of your own design, would feel really, really good.
“Stress dissolves in water,” says medical herbalist Cheri Wagner. But if you really want to pamper yourself, forget the dash into the shower or quick soak in a plain old tub. Spend time. Add an essential oil or a skin softener. And after your bath is over, keep the pleasure going by gently rubbing your joints and muscles with an oil, like wintergreen diluted with sesame oil.
If your preference is a morning bath that helps you feel more alert for the day, Cheri suggests adding rosemary oil. Weleda makes a product whose herbs are milled by hand and dissolve nicely in the tub. At night, try two cups of the Epson Salts in a hot bath, air dry yourself, put on some flannel pajamas, and slip into bed!
Speaking of night, when was the last time you did something to make your bed a more comfortable place? Interior designer Gillian Drummond notes that people keep mattresses and box springs well past their prime – along with their worn-out sheets and pillows. Instead, how would it feel to have an “air chamber” mattress that lets you control the degree of hardness or softness on each side of your bed?
Or a mattress made of all latex rubber that is so resilient it conforms to your shape, gently adjusts as you move, and then returns to its original shape when you get up? If you add 100% cotton sheets in a high thread count (350 or higher), a large, soft, supportive pillow, and a down blanket (lighter than a comforter but warm), you are likely to feel as if you are pampering yourself each and every night!
Surround yourself with scents and beauty:
You can infuse any part of your home (or your office, for that matter) with sights and smells that say “I’m special.” For example, do you love fresh flowers – the scent of lilacs, the delicacy or roses, or the vibrancy of daisies? But do you wait for someone else to send them to you?
Stop waiting and give yourself some flowers! You can arrange to have flowers in your price range delivered to your door – on a whim or on a regular delivery schedule. Another option for bringing flowers into your life is to check out the fresh flower sections that are increasingly cropping up in supermarkets and food stores.
If you think fresh flowers are too frivolous, consider this. A university study commissioned by The Society of American Florists found that flowers have an immediate impact on people’s happiness, a long-term positive effect on their mood, and create an increased sense of intimacy. The researcher who conducted the study reported that “I rarely find anything that contributes to such significant mood changes as the floral arrangements.”
Candles also change the atmosphere. If you are careful never to leave burning candles unattended, you will find that they are one of the least expensive, longest-lasting ways to surround yourself with gentle good feelings. There are many candle companies to choose from. For example, Way Out Wax makes aromatherapy candles in natural scents like lavender, clove, and orange. Achemy Candles names its candles to capture the mood – like Breathe (eucaplyptus leaves with lemon grass) and Harmony (ginger, nutmeg and pomegranate essence.)
Activities – sort of…
Pampering yourself is not just a matter of being still. For some people, the most pleasurable indulgence is to dosomething – like going to a movie in the middle of the afternoon. No Saturday night crowds, and half-price tickets to boot. And unlike watching a DVD at home, you do not have to think about the phone ringing or getting up to start dinner. It is a chance for you to be inaccessible, sitting in the dark, absorbed in a story.
Shopping is another activity that is a pure indulgence, if done with “you” in mind instead of how many errands you can run. Most major department stores now have “personal shoppers” – employees who, without charge, will accompany you while you shop, bringing you different sizes or colors and coordinating outfits while you relax. And do not forget the free makeover at the cosmetics counter. You can try out a fresh look, and then consider whether a new color of lipstick or eye shadow can brighten up your day.
One of the most pleasurable “activities” is simply walking. Walking, that is, without trying to really get anywhere. Whether you are near a beach, on Main Street, or strolling around your neighborhood, the gentle exercise of walking can give you time to think, notice the little details of life, perhaps greet a neighbor, or stop in a shop for a leisurely cup of tea and a muffin.
Eating for enjoyment…
With all the emphasis on diets and what is good or bad for you, making a food choice can be a massive headache! That does not mean you cannot still use food as one of the most pleasurable ways to pamper yourself. Sure, eating all 22 pieces in a box of Godiva’s All Milk Chocolate Assortment in one or two sittings is something you would regret. But the golden mean of “everything in moderation” is just made for chocolate. Two delicious chocolates can be very satisfying – 10 times over!
Eating any kind of “comfort” food that reminds us of childhood still qualifies as a way to feel taken care of. Have a yearning for an old favorite, but not sure how to make it? There are websites devoted to comfort food recipes like macaroni and cheese, chicken pot pie, or hearty chili.
A good book in your own space…
Always a favorite way to indulge and escape, reading a book can pull you far away in time and place. But what does the person on the other side of the story, the author, have to say about pampering yourself? Monique Raphel High, the author of six romantic historical novels, says one of the most important things she values for herself and recommends to the new writers she coaches is to create your own sacred space within your home. It is a place that is truly your own area – furniture and lighting just the way you like it, your favorite books and figurines arranged before you. And whenever you want “you can enter that space, relax, and just be yourself.”
And perhaps the easiest and most fulfilling of all…
Give yourself a hug! Patty Kondub, an instructor at the YMCA and author of the audio book “The ABC’s of Hydration & Breathing,” says the idea just came to her several years ago and she has suggested it to her students at the end of each of her classes ever since. “Sometimes it’s the only hug I receive or give all day, “she says. But no matter. When you encircle yourself with your own arms, everything else takes second place to a genuine expression of warmth. At that moment, you are truly pampering yourself because you are special, you are loved, and it feels good.