(NEW YORK) — Self-care goes beyond the bubble baths and spa days and is really about finding ways every day, week and month to take care of yourself and develop healthy habits.
Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News’ chief medical correspondent and a board-certified OBGYN, saw that firsthand last year when she made an initial New Year’s resolution to do “Dry January,” i.e. to give up alcohol for the month.
When she completed that challenge, she made a different challenge for herself in February and then one for March and every month after. By December, she had completed an entire year of self-care challenges that didn’t take time or money but left her with lasting habits.
“I was just interested in doing this [January] challenge and that challenge was so interesting and impactful to me that it kind of led to a second challenge and then a third challenge and so on and so forth,” Ashton told ABC’s Good Morning America. “Over the course of the year I did largely develop 12 new habits that have the ability to impact health and wellness much more so in aggregate than they do individually.”
Ashton was so affected by the challenges she undertook herself that she compiled them — along with her own experience with each challenge and the scientific reasons for the challenges — in a new book, The Self-Care Solution: A Year of Becoming Happier, Healthier, and Fitter — One Month at a Time.
“The concept is that self-care goes way beyond the spa day, the stay-cation,” she explained. “That absolutely can be a part of it but I look at self-care from a medical and social standpoint as things that we can do for ourselves that cost no money, that take only minutes and that really have the potential to have some impact on our health and wellness.”
“At this time of the year we see a lot of people try to do massive New Year’s resolutions. This is absolutely the opposite of that,” Ashton said of the approach laid out in her book. The small challenges Ashton recommends include everything from drinking more water every day to taking more steps to being more mindful of technology to trying meditation and stretching.
Doing the challenges individually — i.e. going meatless for one month instead of going meatless and dairy-free and alcohol free at once — allows you to see how each individual change impacts your your health and how you can make it sustainable if you see a positive difference, according to Ashton.
“Even in the month where I felt I failed my wellness challenges, I learned something about myself that was really, really important,” said Ashton. “I hope this [book] acts like a year-long template for people to turn that lens on themselves, see what they are doing, what they’re not doing, what they can add, what they can modify, what they can subtract, and hopefully keep some of them at the end of the year as wellness self-care habits.”
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