September 28, 2018

7 Unexpected Self-Care Tips that Actually Work. {Partner}

This is a post written in collaboration with Yoga Wake Up—an Elephant partner. We’re honored to work with a small, caring company dedicated to giving us happier waking (and sleeping) hours by helping us wake up (and go to sleep) more mindfully. ~ ed.


It’s barely 9 a.m. and I’m already stressed.

I’ve hit the snooze button more times than I can count, scrolled and rescrolled my Instagram, WhatsApp, and Gmail until it’s too to late to even make myself a decent cup of coffee.

I just managed to squeeze in a shower before rushing out of the house, banging the door a little too loudly behind me…

Sound familiar?

I thought so.

I know it’s not just my time that’s consistently sucked up into this online black hole of endless social “connection.” I’m left feeling more disconnected than ever, and stuck in a constant “memory-like-a-goldfish-mind-like-a-hummingbird” state of being.

I’ve finally decided to do something about it.

I took a good, hard, long look at my own behaviour—at what I was doing to sabotage my own happiness. And then I made some radical changes. Honest-to-goodness, day-to-day habit changes. Changes that feed my body, mind, and soul.

The inspiration came from breaking up with my alarm clock—and waking up with yoga.

I’ve started to actively care for myself. And I’m not talking running myself bubble baths at the end of the day or going on expensive spa breaks.

There’s a ton about self-care online these days, but a lot of it is just fluff. Here are the seven (quietly) radical things I discovered while working with Yoga Wake Up to come up with self-care tips that we haven’t read a million times before, and that actually work. I’m now living more in that deeply, genuinely happy place, more of the time. And yes, the app helped me with most of them:

Try Yoga Wake Up* for yourself, free >>
*Elephant readers also get 25% off subscription to access all classes

1. Stop Appsturbating

Yes, it’s a thing. And most of us are doing it furiously—all day long.

It’s when we repeatedly and frequently open and close the same app, over and over and over again, until we collapse in a heap of FOMO and feelings of unworthiness. We do it when we are under stress or feeling bored, when we have a big deadline coming up that we’re clearly in denial about, at 3 a.m. in the morning when we just. can’t. stop. scrolling…

It’s a cycle rooted in anxiety.

“We’ve found that once someone checks in [online], anxiety starts to build. That anxiety can be FOMO or nomophobia (fear of being disconnected from your phone) or just reacting to constant notifications, but as it builds, it creates uncomfortable feelings,” says Larry D. Rosen, PhD, co-author of The Distracted Mind.

We’re totally addicted to it, but it’s also nearly impossible to go cold-turkey. However, we can take steps to make sure we’re the one controlling the device and not the other way around.

This morning, instead of scrolling my feeds through a sleepy-eyed haze, I tried Yoga Wake Up’s “Grateful Morning Meditation” wakeup—and it was the sweetest, most gentle and grounding wake up I’ve had for months.

2. Unsync Yourself

“Think outside the box” is more than just a cliché—we can also incorporate this popular business approach in our everyday lives.

When I started waking up with a different Yoga Wake Up sequence every day instead of my regular alarm, it made each morning feel fresh and new.

I began to ponder other ways I could change things up. I remembered a tip my mom once gave me: never choose the same route to work two days in a row. So I started doing that again. Whether it’s taking my bike, or the train, or walking to work, I feel more awake because I have to pay attention. I look up and around more and appreciate and notice the scenery and people around me.

Wake up happier: try Yoga Wake Up* free >>
*Elephant readers also get 25% off subscription to access all classes 

Taking the path less traveled helps me feel that every day is an unpredictable adventure. And there are so many fun ways to do this.

Have breakfast for dinner or vice versa, oil pull rather than brushing your teeth, go to the library and pick out a book rather than scrolling your newsfeed or hopping on your kindle, do something thoughtful and unexpected for someone else…

Speaking of which:

3. Put Others First

Despite what every self-love meme or online life-coach tells us, caring for others first is actually one of the most delightfully selfish things we can do.

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”  ~ Dalai Lama

Practising what I like to call selfless self-care is so much more effective than diving into my own navel when I feel like I need some TLC. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not knocking caring for ourselves. Of course we need to do all those little things that fill our own tanks.

It’s just that this whole selfie culture we live in is making us lose our genuine connection with each other. And with it, we’re losing our perspective. We’re losing our ability to really see, and listen to, each other.

Less of this.

One tiny way I practice selfless self-care is just by smiling at strangers, whether they are bus drivers or baristas. I acknowledge them, ask how they are, and listen—really listen—to their answers.

The Buddhist monk, Thich Naht Hanh, says the most important skill we can develop is deep listening. This means that I actually care what you have to say and I allow you to say it.

Being fully present for others helps me to feel present for myself too. And strangely enough, the more I really listen to what other people are feeling, experiencing, and thinking, the more it fuels my own sense of well-being.

It feels good to be there for one another, even in the tiniest ways. Try it!

Pay attention to everyone you cross paths with, compliment a colleague, or someone in the line at the coffee shop—if it’s genuine. The trickle effect of these small actions in their lives can be immense and invaluable.

Take action or volunteer for a cause you’re passionate about…

And watch your sense of deep happiness start to bubble up from within.

Try this Sample from Ali Owen’s Selfless Self Care Yoga Wakeup:


And more of this.

4. Get Outta your Head and Back into your Body

We’re all spending way too much time in our heads and too little in our bodies—and it’s making us a little crazy, and a lot unhealthy.

Movement and physical activity recenters us in our physical bodies and grounds us in the here and now.

I now start my day with movement, with delicious stretching and gratifying grounding. And I’ve been using it throughout my day to get the heck outta my head more often with a quick stretch or inspiring meditation here or there. I also love their night-time routines and have begun incorporating them into my day, too. And it’s not just my racing mind that it helps—my aching laptop neck and shoulders are eternally grateful, too.

Move your body and break a sweat in all sorts of ways. Discover what works for you. Go for a run, head to the sauna, sign up for a hot yoga class, have morning sex…which, according to another friend who started using Yoga Wake Up app with her boyfriend in the mornings, yoga in bed often leads to. Just putting it out there.

Wake up happier: try Yoga Wake Up* free >>
*Elephant readers also get 25% off subscription to access all classes 

5. Be More Tortoise

Most of us have heard the idea of downshifting or downsizing by now, but slowing right down to channel our inner tortoise is about totally shifting our concept of time.

“Our current understanding of time is an invention of the 19th century Industrial Revolution…Treasuring the here and now is a lesson we seem to have lost,” says Geir Berthelsen, founder of The World Institute of Slowness (WIS).

Our problem therefore is not a lack of time, but a lack of quality time. The solution? Turn off your go-go-go, auto-pilot mode and start savoring small moments. And disconnect your alarm too!

I actually set it 20 minutes earlier now, so I have time for a glorious stretch, and don’t have to hurry through the rest of my morning either.

Some other tips of Berthelsen’s are to eat breakfast with your loved ones, sitting down at the table, talking to each other. Hug each other before you leave the house. Don’t skip lunch or eat it distracted. Stop and savor your meal. It helps with nutritional absorption, too!

“We’ve been programmed to think that fast is good and slow is bad. That everything must have a start and finish line in this rat race of life,” say Berthelsen. “But,” he stresses, “we’re not rats and our attempts to run this race don’t do anything for our health or our sanity.”

6. Give Yourself a Brain Orgasm

Ever heard of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR)? It’s basically a fancy name for that tingling you get around your head and shoulders and down your spine when someone whispers in your ear.

Seeing as I have a lot more time to use my phone more mindfully now, while at work or before going to bed, I’ve started putting my headphones on, choosing a video on YouTube to stimulate my Meridian Response, and bringing on the goosebumps.

Sounds that cause a pleasurable tingle in our brain include whispering, tapping fingernails, rustling, or running water. It’s a hypnotizing, calming, arousing, and relaxing experience—basically the closest my mind can get to a physical orgasm. Google it!

You’re welcome.

7. Start your Day at the End

This might sound paradoxical, but in my experience, this is the key to transforming our days—and nights!

I listen to the Yoga Wake Up app’s guided meditations to wind down in the evening. My personal favorite is the Yoga Nidra to set your sankalpa, or intention. The app helps me to calm my mind and leave my phone alone in the morning or in the middle of the night.

After that, I set my Yoga Wake Up alarm for the next day, put my phone down and don’t look at it again (I know, radical), switch off most of the lights, light some natural candles, maybe take a hot bath (I prefer using good quality essential oils over bubbles), and burn some natural incense or essential oils too.

Last, I spend five minutes before bed reviewing the day and visualizing with deep intention, tomorrow’s magical highlights.

I also started tracking my sleeping progress with Yoga Wake Up‘s sleep tracking, which has proven to me that these methods really do work. My sleep quality has improved and I’m waking up feeling refreshed and energized.

Self-care is not self-improvement.

It’s simply self-awareness: getting to know our behaviors and habits, finding out what we need in the spaces between our to-do lists, and filling those spaces and moments with a little radical love and quiet presence.


“We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement…our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake.” ~ Pema Chödrön


Wake up happier: try Yoga Wake Up* free >>
*Elephant readers also get 25% off subscription to access all classes


Our Elefriend and yoga teacher, Danielle Radulski tried the app too. Here’s what she had to say about it:

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