It is often said that we as humans are inherently selfish creatures. While that may be true for some people, for many of us it tends to be quite the opposite: we do lots of things for other people, but spend little or no time tending to our own needs or desires. In turn, we feel rundown and generally discontent, thanks to our failure to practice adequate self care.

So just what is self care? Self care is any action or behavior that contributes to mental and physical well-being, without which health begins to deteriorate. Poor self care can lead to depression, stress, anxiety, agitation, weight gain, reduced immunity, and other nefarious health conditions. When we fail to take care of ourselves, we place our relationships and our long-term health in harms way. Practicing good self care is imperative to achieving and maintaining the best life we are capable of living.

Self care activities may vary depending upon your goals and preferences, but the most common and crucial self care activities include diet, exercise, sleep, down-time and relaxation, spiritual practices, social interaction, and individual pursuits that fill your life with joy and purpose. Failing to engage in these activities diminished the joy and pleasure that you may otherwise be experiencing. Although certain obligations must be attended to (work, childcare, etc), life is meant to be enjoyed. Balancing our obligations with our more passionate pursuits allows us to perform those obligations to the best of our ability.

While the idea of practicing self-care may at first seem selfish, its an essential act that benefits all parties in a relationship, whether that relationship is occupational, familial, or otherwise. You are one half of every relationship youre in, and when you feel your best, you act your best, exhibiting more patience, passion, understanding, and acuity than you would when youve neglected your own self care.

As you go throughout your day, consider the following question: If you could make any major changes to improve your life, what would they be, and why? Dont aim for shallow or materialistic things like new countertops or more shoes. Instead, look for ways that your life could be more fulfilling. It can be scary to recognize our deepest desires for ourselves, out of fear that well never meet them. But if you hold them inside yourself, its certain theyll never be achieved. Ask yourself: what emotional or social changes do I need to make my life the best I am capable of living?

Help yourself, help your health.

Diet and exercise have the capacity to provide enormous physical and psychological benefits. Engaging in a consistent exercise routine encourages weight loss and maintenance, produces endorphins, and promotes a sense of achievement that can increase our self-efficacy in other areas of our lives.

Even small changes can improve our health and vitality: increasing vegetable consumption,

Help yourself, help your family.

Families often receive the brunt end of our discontent. We are most comfortable around our families, and feel that they wont take our ill moods personally. However, over time, a lack of energy, dispassion, or agitation can fuel the fire for serious issues in marriage or child-rearing.

Our family environment also has the ability to negatively or positively influence our physical health. Remember that it is your responsibility to provide your family with specific, tangible examples of ways to help you. For example many people feel caught up in negative cycle of tempting treat items that they purchase for their children or, for their spouse. The truth is that they really dont need those things either. Stick to one or two treats per week for children, and request that your significant other keep their treats in a separate cabinet, out of your sight.

Its also important to communicate any needs that may arise in the sharing of childcare duties and chores, which frees up time for you to do the things that are important to you. You arent sloughing off your obligations on other people. Youre simply redistributing the work that you should rightfully be sharing.

Sharing familial obligations means that youll have more time to engage in self care activities, improving your mood and outlook, so that when youre with your family, you can truly enjoy your time together, instead of rushing around each other in a disorganized, stressed-out hurry.

Help yourself, help your happiness.

Accept your humanity. No one is immune to the power of self-care. Aim to focus on one thing you can do in each area of your life (family, health, occupational) to improve your self care practice. Remember: self care is never selfish, especially when you stand so much to gain, and so little to lose.