Self-Healing: Definition & Tips for Healing Yourself
What does it mean to heal yourself? From time to time, we all struggle with mental or physical health challenges. Learning how to heal ourselves can bring us back to a state of well-being.
What Is Self-Healing? (A Definition)
Self-healing is defined as the process of recovery from ill-health, usually emotional ill-health, but self-healing can also include accompanying physical health issues (note that emotional and physical ill-health often go together). Self-healing isn’t a term that is generally used in psychological research. However, the process of self-healing from things like trauma, depression, anxiety, and stress are topics that are frequently studied, so we actually know quite a bit about how to heal the mind.
Who needs self-healing?
We likely all struggle with the remnants of past emotional or physical challenges. So we probably would all benefit from some self-healing. However, self-healing may offer greater benefits for those who are feeling highly self-motivated to engage in the self-healing process—that is, to take the time to implement self-healing techniques and activities in their lives. Just as it takes time to build a new skill, self-healing can take time and effort. So effort here is key to seeing results.
How Do You Self-Heal?
In this article, we’re going to focus mostly on emotional self-healing. Good nutrition and engaging in regular exercise are absolutely essential for self-healing. But the exact diet that is right for your self-healing may be completely different from someone else's (for example, check out our COMT program to learn more about a self-healing diet for those with slow COMT genes).
The right exercise program also depends on you—what your body can handle, what feels good to you, your current fitness, etc… So I’m going to leave you with the task of exploring the right diet and fitness plans for you. But this mindful eating article might help you begin exploring which foods feel self-healing to you.
The following self-healing techniques can benefit both your emotional and physical health. They may help you feel a bit bitter immediately but their real power emerges when you practice them regularly. Regular practice can result in long-term changes in your brain that can contribute to happiness, resilience, and well-being.
1. Self-heal with self-compassion
Oftentimes, we’re harder on ourselves than we are on anyone else. We might even get mad at ourselves for being sick or unable to get over past hurt or rejection. But by being extra hard on ourselves, we do ourselves no good. Instead, we just make it harder for our body and mind to heal.
That’s why self-compassion can be a great tool for self-healing. We might start by writing ourselves a self-compassionate letter—a letter where we say kind things to ourselves and write about how we will support ourselves moving forward. Related to this, we might also set better boundaries to keep others from crossing the line with us. Or, we might develop assertive communication skills so that we can advocate for our needs and take better care of ourselves.
2. Self-heal by getting more sleep
Did you know that we do much of our healing while we’re asleep? That’s right—lack of sleep can weaken the immune system making it harder for the body to heal itself (Ibarra-Coronado et al., 2015.) Lack of sleep can also contribute to higher levels of stress hormones like norepinephrine and epinephrine (Zhang et al., 2011). These hormones can lead us to feel more anxious and burned out. That makes sleep absolutely essential for self-healing.
Too often, we stay up late, get up early, and force ourselves to stay awake when we’re exhausted. We might prioritize getting extra work done or going to the gym instead of sleep. But if we desire to heal ourselves, this is likely not the best move. Extra work and exercise just give our bodies a longer to do list and if we’re not properly rested, we may just be hurting our bodies even further. When I was healing from major gut health issues, I slept 12 hours per day (and was still exhausted when I was awake). I give sleep a lot of credit for my self-healing.
3. Self-heal by breathing deeper
If we’ve been struggling with stress, trauma, or physical health issues, our sympathetic, “fight-of-flight” system has likely been activated for awhile. To calm our sympathetic response, we need to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is largely responsible for calming down our fight or flight response and helping us return to a less stressed state.
One of the easiest ways to activate the parasympathetic nervous system is with controlled and deep breathing. For example, SKY breathing—a technique involving cycling slow breathing (2-4 breaths per minute) then fast (30 breaths per minute), then three long “Om”s, or a long vibrating exhale—has been shown to lower anxiety (Zope & Zope, 2013).
Another popular breathing technique is “box breathing”. This involves breathing for a count of four, holding for a count of four, exhaling for a count of four, and holding for a count of four. Practice breathing this way for a little bit each day to help boost parasympathetic activity and help your body recover from past challenges.
Video: Breathe to Heal Yourself
In addition to the self-healing techniques described above, there are many self-healing mediations that can be helpful. Here are a few different types of explore.
1. Self-heal with mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness is a technique that involves “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment” (Kabat‐Zinn, 2003). Research shows that mindfulness interventions can help reduce both anxiety and depression (Khoury et al, 2013).
Video: Self-Healing Mindful Meditation
2. Self-heal with loving-kindness meditation
Although less well-known than mindfulness, loving-kindness meditation has also been shown in research to have all sorts of positive effects for those who practice it (Zeng et al., 2015). Loving-kindness meditation involves visualizing sending love out to others and then imagining them sending love back to you. You start with close others who are easier to imagine and then eventually extend love to all living things. To try the best versions of this self-healing meditation, check out our article on loving-kindness meditation.
3. Self-heal with breath-focused meditation
We already talked about the importance of breathing for self-healing. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time staying focused long enough to stick doing more than a few long breaths at a time. That’s why guided meditations that focus on breathing can be helpful—the guide us through the steps and give us something to focus our mind on. Check out the video below to give it a try.
Video: Breathing Exercise for Self-Healing
Here are a few other activities that you might find to be helpful for self-healing.
Now that you’ve got a good sense of a variety of self-healing techniques, you may be curious if there are any herbs you can take to help with various healing issues. This is a large topic to cover, so we’ll just zoom in on some well-known herbs and teas that can help soothe the mind and body.
If you’re seeking motivation to heal yourself, then sometimes a good quote can help. Here are some self-healing quotes that can hopefully inspire you to take action and begin your self-healing journey.
More Articles Related to Self-Healing
If you want to keep learning skills that can help you on your journey to self-healing, here are a few more good articles to check out.
Books Related to Self-Healing
Here are some books to explore as you take on your own self-healing.
Final Thoughts on Self-Healing
We all have challenges that we need to heal from. Some of us have emotional challenges, others of us have physical challenges, and some of us have both. Luckily, we actually have a lot of power to make positive changes to our well-being. We can shift the way we think and how we treat our bodies. As a result of these efforts, we can begin to heal and recover from the hardships we’ve experienced.