- Mental Health»
Comfort-Easy Ways to Soothe the Soul
What does comfort mean?
To comfort: to soothe, reassure, console; to offer physical ease and relief; to strengthen and give hope. All of these words define aspects of comfort. Yes, it is often an emotional balm, but, equally, it can be a spiritual one. And, undoubtedly, when we are wet, hungry, cold or in pain our physical comfort is what we long for in that moment.
Say the word ‘comfort’ and collectively, we may agree to its definition; but, individually, it will bring to mind various images and memories. Ideas of comfort vary based on childhood experience, cultural norms, and gender.
Comfort as food
Research shows that, as a whole, people will most often turn to what they are familiar with when they seek comfort. Whether that brings them to their mom’s homemade chicken noodle soup, or a big plate of macaroni and cheese, childhood experiences play a big factor in repeated patterns. It can also reflect ways in which you have learned to relieve emotional stress as an adult.
Not surprisingly, studies indicate that men and women seek food comfort differently. Men process more positive experiences with foods that give strength, and will reach for warm, filling, staples type food such as meatloaf or steak and potato. Women, on the other hand, seek comfort in negative experiences in which they attempt to ease troubling emotions such as sadness, or grief, and will go for the desserts.
While food choices for men usually are healthier choices, college aged women who were studied, went for ice cream, chocolate or a combination of sweet and salty snacks for an emotional pick-me-up. This is a form of self medication-attempting to fill the emotional wound with food, and contributes to the obesity problem in the United States.
Other ways one can ease emotional pain is through prayer and meditation. Attending church, a synagogue, a mosque, or a temple on a regular basis is done so for the quality of relief one feels in following ones faith. When the going gets tough, and we experience our smallness, it is an emotional uplift to put into perspective the greater purpose in life.
Just 10 minutes a day spent in prayer or meditation has positive results for the participant. Less stress, improved peace of mind and better focus are three comfort qualities found to benefit the receiver.
For me, there is nothing I want more, when getting off of a 12 hour shift, than to soak in a hot shower or bath, change into my pajamas and kick back for the evening. I don’t want to have to run last minute errands; I don’t want to have to attend any meetings, and I don’t want to debate or argue with my nephew. I just want to be comfortable.
Relaxation is one of the levels of physical comfort. How relaxed will depend on how stressed we are or how much physical pain we are experiencing. What helps us to get de-stressed will be an individual choice, and it won’t be the same each day. Sometimes we may want to be alone, while other times we seek company. Sometimes all we crave is vegging out in front of the television, while other times we want to engage in intellectual pursuits. But, when we are in pain, there is no relaxing, and that becomes a priority.
Physical touch is a medicinal treatment of love, affection and comfort. Many geriatric citizens have no family members and crave the touch of another human being. Infants who are not held or touched for certain amounts of time each day often acquire failure to thrive syndrome. Even as adults our need to be held, hugged and validated in the gentle ways of human touch, do not end at a certain age.
Awareness is the key to meeting your needs
Raising my nephew is a challenge due to his emotional impairment. He is often disrespectful and argumentative. Frequently, he blows up at what I perceive is nothing at all. I realize, however, that he does not have the maturity or the capability at this time, to discharge his emotions appropriately. This is often the case with children who are diagnosed with ADHD.
Part of my responsibility, as his guardian, is to guide him in learning to regulate himself before the big blow up. The acronym H.A.L.T., which stands for hungry-angry-lonely-tired, was first introduced to me in a 12 step support group. I try to teach him to follow this quick check list and ask himself if he is experiencing any of these key factors. More than likely he is.
This is a simple check in for any of us to follow. Quite often, when we begin to experience an irritable mood requiring us to seek comfort, the affliction will fall into one of the previous categories. Narrowing it down helps us to minimize the anguish and direct our attention in taking care of ourselves responsibly, before we go on a journey that is maladaptive.
When the rain falls hard, and the sky is gray my comfort is a book, a warm blanket and a nice cup of tea. What’s yours?
Additional ways to soothe the soul
Watch an inspiring movie, alone or with loved ones
Get a massage. No cash for this pleasure? Exchange services with a friend or partner. If that is not possible, do what I teach my patients to do: give a self massage. Buy a wonderful lotion or body oil and indulge.
If you must eat in an unhealthy way, attempt to limit yourself your indulgence and be kind to yourself. Beating yourself up afterwards is NOT comforting.
Talk with a friend about the ‘good ole days’.
Clear your calendar for some alone time, or undivided family time.
Take a walk in a beautiful garden or park.
Sit by the shore and listen to the waves roll in.
Cook; make yourself some dish you had as a child and enjoy.
Journal your emotional state or what your dreams are for the future.
Listen to soft music that relaxes and soothes.
Light candles and allow your mind to relax and drift.
Garden; or buy yourself a bouquet of flowers.
Write a letter to someone.
Start a gratitude list.
Be good to yourself; be kind and compassionate. When all the rest of the world beats you up out there, you don’t have to join the ranks.
Books about comfort
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