Need help rebounding from a negative review at work, a disappointing race, or a messy breakup? Splurge on a new pair of fall booties or a mani-pedi. Not only will it make you feel better, it’ll make you healthier too, say researchers from Bishop’s University in Quebec.
After evaluating 15 studies involving more than 3,000 people, researchers found that those who were more self-compassionate—meaning they were kind to themselves when negative things happened, rather than self-critical—also ate healthier, exercised more, slept better, and stressed less than those who weren’t. (Now seriously, buy the shoes!)
It makes sense too. After all, everyone has off days at the gym and diet slip-ups. And being able to cheer yourself up after these small setbacks can keep you from getting discouraged, making it easier to get back on track. You don’t have to wait until you feel down to treat yourself, either. Here, five ways pampering yourself a little today can pay off big tomorrow.
Improve Your Body Image
Regardless of weight and body shape, women who are kind to themselves have better body image and healthier eating habits than those who spend less time being forgiving to themselves, found research from the University of Waterloo.
Strengthen Your Relationships
Men and women with self-loving better halves tend to be more satisfied in their relationships than those with self-critical partners, according to research from the University of Texas at Austin. That’s because people who place a high priority on making themselves feel happy and healthy may also find it easier to own up to and try to correct their mistakes. So next time you forget his birthday, soothe yourself with some froyo—just get him a cup too.
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Boost Your Immunity
“People who are able to comfort themselves have a better immune response to stress, so they don’t get as anxious, especially in social situations,” says Kristin Neff, Ph.D., associate professor of human development and culture at the University of Texas at Austin, who’s conducted extensive research on the trait. “They also have less body-wide inflammation, better immunity, and a healthier—they get fewer colds and headaches, for example.”
Become More Optimistic
Teaching female students self-care skills to use when they’re stressed significantly improved their optimism and belief in their abilities, in a study from Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Treating yourself when you’re feeling down can also ward off depression, anxiety, and chronic stress, according to a review of 20 studies published in the Clinical Psychology Review.
Pampering yourself doesn’t always mean hitting up a spa: Doing something as simple as spending a few minutes reflecting on your best qualities, closest values, and proudest achievements (a practice known as self-affirmation) can also make you feel kinder and more sympathetic toward yourself. In a study from Carnegie Mellon University, people who performed a similar exercise went on to donate more money than those who didn’t; they were also more willing to help pick up items that fell off a shelf during the experiment.