12 Practices of Optimal Healing: Care and Caring

“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.”
                            ― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free


Caring for another,  just as caring for oneself impacts the healing response.  My research points to the reciprocal benefits of being cared for and caring for another.  With 40% of all adults in the US serving as caregivers, it’s worth considering the benefits of care, both self-care and of care for those who are in need.

Take a moment for a brief inquiry: think back to your childhood, to a time you were sick and had to stay home from school. Who took care of you?  What did they do? How did it feel for you?  What qualities of the caring do you remember most?   I’ve asked 100’s of my  students these questions.  Common answers include the care person attending to the environment, preparing foods, drinks, reading stories, regulating temperatures, and providing needed medicines.  In terms of qualities of caring, the most common responses are patient, loving, gentle, affectionate, and attentive.

The five qualities of an excellent care giver are:shutterstock_51258379

  • empathy
  • responsible
  • patient
  • strong
  • flexible

Do any of these qualities resonate with that person who cared for you when you were young?  It’s not much of a stretch to see how these qualities benefit those in need of healing. Less obvious, or rather less often considered, is how these five qualities benefit caring for yourself.

When I am in need of healing how can I become more responsible for my actions?  Searching to find strength for healing is essential.  Being patient with the healing process.  Becoming a care giver to yourself may not seem like the first action for optimal healing, but it is a powerful move and one that should not be overlooked in that reflexive move toward the physician or a healing medicine.

What about the benefits of caring for another?  There must be some benefit, or health professionals would not be so committed to their professional lives. Turns out that there is plenty of research that shows that caring for others has significant health benefits for the person doing the giving.  When we care for another, we are naturally investing in building relationships.  Deepening our ability for empathy and compassion, we become more open to the interpersonal and therefor our hearts open to a healthier flow of love.  Face-to-face interaction with eye contact stimulates the release of oxytocin, which supports further contact and acts to reduce our stress responses.

Coming into the present, take a moment and consider the following: What do you need most when you do not feel well?  What do you need of yourself? From others?  Take a few moments and write these down. Consider discussing with your partner or loved one.  Also take a few minutes to consider when you have time to care for another, a partner, a parent, a child, a friend.  Keep in mind that the benefits of caring are significant.  Next time you find yourself in need of healing, bring some caring into your life.

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