November 22, 2018

History repeats itself, they say—and while that may be true of things on a grander scale (like wars and ideologies, etc.) it also rings a bit true when it comes to ourselves.

Before us, there were our parents. Before them, our grandparents—and so on and so forth. That’s a lot of information, all stored within our own family history.

So much of that information is unique and directly related to your existence, too. Studies show that much of our mental health history is inheritable, and whether we realize it or not, some of our habits are passed down as well.

It may not be genetic predisposition when it comes to how messy your room is, but because we’re influenced by our environment, there are certain things we pick up from our parents or guardians—like how we manage stress, money, worry and more.

All of these factors have a direct correlation to how we go about our day-to-day lives, and most of them relate back to how we practice self-care. Not everyone has a connection to their parents, grandparents or ancestors, but if you do, harnessing the self-care nuggets of wisdom from your family can help you move through your own self-care journey.

Harnessing the self-care nuggets of wisdom from your family can help you move through your own self-care journey.

The next time you get the opportunity to do so, take a chance and dig into your family’s self-care history. Here’s where to start:

Ask How They De-Stress

We all have different ways of letting off steam. Understanding how people in your family hit reset can help you better communicate with them and also adapt some new ways of relaxing.

My dad uses running to clear his mind, and I never realized that was why he hit the trails until I asked. After hearing about how it helps him calibrate his thoughts and emotions before or after a long day, I tried picking it up myself and incorporating it into my self-care routine.

While I don’t lace up my sneakers as much as he does, talking to him about how he de-stresses through running helped me explore a new path in my own wellness journey.

Ask About Their Childhood

At first glance, you might be thinking childhood has nothing to do with how a family member practices self-care, but understanding the nuances of how your parent or loved one grew up can provide important context to how they move through the world today.

Things may be different now, so understanding the limits of their access can help you better understand any sensitivities that may come up in your conversation.

Ask What They Like to Do For Fun

For some older generations, self-care was never top of mind—in fact, millennials focus more on personal growth than any generation before them.

To ease into the conversation, try asking what they like to do for fun. You'll start to dig into the things that fill them with gratitude and joy.

Ask About Their Support System

Who do they turn to in times of need? By understanding this, you can understand a bit more about their communication style and how they cope with tough moments.

Maybe they turn to someone in the family that you might not expect, maybe it's their BFF at temple or church, maybe it's their hairdresser—or, it could be you. By learning where and how they find support, it can give you new ideas and also help you better support them.

Be a Source of Encouragement

If your family member already is practicing self-care in their everyday lives, that’s amazing! Staying in touch about your self-care journeys can help you each understand what the other wants or needs, and help you spend some quality time together, too.

Maybe it’s a monthly check-in via text message to see how the other is doing, or maybe it’s a regular activity you do together, like cooking. Maybe it’s just sharing new strategies and techniques—perhaps even having them sign up for Shine, too, so you can both use the daily Shine Text as a conversation starter.

However you broach the conversation, know that it’s just that—a conversation.

Exploring your family self-care history won’t happen in just a quick chat. It will be an ongoing dialogue, filled with potentially tough moments, but hopefully some moments of joy as well. The overall goal: For both of you to recognize how important it is to take care of yourself and swap some tried-and-true family strategies.

Read next: What a 7-Day Self-Care Challenge Taught Me About Prioritizing My Needs

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